An American pastor is working directly with the Ukrainian Army to provide the Eastern European country with combat field trauma supplies to help those wounded in the ongoing conflict between Russia and Ukraine.
Pastor Bill Devlin, a veteran of the Vietnam War and Purple Heart recipient who serves as the outreach pastor for Infinity Bible Church in Bronx, New York, has traveled to Ukraine along with a team of four other people, including three other military veterans and an ABC News reporter. Devlin was invited to the country by the Ukrainian Army.
Devlin left the United States for Warsaw, Poland, on Saturday, he told The Christian Post. After arriving in the Polish capital, he boarded what he was told was a “four-hour bus ride” to Ukraine that ended up being “a 12-hour bus ride.”
“We went from Warsaw to the Polish-Ukrainian border and we were in a commercial bus with 45 other people,” he said. “These were Ukrainians going back into Ukraine and then we were held up at the Poland-Ukraine border for two hours and then when we finally got into Ukraine, it was another hour and a half to Lviv.”
After arriving in the western Ukrainian city of Lviv at 3 a.m. Tuesday, Devlin began “working on getting battle combat trauma medical kids in from the U.S. and from Germany.” The pastor expressed hope that a shipment would arrive “within a week.”
Devlin is working with the Ukrainian army and the Ukrainian Civil Defense Forces to provide combat field trauma supplies, examples of which include tourniquets to stop bleeding and Quikclot, which consists of “a medicine or a gauze that allows quick clotting on a traumatic wound from a gunshot or from shrapnel,” he added. These materials “can save their lives.”
“All of those items are for Ukrainian soldiers, army, civil defense forces, any civilians that are hit with a bullet or they’re hit with shrapnel,” he said. Before heading to Lviv, Devlin stayed at a military base in western Ukraine that was previously targeted by Russian missiles in an explosion that killed nine people. He explained that “our safety is not a concern for us,” adding, “We’re more concerned with helping the Ukrainian people and the Ukrainian Civil Defense Forces and also the Ukrainian Army.”
Along with helping to provide life-saving trauma supplies, Devlin sees his presence in Ukraine as consistent with his “role as a pastor” to “provide spiritual, emotional and psychological support and also to pray with people, to be a pastor to people, to share God’s love and to give them hope.”
Devlin cited food and medical supplies as the greatest items of need in Ukraine. He noted that he loaded the entire commercial bus that he traveled in from Warsaw to Ukraine “with food, with medical supplies and with clothing.”
While Devlin plans to stay in Ukraine for a couple of weeks, others he’s traveling with plan to stay for “four or five months, depending upon the need,” he said. “There may be an opportunity in a few days to go to Kyiv,” he added, stressing that any trip to the Ukrainian capital city was “going to be based upon the need” because “we do not want to go anywhere unless we’re invited.”
Devlin also met with Ukrainian Catholic leaders, reinforcing the role that the religious community is playing in addressing those impacted by the Russia-Ukraine conflict. He reported that Infinity Bible Church is “helping financially” to support his overseas trip and efforts to help those in the midst of the war, and encouraged Christians in the U.S. and around the world to donate “for relief supplies” by visiting widowsandorphans.info, the website for an organization where he serves as volunteer CEO.
As Devlin indicated in an interview with CBS News’ John Batchelor, he also intends to “train local people in self-defense” during his time in Ukraine. He described such training as necessary for “civilians that need to know how to best defend their cities and towns and villages.”
Throughout his trip, Devlin has posted videos on Facebook live documenting the situation on the ground. In a video posted from the bus station in Warsaw, Poland, Devlin revealed that the transportation hub served as a “location where Ukrainian refugees are coming to pick up clothing.”
“Somebody, the government, who knows, [a nongovernmental organization] has set up a tent here and these poor folks are going through bags and boxes of clothing in order to bring it back to wherever they’re staying. So these folks came with nothing and now, someone has set up this tent here in order for them to get some clothing for their families.”
In other video footage shared with CP, Devlin said he didn’t see “one adult male” at the border checkpoint between Ukraine and Poland. “It was all women, teenagers and little children, strollers, lots of luggage there as people were getting out of Ukraine and going to Poland.”
In a separate video, Devlin detailed how he was “in a huge warehouse where all kinds of goods are coming in from around the world.” He relayed to CP that he was working with “private individuals” who were seeking to ship a container of trauma supplies from the U.S. to the border between Poland and Ukraine.
While Devlin’s overseas trip marks his first visit to Ukraine, he has traveled all over the world to help those in the path of war and violence in the past. In 2016, Devlin spent $4,000 to supply weapons to a Christian militia in Iraq seeking to fight off the radical Islamic terrorist group Islamic State. He also spent time in prison in Sudan after visiting two Presbyterian pastors facing potential death sentences by the Sudanese government.