Local missionary in Hungary works to help feed and shelter neighbors in war-torn Ukraine

Devin Grome had made a few trips into Ukraine since coming to work for European Initiative, an evangelical ministry, in 2018. On the morning of Feb. 24, 2022, he woke up to a raft of urgent messages about the Russian invasion.

He heads the ministry’s office in Budapest, Hungary, only 332 miles from the nearest Ukrainian city. Grome had a big problem to solve. One of his staff members had a team in Ukraine and was trying to evacuate, but wasn’t allowed to cross several borders. Slovakia appeared to be the best location to cross, though it would have to be by foot.

Grome enlisted a pastor in Budapest, who is from Slovakia, to help. “I called a friend, got a van and got up there to pick them up. Wow, that was a day,” Grome says.

The 28-year-old has family in Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky. He grew up in Patriot, Ind., across the river from western Boone County. He attended Charis Bible College in Colorado. During a summer ministry trip to Europe, he found out about European Initiative and realized it offered a future.

Grome runs the Budapest office with his wife, Jessica. They host summer mission teams from America, teach English in schools, and work with the Romani minority in Hungarian villages to help better their way of life. Grome describes his work as “serving and just doing anything that we can to be an answer to people’s needs.”

That brings us to Feb. 25, 2022. “We got together to just pray for Ukraine but didn't know what to do … I just felt frustrated. You know, I felt we're so close, we could do something. And we're sitting in my apartment, and I don't have anything against prayer at all. I think it's great, but I'm like, you know, all of America's praying. Europe's praying. People that don't believe in God are praying. And I'm like, we're close enough to actually do something,” he says from Budapest during a recent Zoom call.

“How can we be called Christians and not do something when our neighbors are in a crisis and in a time where they don't know what to do? And honestly, we don't either but there's something we can do,” he says. Grome obtained the OK from his boss, Jeff Serio, based in Berlin.

His team filled vans with food and drove them to Uzhhorod, Ukraine. The city had gone from fairly full to overwhelmed with people overnight. Stores emptied out quickly. Missionaries they knew were housing hundreds of refugees, but without enough beds. “They had people sleeping on the floor, and they’re like, can you bring us blankets, sleeping bags? Literally anything,” Grome recalls.

It’s a four-hour drive from Budapest to southwestern Ukraine. Wait times at the borders doubled that.

“We started going to Lviv as well. And our partners there were driving the aid that we were bringing further east to places like Kharkiv.” Mostly young Ukrainians from Bible schools, “they were driving into some pretty sketchy areas,” dodging mortars being dropped on them as they were delivering aid,” Grome says.

Grome has made or supervised 150 trips. When we chatted last month, he was trying to figure out how to organize a relief van to the site of the earthquake in Turkey and Syria. It took a while to get permission, but he and his co-workers are now making trips to Turkey.

European Initiative is an evangelistic ministry. “Our hope is to spark a spiritual awakening in Europe” by sharing the gospel that has changed our lives.

“The gospel is a choice. It’s a decision. It’s not something that we can force somebody to believe, and we would never want to do that. So, it’s always just about sharing in that personal conversation, connecting with people. Our hope really is just to further the gospel in Europe and for many to experience the life-changing message of Jesus Christ.”

Their work in Ukraine “came from just having a heart for Ukraine and you know, you can’t call yourself a Christian if you can’t help people,” he says.
Enjoy this story? Sign up for free solutions-based reporting in your inbox each week.

Read more articles by Nancy Daly.

Nancy Daly is a veteran Kentucky and Cincinnati journalist. An "Army brat" who found a home in Kentucky, she is a University of Kentucky graduate. Her hobbies include reading, photography, watching streaming TV, including "Succession" and "Andor," and playing Alphabet Game on Zoom with five siblings across the globe.