What is it that takes a 28-year-old Singaporean woman into Ukraine? In GERRY CHIA’s words, it’s a desire to serve God’s people and show His love to the hurting.

Writer Nicolette Kum speaks with the young missionary to find out how Gerry found herself in Ukraine and what it’s like on the ground, from the anxieties she faces daily to the many miracles she’s seen.

When I heard the news of the Russia-Ukraine war on February 24, I was emotionally wrecked.

At that time, I was in the middle of a six-month missionary training programme in South Africa with Youth with a Mission (YWAM).

It was then that God put on my heart a burden for the country, which led me to feel a growing desire to go to Ukraine as a missionary.

I figured I could complete the training first, then go as God called.

However, moments of intercession with my missionary school classmates left a weight in my heart. The more I prayed, the more God began to reveal to me things surrounding the war situation.

My heart burned as I saw images of crying children, disoriented mothers, destroyed homes and lost dreams. I felt the need to respond to fill this gap in the crisis. 

Gerry and her team giving out items and supplies to refugees.

As a burden grew within me, I started to feel that I couldn’t do any more waiting. I knew I had to go right away, which meant that I could no longer graduate from missionary school.

Though this would derail my plan for my life, I was greatly encouraged by my fellow YWAM missionary school friends who shared their own missionary experiences and emboldened me to take a step forward.

At this point, God also told me He wanted me to bring a team. He dropped a word in my heart to bring an army of prayer warriors and kingdom builders into the frontline of war and suffering.

This was a direction I initially resisted because I was hesitant to bring others into the picture. I thought, “If anything happens to me, at least only I die.”

Yet I knew people who would possibly be willing to leave everything to serve in the mission field.

In hopes of receiving a confirmation that I had indeed heard from God, I reached out to my friends at YWAM Singapore and my church.

To my surprise, almost all of them said yes. Many also shared that they had already heard from God to go, prior to my request.

Their readiness to join me felt like a testimony in itself.

Gerry was on a six-month missionary training programme with YWAM in South Africa, when she felt God call her to Ukraine.

My team would comprise of seven people, but we headed down in batches according to our personal availabilities.

My role as the leader was to mobilise members and to be a catalyst for people to actualise their decision to serve on the ground.

I knew there would be obstacles to overcome

Leading up to the decision, there was one instance where I was overcome with fear.

When I heard that temperatures in Poland and Ukraine were freezing, I began to imagine the condition that I would be in if I went — cold, hungry and maybe even sick.

There was also news that food did not arrive on time there. I knew that if the refugees were relying on non-perishable food to replenish themselves, volunteers would not have it any better.

During this period, my friend sent me an article about a missionary who died there to dissuade me from going as she was concerned for my safety.

Gerry with a news reporter as she and other Paris volunteers help refugees.

However, as I read about how the volunteer sacrificed his life to evacuate a Ukrainian mother and her two daughters, the fire within me to serve burned even stronger.

Since the volunteer gave his life doing something he was passionate about, I wanted to finish what he didn’t get to finish.

While I did not know what that looked like in practical terms, I knew that my desire was to serve God’s people and show His love to the hurting.

I began preparations to go, and even told my team to write a will. It might sound dramatic, but we were ready to die for Jesus.

I came to a place where I knew my life was not my own.

The last hurdle I needed to cross was receiving the approval of my parents.

Since they are not believers, the thought of sending their daughter to Ukraine’s border was way out of their comfort zone.

My father wrestled with the idea of me going to a war zone without having even gone for National Service.

Admittedly, I was similarly worried for my safety especially amidst reports of rape in Ukraine.

Gerry and her team praying for a lady in a refugee tent.

To assuage these fears, I prepared a Swiss army knife and packed a camping bed alongside some non-perishable food.

These things would come in handy in the event that there was no electricity or if I were to get stuck in bomb shelters.

I did not want my fears to stop me from moving according to God’s calling, but I could also understand my parents’ concerns.

In that moment, the only thing I could do was to pray.

By God’s grace, my parents’ hearts eventually softened. My father has even sent me a GIF of encouragement as I serve in Ukraine!

I know that God is shifting their perspectives in His beautiful time.

What life is like at the borders

Since the Singaporean volunteers are unable to go further into Ukraine due to visa restrictions, I serve in three main places – the Polish side of the border, the Ukrainian side of the border and the refugee camp.

Sometimes, my team and I go out to the Poland train stations to engage with commuters as well.

Typically, we are deployed at the location with the largest need, which means that we are expected to be flexible.

For example, more volunteers will be situated at the borders after a shelling in Ukraine as refugees flood to cross the borders. 

We did not fly here to force a belief or theology upon the people, but to simply do what Jesus would have done – love them.

There, we provide refugees with food and drinks such as coffee, hot dogs, pasta and soup. These items are funded by donors everywhere.

We offer to pray for the soldiers who have to bid farewell to their families, and sing worship songs to shake up the atmosphere of despair.

Through music, the Holy Spirit moves and touches the souls of men, declaring hope in the lives of the refugees.

Gerry having fun with children in South Africa.

Since missionaries are individuals who desire to spread God’s word, I ask myself: “What does the Good News look like to them? What does preaching the Gospel look like?”

By providing them with warm sustenance, hugs and the assurance that they are safe, I believe that this is what Jesus would do.

God wants His people to know that He sees them and He hears them.

We did not fly here to force a belief or theology upon the people, but to simply do what Jesus would have done – love them.

God’s partnership with us extends far beyond my imagination even as we obey His calling to serve.

In my time here, the countless miracles I have witnessed continue to amaze me and deepen my faith.

In one particular case, my team and I brought a 17-year-old male refugee out for lunch. During the meal, we shared our testimonies and had casual conversations about God’s goodness.

I turned to him and asked if he ever had an encounter with Jesus. He revealed that there was once he was stuck in his basement with his mother and could not escape.

Without food and electricity, he cried out to God, who eventually brought him out of Ukraine into Poland.

Gerry and her team having a meal with a 17-year old refugee (second from right) who would later follow them around to minister to his fellow countrymen.

It was then that I suddenly recalled I had a Ukrainian Bible that I had picked up from the train station earlier.

It had been randomly placed there and I was prompted by the Spirit to take it with me.

Because I had the Bible, I could give it to him after he received Christ. It seemed that everything was divinely orchestrated to lead up to his salvation.

From there, this Ukrainian teenager followed us as we ministered. He helped my team translate and spoke God’s promises to his fellow countrymen.

Our time of ministry at a train station led to five salvations.

Whatever the refugees needed, we prayed and God provided.

Here are some examples:

  1. An empty luggage which miraculously appeared in the middle of our volunteer housing that answered a Ukrainian mother’s need
  2. A timely donation of Hot Wheels cars after our intercession for that specific toy
  3. The steady never-ending stream of colouring books and lollipops for the children

I am certain that God truly cares for His people.

Witnessing these miracles encouraged me to be bold in my prayers and ask God for more. 

Reflecting on the experience thus far

Whether I am called to do big or little things in my time here in Ukraine, my desire is to do what God calls me to do.

Even if it is just to give a hug to the lost, I choose to be faithful.

Ultimately, God is the only one who can save His people, and what He needs from us is our heart that obeys Him and moves according to His will.

As I allow myself to grieve with the Spirit, I continue to ask God what He is trying to tell me and intercede for His people in whatever way I can.

My advice to those who might be at the crossroads of God’s calling would be to take that step of faith.

Only then can you sow seeds into the soil of the unknown to reap the fruits of faith.

If we magnify every little difficulty, objection and hardship, we shall never go on, much less go through with our work.

Likewise, the farmer who waits for the perfect weather will neither plant nor harvest.

Before this, my life revolved around feeling secure with my job, finances and living the Singaporean Dream.

Well, these are not bad things, and it is normal to want some assurance for the future.

However, if the call to missions has been recurring in our hearts, then in order to obtain His dreams, are we willing to be expendable?

Are we missing out on God’s purposes for us if we choose to stay put?

While taking that huge step of faith to forgo my career might be foolishness in the eyes of the world, I am sure that if eternity is true, then everything else the Lord says must hold likewise.

If He calls you to go, He will also provide. And He will equip you too.

Gerry will continue serving at the borders until mid-June, when she will return to South Africa to continue ministry work there before eventually coming home to Singapore. 


Hear from Wesley Kam, another young Singaporean who served Ukraine’s refugees at the border and went to France to help plant a Slavic church. He’s currently in Germany right now — you can follow us on our Instagram and TikTok for the latest updates on his journey.

Read our other stories on Ukraine here.

  1. What about Gerry’s story touched or encouraged you?
  2. How would you respond if God called you to drop everything and follow His calling?
  3. Is there an area of your life where you can exercise boldness and courage to obey God?
  4. Take some time to pray for Ukraine.