Nery in Ukraine, Report 3
Updated: Mar 29
I appreciate your prayer support. I am now stationed in the city of Lviv inside Ukraine.
Three days ago, the mission I was volunteered with said that the operation would be closed and added to some other issues I was free to either return to Costa Rica or move on. I decided to move on to Lviv, and soon after the decision to move on was taken, three men connected to the church I have been supporting showed up, and off I went with them into Ukraine. When I arrived in Lviv, I was not expecting such a warm welcome I did receive at this church. Ukrainians take as a great source of encouragement that I have come all the way from Costa Rica to support them. Many soldiers have shared with me their army patches or their Ukrainian patch flag. One foreign soldier shared his bulletproof vest and another an expensive set of binoculars, someone else a brand-new iPhone. While flying New York /Istanbul, a Russian man made it possible for me to have access to business class. He pulled his credit card, upgraded me and said: "Thanks for doing what you are doing for Ukrainians. I am ashamed of my own country..."
The City of Lviv: This is the central-western city in Ukraine. An ancient city with stunning and historic architecture. It will be a real pity if this city is damaged. The air sirens of the city go off quite often now, but I guess people have become used to them. There have been only two bomb rides nearby, one at the military base and the other at the airport. I had the opportunity to provide emergency care to a couple of soldiers affected. In the city we have air ride sirens going off at least 5 times a day, I asked a church leader why people were not doing anything when the sirens went off. He said: "Lviv does not have bomb shelters, and if we die, we die…." I am mesmerized by the resilience of the people living in this city. They are going with their life as if nothing is happening around them. Banking, Internet, electricity, shopping, transportation is working. Even yesterday, I was able to use an ATM with my Costa Rican debit card. This morning I saw at a park nearby people walking their kids and dogs and kids playing soccer, a building was being built, a road crew was repairing roads and no panic shopping. Amazingly, people outside cafes enjoying the first warm days of spring. Feels surreal, especially when I encounter many international news crews trying to send updates.
Having shared that. Reality strikes when I go to the central train station, as I encounter hundreds and hundreds of people waiting for buses to take them anywhere in Europe. I have seen buses coming as far as Portugal, Spain, Italy, Sweden. The church I am supporting sends daily to the border two busloads of refugees. This afternoon I came across a group of Canadians. They are a contingent of 30 volunteers belonging to a "hunting club" and heading off into the front lines. It was suggested that I join them as their unit medic. I thought: my courage has certain limits…
The church in Lviv: I am impressed with how well organized this church runs its relief operation. Everyone seems to know what their responsibility is. They make all the work look very simple as they process the relief supplies and attempt to distribute them all over Ukraine. Last week, I coordinated the shipment of what I initially thought were going to be two vans with supplies coming from Sweden. To our surprise, this organization showed up with six vans and two utility trucks loaded with supplies. This morning, my assignment was to coordinate a group of volunteers classifying the medical donations. Prescription medicines will go to local hospitals, and trauma emergency supplies will be sent to the front lines. I am sharing my room with two pastors from the city of Mariupol. A city currently suffering a relentless besiege. This church's challenge is: How to support these two pastors coming from so far away, considering the fuel and transport limitations? It may take around $1,000 to send these two pastors back to Mariupol with their supplies. Let me know if your want to sponsor them. I am also talking with the church's leadership about the possibility of providing some young people heading soon to the front lines with training on trauma emergencies.
The people of Ukraine: I am impressed with the people of Ukraine. All those I have been in contact with seem confident that they will prevail over this ordeal. Sometimes, while hearing their optimism, I ask myself: do they realize they are up against one of the most powerful armies in the world? I keep hearing anecdotal accounts of many invading soldiers stranded along the roads without fuel or food supplies and having to return to their homes by foot. While heading to Lviv, I shared my ride with a man in his mid-seventies. He proudly showed me pictures of his neighbours torching up three military vehicles near the west end of Ukraine. This man was heading back home to join the resistance. During our three-hour ride, I lost count of the times he thanked me for my work in Ukraine. I am particularly impressed by the Ukrainian elderly. I have seen them stoically standing for hours under freezing temperatures waiting for border clearance. Most likely, they developed endurance during the Soviet Union era. I provided medical attention to a lady in her mid-eighties. She had a broken wrist after taking a fall from a bus. I put her a temporal cast using cardboard, and surprisingly I did not hear from her a single complaint. Amongst Russian speakers (40% of Ukrainians speak Russian), I receive with great delight when I share with them that my son Jonathan graduated from the Tchaikovsky Conservatory in Moscow.
On Venezuela. I continue receiving good news from the Venezuela prison team travelling for six weeks and visiting seven prison camps. Three days ago, while heading into Lviv, I talked with the team leader as they were also driving into Tocoron Prison. This prison has the reputation of being the most dangerous prison in America. Pastor Jorge the leader of our team, and I laughed at the coincidence that, at the same time, I was also driving into the most dangerous country in Europe… The prison ministry team had completed their visit into Ramo Verde prison, the home of most Venezuelan political prisoners. We are grateful that a fully and openly committed Christian army general has been appointed as the director of this prison camp. My team has the suspicion that this appointment was instigated by the three Christian army generals who have been very supportive of our prison ministry. Pray. Most prisons have allocated vast amounts of agricultural land for our agriculture projects. We urgently need to find a Christian organization willing to come alongside and financially support these garden projects since they have grown way beyond what we can help.
PS. Please do not send any more support on my behalf to Crossworld Mission. However, you are welcome to continue financially supporting some worthy causes they have for the needs in Ukraine.
In pictures: In Lviv got myself two pieces of protective equipment. Just in case...