Ukraine; Monday, April 4/22
Updated: Apr 30, 2022
“For every killed soldier you see, a family has been torn apart. A gap created that will never be filled. The footage of a tank that suffers catastrophic detonation looks impressive, but it also results in the end of three lives. Soldiers that probably never wanted this war. Soldiers that have a family and dreams just like you and me.” Stijn Mitzer; The Independent.
While in Ukraine, the response I often receive from people I help, either giving food, a ride or emergency medical assistance, is “Spasibo,” meaning thank you in the Russian language. A poignant reminder that this senseless war is being fought between brothers and sisters.
The church I am serving hosts several Ukrainian men who help with the relief operation. In humanitarian terms, there are called Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs). Sadly, Ukraine has millions of them. These men come from Ukraine’s besieged cities. Most of them have lost everything, including their families, as they have seen their wives and kids go off to western Europe as refugees. However, there is something they have not lost: Their humanity; they miss their families, they laugh, work hard sorting and sending supplies to east Ukraine. These men go out of their way to make me feel welcome, and above all, they are people of faith. They bring to light the words of Ann Frank: “Despite everything, I still believe people are good at heart.”
A question asked by a member of my Canadian Bible Study. How different is the Christian church in Ukraine compared to the western Christian Church? I was reminded of the response given to me by an American missionary while visiting Russia when I asked about his perception of the western evangelical church. “Contented,” he flatly responded. My take is that modernism has made the church of the west comfortable and unguarded. Here, prayer, sacrificial giving, and service have become a matter of survival, hence the difference.
I have personally heard of two times in which a Russian military column has been disrupted. The first time when my son Jonathan had to be rushed by an ambulance to the hospital near the Kremlin. The ambulance had to cut through and disrupt a military convoy waiting in line during the May 1th celebration at the Red Square. The second time happened last week here around Kyiv. I guess, here in Ukraine, it happened on a much more dramatic scale…
I have met in Ukraine all kinds of international volunteers as they have come from worldwide to help out. I can only classify them into two groups. One group is the humanitarian workers. We have come to save lives. On the other hand, those who have come to join the military resistance and have come to bring lives to an end… The human drama of a war where the goodness and evil of humanity become dramatically joined under the same spotlight.
Although what was only a few weeks considered inevitable: the fall of Kyiv. This scenario has not happened as Ukrainians have been able to push back, leaving countless amounts of destroyed hardware along the way. Unfortunately, in the west of Ukraine, the fighting continues relentlessly. I sometimes feel overwhelmed when we stop our work at night, and the men in my compound start showing me pictures and videos of their destroyed homes, schools, hospitals… This evening one of the men shared that one of the people killed in the massacre of Bucha was a closely acquainted pastor. In the beginning, I always felt compelled to say something but with the language barrier. It is only so much I can say. I have limited myself to putting my hands on their shoulders. Sometimes they shred tears, other times there is only an awkward silence. I guess that is how God treats us many times when we bring to Him our pain. He does not seem to say much, but we always have the sense that our pleads and pain has not gone unnoticed…
“Talk to me about the truth of religion, and I’ll listen gladly. Talk to me about the duty of religion, and I’ll listen submissively. But don’t come talking to me about the consolations of religion, or I shall suspect that you don’t understand.” C.S. Lewis; A Grief Observed
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