I was invited to come to Ukraine in 2018 to help people explore the content of He Loves Me, which had earlier been translated into Russian. What a wonderful people and beautiful country! The picture above is off of the cover of a book they gave me in appreciation for my time there. It celebrated the beauty of their country, which has now been destroyed by Russian military aggression. It is estimated that nearly 3,000 Ukrainians have been killed, including over 200 children. Almost three million have fled the country as refugees.
I’ve continued to get updates from those inside and hold the tragedies they experience every day in my heart. No one thought the Ukrainians could hold out this long against Russia’s might. I also hear from my Russian friends who lament this disaster as well. This is on Putin, not his people. Here’s a look at the inside. It is painful to read but good for our hearts to recognize the profound suffering that others are going through in the world because of greed and human contests for power. Some of the information below is a few weeks old. I’ve been too preoccupied to work out a blog about it, but I want you to hear what I’m hearing from those inside Ukraine.
Irpin, the city where we had the conference you attended, has been all over the news. Irpin, is considered an evangelical center for all of Ukraine due to the conference centers and seminaries located there. I heard the place where we gathered was destroyed. It is highly likely considering what the Russians did to the city.
I have known Valeri since 2007 when he passed from his old life as a drug addict and hooligan to his brand-new life in Christ. He has been a part of rescuing hundreds of men and women from addiction into freedom in Christ. Now he is rescuing hundreds of people from the danger and horror of war. He is currently on another dangerous mission. He is one of many that we know risking their lives to bring people to safety.
Last night a rocket flew into the house of my friend and pastor in Kharkiv and did not explode. The rocket broke through the roof and on the second floor broke up into three parts. The explosive unit fell on the first floor where Serhiy was with deacons and brothers from the church. There were six of them. The power of this missile would have been so great that half of the street would be destroyed by the explosion. Sergei lives on the outskirts of the city. There are only private houses. There are no military or civilian facilities. The shot was intended to kill civilians.
You know from the news about the crimes of the Russian Nazis. Unfortunately, they are committing more and more crimes every day. This only confirms that they did not come to deliver us. They came to destroy us only because we are Ukrainians and because we are a free nation. Russian slaves can’t stand it.
Yesterday my cousin, who lives in Zaporizhzhia, told me about the death of several pastors. They accompanied the humanitarian cargo to the occupied towns of Zaporizhzhia region. They were shot dead. Yesterday our brother in Christ, the father of 6 children was buried. He was killed by Russians. He was a bus driver who evacuated civilians.
In the occupied territories, Russians kidnap people, torture and rape women and girls, and shoot civilians. There are hundreds and possibly thousands of these cases. Our soldiers are buried with great honors in the cities of Ukraine. They are real heroes of Ukraine and the world because they have fought against the evil of the world.
The 45th day of the war lasts. In the early days, the brain refused to accept the fact that Russia had deployed a full-scale war against Ukraine. Now it is only capturing new, scary information that on;y makes the soul ache and the eyes cry. Why have hundreds of children, women, and the elderly in Ukraine become martyrs? Why were they ruthlessly tortured by young people from Russia? Is it a crime to be Ukrainian? How can this happen in the 21st century?
How do children whose parents were tortured in front of their eyes, supposed to live now? How do women who were collectively raped by Russian forces supposed to live? How about those who were forcibly deported to Russia and sent to Siberia as slaves? How, how, how? We hear these questions from Ukrainians every day.
A mother and a 9-year-old boy fled from Gostomel (a city near Kyiv). Their car was shot. The woman died; the boy was later rescued. Here is a letter the boy wrote to his mother after her death: “Mom, this letter is a gift from me to you on March 8! If you think you raised me in vain, you are wrong. Thank you for the best nine years of my life! Thank you for the childhood! You are the best mother in the world! I will never forget you! I wish you happiness in heaven! I wish you to go to paradise. See you in paradise!”
Today we took Galina to Poland from near Kharkiv. She is 78 years old. This woman is a friend of my parents. She was with us for three days. She was injured after the explosions. “It was very early. I was still asleep when the explosions erupted. The glass in the doors and windows flew out. I didn’t even have time to shout “Lord.” I lay under the bed and asked the Lord to take me to Himself as soon as possible.” This morning she prayed, “Thank you, Lord, for this heavenly home. I was very comfortable here. You understand that after the bombing, for Galina, our ordinary house seemed heavenly. We are glad that we can share a piece of God’s love with those who have suffered from the war. Right now, sevenpeople are living in our house.
In the midst of this, they keep praying every day that the war will end, and yet it drags on day after day with no sign of stopping:
I wish this letter on “War” to be the last one. Thousands of prayers were said in our hearts. Every hour, and even every minute, we await the announcement of the end of this terrible war. We know that you and millions of Christians around the world are praying for an end to the war in Ukraine. We are sincerely grateful to you for sharing our pain with us and all Ukrainians. This pain tears our souls apart. We feel helpless. Pray for our spirit. Sometimes we feel broken, depressed, and powerless. In every conversation we want to support others, and sometimes we need support.
My heart goes out to them. How often do we lift our prayers with loud cries and tears to God, knowing that what we ask for is only to stop the suffering and pain? What do we do with prayers that go unanswered? Could God stop the war today? Sure he could. Why doesn’t he? That’s the question people want answered when they cry out from their pain and want God to fix it.
But God is not the one causing the war, and part of his purpose in redemption lets the chaos of evil seem to win for a season. It’s not because we don’t pray hard enough or aren’t sincere enough. It has to do with God’s greater purpose in a world that yet needs to be redeemed back to the Father. Somehow the chaos would grow greater if God just fixed everything according to our need for peace and security. He is about far more significant matters, and instead of begging him to do what we want, we’ll find more wisdom and direction by noticing the wind of the Spirit that blows through our circumstances and learning to ride it. He is the Master at bringing great triumph out of horrendous tragedies.
We can pray for the war to end, but we might find greater wisdom and peace waking each day and asking what it is that God is giving us today? What does he want me to know? Who is he giving me to love? How does he want to make himself known in my pain? The insights gained from those questions will allow you to rise above your circumstances and find peace in your heart regardless of the outcome.