Our teammate in Ukraine, Dr Miriam Wheeler, and three national pastors met with 11 pastors from the war zone in Ukraine. The pastors shared their joys and struggles as they minister to desperately poor people who have remained in the war zone for various reasons. Miriam and the national pastors listened with breaking hearts as the pastors from the conflict zone described conditions there, and they shared what comfort they could from the body of Christ around the world. Though a significant sum of money was delivered to these men to meet needs of the refugees around them, it seems such a small amount compared to the size of the need. As these men poured out their hearts to their friends from Odessa, their somber words break your heart. Here is sample of what they said:
- I haven’t slept for 3 nights because of the artillery fire around us.
- So many people have left.
- Only 20 out of 100 members remain.
- Often refugees drag in from bus/train stations, see our church and come begging for bread. We feed them, they are starving and eat without manners.
- Even hospitals ask for help with groceries.
- At the Children’s hospital there are about 40 kids, all they often have to eat is macaroni.
- One time, 600 patients in the hospital, for four days they couldn’t feed them because of the constant barrage!
If this was all that could be said regarding what is happening in eastern Ukraine, it would be very sad indeed. However, you need to hear the hope in their voices as they praise the Lord with these words:
- We can almost say that war has been a blessing to us because people are more open to the gospel, we have more opportunities to serve in villages around us, even on the front line. 15 people have repented and been baptized in the past 2 years!
- [We have] 9 churches, every one provides hot lunches.
- Our church feeds 150 people twice a week, give medicines as needed.
- We even go to TB hospital, without fear, many listen well especially women.
These men and their families have decided to stay in the combat zone to serve refugees who are either unable to leave or have chosen to remain there. Most could have taken the easy road and removed their families to a safe place. But these have counted the lives of people facing a Christ-less eternity more dear than their own. Pastor Pavel said, “The greatest temptation of my life during the war is to leave my church and go to safety. I called Fyodor to pray for me. God gave me strength to stay.” Does that cut you to the quick like it does to me? I really admire men such as these. They are not doing it to receive any reward that you or I can offer them. What could we offer them? They already have something that I envy – something that makes them stand up to be counted worthy of the cross of Christ