Update: Eastern Ukraine
The War Continues in Donbass and It Is Not a Civil War
My friend Sergei, raised in the coal mining region of the Donetsk Basin (Donbass), sighed in sadness and relief. He shared, “I feel so much regret about what has happened to my country.” He is a very fortunate refugee, however, and now a missionary to his own people.
Sergei and his good friend pastor Vadim drove us to the Ukrainian army checkpoint several kilometers from Donetsk. About 3km from the front line, we were told we could go no further.
Pastor Vadim greeted one of the enlisted men and elder from his church who came to meet us. This husband and father of two, now a soldier, felt it was his duty to defend his country.
“Jeff, do you remember me?” he asked. (I didn’t) “You spoke at our church and I spoke to you afterwards. Welcome to the war zone!”
“You know I have a wife and two kids at home, just 50 miles from here. That is one of the reasons I joined the Ukrainian Army. War near your home is not good.”
We unloaded our van filled with warm jackets, thermal underwear, medical supplies, and small gifts of fresh fruit and other groceries. The army no longer needs as much as they did a few years ago. Shelling takes place every night in different areas of the front line. The danger is real but is seldom reported in the Western media.
“How can we pray for you brother?” I asked.
“I think my faith has strengthened. The people that don’t know God don’t have hope. I know He is with me and my life is daily in His hands. Please pray for our people. As you can see, the people in the villages here, grandmothers, little children, all became hostages of this situation.”
Later That Day In A Nearby Village
The cold and grey afternoon didn’t help our sadness as we left the checkpoint. The Ukraine conflict is not a civil war. Instead, it is a war with a well armed military force commanded and outfitted by Russia. A few years ago, Sergei our friend, guide, and fellow missionary, led people from his church in Donetsk through back-country roads to safety. Pastor Vadim took them in, gave them housing and groceries, and a job on the small church staff. Sergei and his wife Elena cannot return to their home and friends in Donetsk. Regardless, they know how fortunate they are to simply be alive.
We pulled over and walked through a rickety wooden gate and knocked on the door. The mother Irina answered and we walked into the entry room and kitchen. Like most village homes in Donbass, she has a coal-burning stove for heat.
Her daughter looks up at us with no expression. No joy, no laughter, no sadness, just a blank stare. They have nowhere else to go. They do not know other families in Ukraine. Irina did not want to take her daughter to a refugee shelter. Her alcoholic husband occasionally stops by to threaten them and look for money. The mother Irina felt trapped.
We pray together, deliver some potatoes, flour, oil, and some fresh fruit. I try to play with the little girl. For some unknown reason she could not understand my Russian. When she opens the box of chocolates she is not sure what to do with them. A missionary from Vadim’s church tells us that she is traumatized by the war.
Hope Amidst Despair Of An Invisible War
Mercy Projects partners together with pastor Vadim, Sergei and Elena, and others to bring the gospel of hope to those living in the Donbass region of Ukraine. Suffering continues for many thousands of people in villages along the front line of this invisible war.
The American government recently approved providing missiles to the Ukrainian army. This very long overdue support will help them defend their country against the tyranny of Russia. Though they are not in the news, please pray for our missionaries, our partners, and those suffering in Eastern Ukraine.