Christ Shines in Spite of Broken Hearts in Ukraine

We received this update from Matias, director of WOL Ukraine, today:  
 
After two days of evacuations in the city of Chernihiv, the reality of war has started to settle in.  

Yesterday, our team of missionaries was joined by a local pastor—whose wife we evacuated to WOL Romania—and another fellow believer, who heard that we were evacuating people from the north and decided to join our convoy with his van. Before the team started making their way north (a trip that normally takes about one and a half hours), they stopped by a local bakery that has been cooking food for those in need. The bakery is run by Andriy Vasylenko, a good friend and fellow believer. Andriy and his wife, Arenda, stayed in Ukraine to serve the people in any way they could. They are also founders of a charity that educates and empowers children with Down Syndrome and other intellectual disabilities. The Vasylenkos were able to bring humanitarian aid from the Netherlands, and our team packed the vans with food and necessities to help those in Chernihiv.  

Unfortunately, not far into their journey north, the Armed Forces of Ukraine warned them that today was going to be a “heated” day in the area, and they suggested the team not make the trip. It was too dangerous. We are grateful for the good spirit and communication with our Army, and thanks to their recommendation, the team turned in another direction.  

Thankfully, they were close to a local church in the area and were able to bless them with all the supplies they were taking north. About two hours later, a column of nearly 30 Russian units entered the area our team decided to turn back from. The column was eventually completely destroyed by the Ukraine Armed Forces. God’s protection in this case is so evident.  

Pray for those remaining in Chernihiv; there are still more than 300 people awaiting evacuation organized by the Evangelical Churches and Word of Life. We don’t know if we will be able to get there. Still, we were able to provide shelter and transport to over 130 dear Ukrainians from all walks of life.  

During the first evacuation, we helped two moms with their newborn babies get out directly from the maternity hospital. There are elderly people, young families, children, and people with disabilities. All of them were able to hear and see the love of Jesus that is demonstrated through our brave men of God who are taking care of them during these troubled times.  

We don’t know what tomorrow will bring to our men in Ukraine. We do know that God is guiding their every step. They have every reason, humanly speaking, to run to refuge—but instead, they are risking their lives for others, every day. That looks a lot like Jesus to me. 

Our WOL Ukraine team is spread across Europe at the moment, but they are all engaged in serving the constant flow of pilgrims from Ukraine.  

Part of our team is in Romania, where they are working tirelessly with our Romanian missionaries providing shelter on our property there for over 60 Ukrainians. Part of our team is still located in WOL Hungary, where we are waiting to resolve some document issues for some team members and serving others who need special care during this time.  

One of our missionary wives is six months pregnant and has had complications leading to hospitalization. She is being taken good care of and our staff ladies are visiting her every day and helping with everything they can. Her husband remains in Ukraine. 

We also have part of our team in Italy. One of our staff kids, little Simeon, needed medical assistance that could only be provided in that country. We praise God that Tony, his father, was able to make it out of Ukraine and will soon join them there. It’s an answer to prayer that the whole family will be together again. Pray for the medical procedures and assistance that Simeon in getting.  

We are grateful for the colossal efforts that our teams in WOL Poland and WOL Czechia are making to assist and provide refuge for our Ukrainian brothers and sisters in need. On a daily basis, we are assisting people in their “pilgrimage” towards Western Europe. Daily, we are on the phone, making connections and trying to find solutions to all sorts of situations presented by this difficult time.  

I’ve been looking at what is happening and seeing the body of Christ work in a selfless, devoted, and loving way. Whether it’s our student, Denis, in Western Ukraine, who has organized the evacuation of over 200 people towards safety, or our former student Vlad, who has only slept in a bed once during the past week as he drives people from Poland to various locations in Europe, or Mark, in Prague, who is finding homes and places for people to stay, or Olya, who is constantly connecting people and bringing humanitarian help to Ukraine… It’s beautiful. It’s attractive. It’s the beauty of Christ that is shining like never before in Eastern Europe.  

In this dark hour, as this bright light shines, there is a One who is becoming more and more visible: Jesus Christ. The Church of Christ is shining, and that is what brings us hope and peace. Our hearts are broken, and our minds are wounded. But our faith is growing, and our calling is deepened. We are blessed. I want to thank every single person that is praying for Ukraine. I want to thank every person that is giving toward the work in Ukraine. Your faith in action is bringing brilliant glory to God. 
 
After sharing all this with us, Matias also sent the testimony of a Ukrainian student who graduated from the Ukraine Bible Institute in 2021. This is what she had to say:  
 
“Tomorrow, there is a van leaving for Germany from my city in the Donbass region, which is almost encircled by enemy forces. There are two free seats waiting for me and my sister. Everything is arranged for us to relocate to Switzerland.  

These last three days have been the hardest. I have been struggling in my mind; I wasn’t sure what the right decision would be: to stay here, or to leave? At some points, the struggle has been too much for me. All my brothers and the rest of my family supported the idea of my departure, so that I didn’t have to go through any more of this horrible war. They think that I would be better off in Switzerland. However, I decided to stay.  

I listened to the Voice that speaks so quietly—His Voice. I remembered all the things I learned and heard at Word of Life, and all the promises I made to Him. I remember how last summer, before we started camp, I threw a stick in the fire, symbolizing my promise to God that I want to “burn” for Jesus. This is my attitude now; I am ready to go in the fire. I understand that this is the place and now is the time for me to be here to work and to serve.   

I decided that even if I never ever get to Switzerland, or get a good education or a comfortable life, I will not regret it. Because, if I do what Jesus is calling me to do now, I will be the happiest person in the world. I’ve come to understand that I can either find myself in the coolest country in the world and still be totally unsatisfied, or I can stay here, in the midst of explosions and bombings and fear, and be the happiest person in the world, because I am doing what I should be doing. I am not scared at all now, because I know the One who goes ahead of me.” 

A photo from a Ukrainian student's hometown
A photo from a Ukrainian student’s hometown

Please, Continue to Pray

  • Continue to pray for our missionaries in Ukraine as they enter the war zone almost daily to evacuate citizens
  • Pray for the Ukrainian missionary wife who is hospitalized with pregnancy complications
  • Pray for our teams across Eastern Europe as they serve our Ukrainian brothers and sisters
  • Continue to pray for peace and for Russia to withdraw their forces

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