Marie John/Japhin (Kyiv)
“When electricity, gas, and water went off, when the shelling started – we finally got to know our neighbors. From living our separate lives next to each other, we finally started living with each other”, said a woman in the village.
We experience the same — as physical walls are torn down by destruction, spiritual strongholds fall as well.
People can’t hide behind their success, their car, their house. The nation lies bare, so does the soul. We knock on a door with a bag of groceries, and people spread out their lives before us. We come to replace shattered windows and are thrown into shattered lives.
It is sometimes intimidating how easily people are opening up. In one afternoon of fixing windows, we hear the story of a man caught up in alcoholism, astrology, and paganism. Years ago, he survived being buried under a four-ton-load but still isn’t sure if there is a God after all. Now, he is one of the men who survived the occupation. Not everyone was that lucky. He shows us the devil tattoo on his shoulder and asks, is there a place in the church for a sinner like me? Had the shelling not burst his windows, would this man have listened to some young people sharing the Gospel?
In the same way, we would have never heard the story of a young woman who started praying earnestly after the Russians abducted her friend.
Jesus gave her the strength to carry out small acts of kindness as the village was under occupation – to collect all her neighbors’ phones and charge them. The Russians perceived footage taken with these phones as a threat, and the head of the division gave the order to execute the young woman. The soldier charged with the execution sat down in her neighbor’s house, confessed the order he received, and that he felt he couldn’t do it.
Two days later, the village was liberated. The neighbors told the young woman how she barely escaped death — a miracle to everyone. The young woman became an advocate for her village and is now pointing us to families needing aid and reconstruction.
If her life was not turned upside down, would she have turned to God?
Jesus says, Man does not live by bread alone — but by every Word from the mouth of God.
So we take the bread, and we take the windows, but they really are only door openers into peoples’ lives. Their windows might have broken recently, but their hearts broke long ago. We can easily fix their windows but reconciling them to God is what truly gives life.
Sometimes we must experience vulnerability and loss to see what is of actual value. As Ukraine is covered in destruction, it’s blossoming in faith. As much as I want this war to end, I am not at all concerned about the spiritual condition of this nation.
We are unknown, and yet well known; dying, and behold, we live; punished, and yet not killed; sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; poor, yet making many rich; having nothing, yet possessing everything. — 2 Cor 6:9-10a
Please pray for the many teams that are involved with rebuilding and building homes and shelters. We will report more on this in the next days.
Please continue to pray for the grain situation in the ports on the Black Sea. After months of negotiations, it seemed there was a huge breakthrough and the tons of grain stored in Ukraine’s ports would finally be delivered to the hungry and poor of the world. The next day, missiles were fired on Odessa putting all of this into question. Pray for this grain to be released!
Al Akimoff and the Slavic Ministries Team