From Heero Hacquebord (L’viv Church pastor and MTW missionary):
“Come now, you who say, ‘Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit’ — yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.”
James 4:13–15 (ESV)
We are all familiar with life’s unexpected twists and turns: unforeseen joys, accidents, sudden sickness. Over the past two-and-a-half years the whole world has been challenged with greater insecurity as the Covid pandemic changed our plans many times over. As it turns out, for many of us that experience was merely preparation for the astonishing reality of another major war in Europe. It has already been more than 6 months since Russia’s unprovoked invasion of Ukraine. While the first days and weeks of Russian destruction brought immense uncertainty to the lives of millions of Ukrainians, it continues to be very difficult to plan life months or even weeks in advance. In this highly unstable context we seek to serve Jesus Christ’s Church and the hurting people of Ukraine one week or month at a time, making the best use of changing opportunities God gives us.
War update: Living through Russia’s full-scale invasion of Texas-sized Ukraine has been a strange experience: According to some estimates every day Russian artillery fires 40,000-60,000 rounds of ammunition at Ukrainian military and civilian targets. Yet here in L’viv we have not heard any explosions since the beginning of May. Some villages and neighborhoods in the East and South are being systematically demolished; yet in many towns and cities restaurants and coffee shops are functioning as normal. In places such as Mariupol the civilian toll may be over 100,000…. But the population of other cities has swelled as six million internally displaced Ukrainians have found temporary accommodation. Such contrasts can sometimes make the war seem surreal – were it not for church members and acquaintances fighting on the front lines, having their homes destroyed, losing family members, living under daily missile and artillery barrages.
Most people in Ukraine are looking forward to victory. And many well-informed analysts believe that Ukraine can indeed win the war, as long as it continues to be supported and supplied by other countries. Indeed, military support for Ukraine must increase to end the war sooner! The opposite would spell outright Ukrainian defeat or a stalemate and loss of Ukrainian territory, which would translate into a Russian victory. Europe (and the world) cannot afford such an outcome; it would only embolden Putin’s expansionist terrorist empire that aims to colonize bigger chunks of the continent.
Many people outside of Ukraine do not yet realize what Putin’s Russia is. Observers often do not grasp that the ghastly tactics of civilian torture, rape and murder – like those employed in towns outlying Kyiv – were not random, isolated events, but systematic, state-sponsored atrocities. Recently Russian forces set ablaze a prison facility holding roughly two hundred tortured Ukrainian POW’s who had bravely defended the city of Mariupol at great risk to their own lives. Despite clear evidence to the contrary, Russian leaders brazenly blamed the fire on Ukrainian shelling. Russia is the first country in history to occupy a nuclear power station (the largest in Europe) and use it as cover for forces firing at military and civilian targets. This is not a nation seeking to create its own sphere of influence or “buffer zone” between itself and NATO. It’s an empire that seeks to conquer, colonize, dominate and exterminate. Think Nazi Germany, Stalin’s USSR or Mao’s China. That is who we are dealing with. The outside world has to come to terms with this reality and act accordingly!
Ukraine must fight to free its occupied territories from a totalitarian regime that seeks to systematically annihilate the Ukrainian culture, language, history, spirit and… people. Since February Russia has destroyed or damaged 2,405 Ukrainian universities, schools and kindergartens; 270 of which are completely destroyed. The survival of the Ukrainian nation is at stake. For Ukraine, defeat is not an option.
Yet a Ukrainian victory and acceptable end to the Russian invasion may still be many, many months away. Ukrainians continue to live with a very strong sense of uncertainty. We do not know how many cities and towns will make it through the upcoming winter. But the military perseveres in the fight with the weapons it can get. Many people help with a broad array of needs as they are able. And our denomination and church continue to serve people’s physical and spiritual needs in the Name of our King, Jesus Christ. It is what God is calling us to do this week, this month.