From Jamie Peipon: In the picture above, you can see the skyline of beautiful Ivano-Frankivsk, Ukraine. The church is the Greek Catholic Church of the Holy Resurrection. To its right, you can see a mural on the side of a building which is actually a portrait of the city’s namesake – Ivan Franko. In the middle of the picture, off in the distance, you can see the flag of freedom flying over the city. I’m so grateful to be from the USA and our flag has always just felt like freedom to me. But that blue and yellow… it really makes me happy to see it flying high knowing that this country is the most visible vanguard in the fight against tyranny.
Our team spent several days in Ivano-Frankivsk before leaving town this afternoon. The highlight was worshipping here with the local presbyterian church. We heard a fine sermon from MTW missionary Jon Eide, sang together, and then heard the prayers of the congregation. It is one thing to hear a prayer “for the armed forces.” It is another thing when you hear people praying for my brother/son/cousin/friend who is currently at a hot spot at the front. There are so many stories… every single person has them.
I met a guy named Artur in our hotel. His wife was pregnant. He had just become the recipient of one such story. A friend that he had known since childhood had been serving in the armed forces. They played on the same soccer team even though Artur was two years older than this friend. They watched each other grow up, always in the same neighborhood. Last week, Artur heard that his friend’s mom had been called in by the military. They were fairly certain that her son was dead. They wouldn’t let her try to identify the body. They only asked that she give them a DNA sample so that they could know for sure. This is the question asked when the cause of death is so severe that the soldier is completely unrecognizable. At this point, Artur seemed to be losing his composure and excused himself. It was as if he realized that he shouldn’t necessarily be sharing this with complete strangers. Dasha and I offered him an encouraging word and then he and his wife were gone.
In the news today, Zelenskyy was also talking about that blue and yellow flag. It is beginning to fly in previously-occupied areas again. He confirmed that a few small towns around Kherson have been taken back in the counteroffensive. It is good to receive official word on progress because there has been a media blackout for safety reasons over the last days and weeks. There are no journalists embedded with the troops and so new information is hard to come by.
“The LORD knows the days of the blameless,
and their heritage will remain forever;
they are not put to shame in evil times;
in the days of famine they have abundance.
But the wicked will perish;
the enemies of the LORD are like the glory of the pastures;
they vanish—like smoke they vanish away.”