Hello friends. We moved into our new temporary home yesterday here in Cluj, Central Romania. Oh how the heart longs for some rhythms, and I’m hopeful they will come soon.
As most of you know, it’s now been one month since Russia first instigated its war against the emerging, flourishing Slavic culture in Ukraine. I haven’t watched the news, we’re among it. Our social media channels, like everyone over here, ablaze. Grief and anger, loss and a seemingly undying optimism that in the end, evil will not, cannot win.
I was reading the other day this famous scripture from the prophet Isaiah. He aptly expresses the cry being echoed from the hearts of all believing Ukrainians in this hour:
O that you would tear open the heavens and come down,
so that the mountains would quake at your presence—
as when fire kindles brushwood
and the fire causes water to boil—
to make your name known to your adversaries,
so that the nations might tremble at your presence!
I don’t want to be guilty of sensationalism, of making things seem even worse than they really are. Yet, I honestly don’t think that’s even possible. The things we see from friends, folks we know, and the stories we hear with our own ears, if anything, are things that you aren’t even being told. I don’t know what the media in the west is sharing, but in this update I simply want to pass on a snapshot of my stories today, from the past 24hrs, vetted, known, real, unadulterated. I don’t blame you if you don’t want to read, or engage emotionally – we’re not wired, us finite humans, to wrap our hearts around suffering beyond our capacity to help. We can barely deal with the loss of one loved one, let alone neighborhoods, villages wiped out.
Oppressors dominating and crushing the other have taken place throughout history. There is nothing necessarily new here. What’s new is that we have a front row seat, feeling the suffering in real-time. I suppose a glimmer of hope in this mess is that real-time response, from the outpouring of aid into Ukraine, around bordering countries, and the whole world.
Just 100 years ago, Ukraine could have been wiped from the map without many knowing, a simple footnote in some history book. Crushing belligerence is now on display for all to see, to bear witness to; as evil shakes off it’s pretend socialistic and nationalistic clothing, we now turn our attention to the antidote.. a Creator God that entered this messed up world with us, and felt it’s angry teeth to the point of death. This is what Christ did, his coming mediated not only the loving, divesting, good love of our Father God, but simultaneously mediated humanities propensity to kill what it is most afraid of.
I struggle to sit and write an update. Each day is so full, unpredictable. Then, like tonight, when I do, it just gushes out and I’m sure nobody will ready this novel!
Thank you for your generous support, for the new churches and friends connecting and saying “how can we help?” – I am doing my best to circle back and correspond. I hope to update our Emergency Fund page this weekend, we are essentially ramping up to give even more AID and FUEL (for vans) in Ukraine among our network of friends, and also going deeper here in Romania with Refuge Care in simple, but super meaningful ways toward healing, story, community and employment opportunities for Ukrainians.
The following are explanations of the photos I have selected for your. Thank you for all the prayer, and caring for not only our family but those we love and know inside and now outside of Ukraine.
(Photo) Grandfather Kohan Mykolayovich from village called Nemyrinttsi. He donated his two pigs, slaughtered, women volunteers canned 620 tins of pork, sent to front for hungry soldiers (Vira Perozhak).
(Photo) A hospital in Zaporizhia which is receiving wounded civilians from Mariupol (Roman Sheremeta).
(Photo) Shopping complex north east Kyiv area called the Podil district. This is 7 miles from the US embassy where we would go often for documents (Aris Messinis).
(Photo) Valerie (yellow circled face), a trusted friend, serves with Steiger Ukraine and is coordinating a network of humanitarian aid, 15 vans, from a warehouse in western Ukraine. They are also evacuating (1500 so far) and delivering tons of aid to the most hostile zones. We have begun sponsoring their team for fuel costs, and with your help we can do more. They are using $2-3k per day just in fuel.
(Photo) At our refuge house here in Romania, our neighbors continue to bless and open their hearts to our friends. They donated a second fridge.
(Photo) Today for lunch we met with Ukrainian Pastors Sergey and Hellen Shalukhin. They are from the now Russian occupied town in the Kherson region where they shared their story of having only 15 minutes to grab all they could and take their kids west. Hearts torn as they can’t get back in to family and friends they love. They were able to evacuate over 30 women and children here in Cluj, where we found them at a camp in the mountains last week. We are planning Saturday to bring our communities together, and explore ways forward to serve the 1000 or so Ukrainians now in this region. They explained that the Russians are trying to change currency to the ruble, and lock down communication much like they do in Russia by force – but it’s meeting harsh resistance among the civilian population in these controlled areas.
Yesterday we received a message for help from a special needs orphanage in northern Ukraine near Belarus. They are without food, medicine, and in a very difficult situation. Thankfully, Deb engaged the message, because I wasn’t going to click on it. She was able to reach out to Belarusian friends, who connected the orphanage to believers near the border there who are now working to bring aid. Pray for Belarusian believers, they are in a very difficult situation, much like we see in Russia. Their phone and social media channels are monitored, and doing or saying anything considered pro-western will land you and your family in a world of hurt.
In Russia, you are given 15yr prison sentences if you use the terms “war” or violate their speech laws concerning the “war” in Ukraine. Social media is shut down, if you have VPN, you can still get some, but not all access to western narratives. Schools are now forced to indoctrinate children on the “peace” that Russia is bringing to the world. Every missionary (except two!) we know in Russia has left, and even those who tried to leave ran into difficulty, seen as foreign agents.
In regions Northeast of Kyiv, we have talked to villagers in now Russian occupied territories that escaped who haven’t heard from loved ones or neighbors. They witnessed dead bodies in the streets. They hid in large metal water tanks to avoid getting hid with bullets. In some of these villages, there were Chechnyan fighters, renowned for being vicious and much worse than the Russian soldiers. They moved in after the front pushed forward, with large trucks, loaded up all the food, looted stores, houses, and essentially plundered the towns leaving nothing for the trapped civilians. The cell phones of civilians captured were confiscated, but one man hid and kept his – texting days later from Belarus where they were taken!
Gracious, time for bed.
To support aid and refugee care with us, https://mirministries.org/emergency-fund