An evangelical worker in Ukraine describes the situation there, one year after the Russian invasion. Despite much pain and tears, they see “the hand of God”.
February 24 marked the first anniversary of Russia's invasion of Ukraine.
Despite the difficulties, evangelical Christians are playing a major role in distributing essential aid and spiritual care to the Ukrainian people, because the country is not only economically damaged, but also in need of the unique hope that the gospel brings.
This is the understanding of Mariana Laskava, a Ukrainian missionary who is in Kyiv as part of the Word of Life mission team, which has continued its evangelistic and Bible training missions throughout this first year of full-scale war, despite the obstacles.
Question. Mariana, first tell us how you are doing
Answer. This was the most traumatic year for all Ukrainians. I have never cried so much and felt so much pain for what is happening to our people. We did not even notice the change of seasons, because all we can think about is when this aggression towards our country will end and when they will stop destroying it.
But personally, as a missionary, called by God to serve, I am very happy to be here helping my people. There is so much need, that those of us who serve the Lord have to be here.
Many Ukrainians are filling the churches. There is so much need for humanitarian aid. Being here you understand that you are in the best place, because despite the danger, you are helping your people.
Q. You had to be out of the country for a few months because of the invasion
A. We as a mission decided to evacuate at the beginning of the war. The women, children and some of the men who were able to leave went to Hungary.
A group of us then went to Romania, helping refugees coming out of Ukraine. It was a difficult job, but it was important, because we helped about a hundred people.
Then I went to Spain for three months, one month in Barcelona and two months in Galicia. It was a very beautiful time, in which I was able to be with other brothers in the faith, but it is very difficult emotionally to be far away when your country is suffering. You are fine, but inside you are also bad. Even so, I enjoyed it very much.
I went back to Ukraine in August to join the work of the mission.
Q. How has the work of the mission changed this year?
A. We have just published on social media everything we were able to do during this year, and it is quite impressive.
We are actually doing the same as before, which is evangelism, but in a very different way. There are so many opportunities.
We built a warehouse in our centre to store what we are receiving from other countries, package it and take it to the churches, to parts of Ukraine that were liberated from Russia.
Another important part is helping soldiers, caring for the wounded in hospitals. We try to help other soldiers who are friends, former students of the Bible Institute, in any way we can.
One interesting thing was that in December we created a play called “Seeking the light”, a Christmas programme for the children.
Our electricity stations are being bombarded, so we have spent many hours without light and electricity, with cold and many difficulties, so “seeking the light” is what we are experiencing.
This evangelistic project for the refugees has been very well received. The churches have been filled with people who came to see the play, many came with problems, anguished, and left with hope.
At the end of the play, the protagonists find a kingdom of light, a light that no one can take away from them or extinguish. In the last song we tell that Jesus is the king of light.
In a big church in Kiev, after two performances that we did, fourteen children started to go to Sunday school.
We did over 30 performances in 25 cities. And even though Christmas is over, they still ask us to go. Now the churches are insisting us to prepare a play for Easter.
Q. Are there any expectations for the future in the country?
A.. As people who have been at war for a year, we are very tired, but the spirit of the Ukrainian people is that we will never give up. Never. Every day we talk about 'when the war is over', 'when we achieve victory'.
On the 24th, which was one year after the war, we had a national day of fasting and prayer. All the Christian churches were involved. We believe in God and we pray as much as we can, as much as we know.
Q. How have you experienced God's hand in these months?
A.. Life is very hard, but God is very good. When I talk to believers, I see that God gives us everything we need, He takes care of us.
When we travelled with this play, we visited some of the cities that are bombed every day, it was a step of faith to go there. There were days when bombings could make us cancel our plans, however, during the performances we had no bombing alerts.
We still have one city left that we want to go to, but it is too close to Russia.
God is enabling us to carry the gospel, and we see his hand in everything.
Q. How can we help your mission?
A. Many are giving, even with more local initiatives, like for example a church in Galicia that has been sending batteries, candles and lanterns for us to hand out to people.
The biggest help is to pray for us, so that we can see how we can help people, how we can share the gospel.
We want to build a bunker on the property, because without that we can't do activities with children. We are building a dining room to have activities.
We depend on the Lord, because we know that if a missile comes, everything is destroyed. We want to have camps this summer, if God allows it.
You can give offerings, but you can also come and help. Foreigners are being able to come, and maybe when the war is over more people will be able to come.