Ukrainian villagers were glad to get food but also prepared to stand in the snow and cold wind to listen to the team share the gospel.
This Advent season, the words of Mary’s Magnificat take on special significance against the background of Putin’s war in Ukraine:
He has brought down rulers from their thrones but has lifted up the humble. He has filled the hungry with good things but has sent the rich away empty (Luke 1: 52-3).
As do the words of Isaiah 9 quoted in Matthew 4:
The people living in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned.
Ukrainians have been plunged into darkness by Russian missile attacks. Their engineers are performing wonders to restore the light.
Daily reports from our YWAM colleagues from across the nation, including the newly liberated eastern regions of the Donbas, reveal strengthened resolve not to succumb to darkness and despair despite power shortages. And many are ‘seeing the light’.
James, just back from Kharkiv on his first trip to the region since the Russian occupation, said he could not fight off the tears as he listened to the villagers’ stories.
He and his team did not know what to expect on the trip to the newly liberated region; whether people would be aggressive for food or be angry with God.
What they discovered was not only sad and heartbreaking, but encouraging and heartwarming. As they delivered aid packages, cut wood and fixed windows and roofs, they encountered villagers glad to get food but also prepared to stand in the snow and cold wind to listen to the team share the gospel.
Grey and unsmiling faces turned joyful and tearful as they received the message about Jesus. ‘You could see genuine joy,’ James wrote. ‘Many thanked us for coming to their little villages, and for not forgetting them.’
While others had come with food before, no one had brought news about Jesus, the people told them, adding: ‘please come again and you don’t need to bring us food.’
James estimated that over four hundred people in total had responded to the light of the gospel on that trip, during which seven Russian missiles suddenly caused great explosions and clouds of smoke a short distance from their bus.
Meanwhile in Brussels, at last week’s European Parliamentary Prayer Breakfast I attended, the keynote speaker exhorted the 480 politicians and Christian leaders present that ‘in dark times like these, it is easy to forget to give thanks. And hope can feel like naïvety. But we must not, we cannot, give in to despair.’
Not a message one might expect to hear from a NATO Deputy Secretary General. Yet Romanian Mircea Geoană spoke from personal experience, having grown up under communism ‘with no rights, no freedom, rulers who chose themselves, and where opposition was met with brutality and barbarism’.
‘But we endured,’ he continued. ‘Even in the darkest of days, we had hope. We hoped that one day we would be free. Free to choose. To think. To speak.’
Geoană quoted Psalm 100: ‘For the Lord is good and his love endures forever; his faithfulness continues through all generations’. ‘His love endures through times good and bad,’ he added.
‘Through peace and war. Through freedom and oppression. I know this to be true. The day we hoped for came. The wall fell, and so did Communism. We had new opportunities and we seized them. Democracy, membership of NATO and the European Union.’
‘It is during times of war that the light is hardest to see. But that is when we must depend on our inner compass to guide us down the right path.
When we must come together, show solidarity and draw most deeply upon our faith. Our faith that good will prevail, that freedom will prevail, that one day Ukraine will prevail.
‘We will not back down. Because if we do, the lesson learned by President Putin and other authoritarian leaders is that they can achieve their goals through aggression and violence. They will be emboldened to use force again, making our world more dangerous. This cannot happen.’
After his talk, blue and yellow national flags signed by soldiers on the eastern front was presented to the senior NATO official and the prayer breakfast leadership by a Ukrainian delegation.
In Paris this week for a ‘Lets stand with Ukraine’ event, EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen announced plans to send 30 million LED light bulbs ‘literally to bring light to Ukraine’.
These bulbs were 88% more efficient than the old-fashioned sort, she said, saving the equivalent of the annual output of one nuclear power plant. She noted that the EU had also mobilised around 800 power generators to Ukraine to date.
In further solidarity with Ukraine, the European Parliament voted overwhelmingly in Strasbourg on Thursday to recognise the famine inflicted by the Soviet regime in 1932-1933 – known as the Holodomor – as genocide (see WeeklyWordDec3).
MEPs deplored that, 90 years later, ‘Russia was again committing horrific crimes against the Ukrainian people, such as the targeted destruction of Ukraine’s civilian energy infrastructure during winter.’