A CAM contact, Anya Hursh, shares a report expressing the pain in Ukraine. The food parcel project mentioned in this report is a collaborative effort of several conservative Anabaptist organizations that work in Ukraine. CAM provides a portion of the food for the project.
In November, several of our church folks and a few volunteers from the States took a trip to Slavyansk with over nine hundred food parcels. The trips to Slavyansk usually include a day of travel, three days of services and passing out food parcels, and another day of traveling home.
These trips are intense. On this particular one, we had fourteen services in three days; we also drove through villages and delivered food parcels door-to-door. Seeing the destruction, the hurting people, and the endless needs takes a toll on a person. One of our faithful Ukrainian volunteers wrote about the trip and gave me permission to share her journaling but asked to remain anonymous. Following is her story.
Through the eyes of a volunteer
This trip was very intense and varied. We met so many people who needed love, care, and fellowship. As I looked at the people, I could see they were longing for something. They were thirsty for that drop of water that they had not received for so long. They were longing for faith in God, salvation, the Gospel, love, and peace in the middle of a life of chaos. I felt as though I did not have enough of what they needed. I was exhausted before the trip was over, but I knew God could work in spite of my weakness and would supply their needs abundantly.
We went into one old couple’s home where a bedfast, diabetic woman lay. Lida had ugly sores on her toes and was crying and moaning in pain. She and her husband had survived bombings and shootings. Because Lida could not walk and her husband refused to leave her side, they did not hide in their cellar like many others. Although the elderly husband was also in need of care, he did not give up, but continued caring for his suffering invalid wife. War robbed them of all conveniences. It seemed to me that this man was bearing an unrealistically heavy load. They said, “God has blessed us so much. We prayed, and God kept us safe.” Their house is still intact, and they are alive, even though shrapnel broke some of their windows. They wept as we sang and prayed for them. They thanked us again and again for coming and urged us to keep the faith.
We visited another bedfast woman who is 96 years old. She has no relatives left to look after her; a social service worker checks up on her every day. We were also able to tell her about God, and she listened attentively. When we began to sing, she wept like a baby.
In a village that was mostly destroyed, we visited another couple. As we sang, the woman began to cry. She did not even wait for the song to be finished to hug and kiss us. We had many similar situations.
We met a woman who has two children and lives at one end of a bombed apartment building. There is no gas, electricity, or water. All around their apartment was destruction, like one big junkyard. From their window, the little boy looks longingly at the school next door. He should be going to school, but he can’t, because it is destroyed.
Every day, all the children see is destruction. Their life is bleak, their happy childhood gone. I don’t know why their mama doesn’t take them somewhere else. What future is there for them in that destroyed village?
The first two days of our trip we took food parcels to locations where people had gathered waiting for us. At each place, we had a short service, shared the Gospel, and sang before passing out the food parcels. While the brothers passed out the parcels, we sisters had time to visit with people and help the feeble ones carry their parcels to their homes. A food parcel weighs 22 pounds, and it was hard for some of the older folks to carry them. It gave us an opportunity to visit with them and hear their stories as we walked beside them to their houses. We heard many sad accounts. Most of them live alone, nearly despairing of life. They wonder how much longer they will survive as the war rages on, and they have no gas, electricity, or water. They are old, and their health is feeble.
One comfort I received on this trip was meeting an elderly sister in Christ who helped along as we sang at a service. I met another babushka who was a believer. She couldn’t get done hugging and kissing me. She continued holding my hand, not wanting to let go. Her eyes shone with joy from meeting another believer. Meeting with people like this gave us more strength to continue serving. And the love these people gave us helped fill our hearts so we had more to give to other people we met who were hungering for love and hope. They were like a power bank to us.
Once again we were able to visit the village where the babushka lives in the cellar because her house was totally destroyed. We brought her candles and matches like she had requested the last time we were there. This time I was able to visit quietly with her son. He was a little drunk, but not screaming nonsense like the first time I met him. He has lived through terrible things. The son invited me into his little shack and showed me the Christian coloring book he has been coloring. He showed me how he had colored the picture of a family sitting together while the father reads the Bible. I wonder what his thoughts are as he colors those pictures. He and his mother are some of the only people left in a village that has been totally destroyed. He said he reads the stories that go with the pictures. I had to wonder if perhaps those stories about God are the reason he was so much calmer on this visit compared to the first time I met him. I hope that God will continue working in his heart.
We spent our nights at an older couple’s place. Sasha is a deacon in the Unregistered Baptist Church, and he and his wife chose to stay behind to care for the elderly in the church who were not able to leave. They were very accommodating, and they received us as their own children whom God had never given them. We spent the evenings visiting about various topics with them. Our evenings together were so encouraging, comfortable, and fun. We shared our concerns and visited as though we had known each other for years, even though some of us met for the first time on our trip.
It was interesting to hear stories from our hosts, because when they were growing up, Christians were persecuted. They told stories of believers who died for their faith. These stories strengthened our own faith in Christ. We do not know what lies ahead of us. We too may soon face persecution. Will we be able to be faithful until death?
On our trip to Slavyansk, we passed out 910 boxes, which means that we met with that many people and each one of them has their own story of the war. Understandably, we were not able to have long conversations with each individual, but we were able to talk and pray with many of those people and hear their stories. We saw numerous ruined houses and lives. How I hope that God can fill us and that His love He pours out on us so freely will flow to those we meet!
Pray for the volunteers as they travel east. These trips are not easy, especially now during winter when darkness falls early. The exposure to the cold, the hurting people, and the ruined cities and villages have a way of sapping one of energy and strength.
Pray that God would provide the stamina needed to endure these trips, and that each volunteer could see the crowds of needy people as individuals loved and created by God. Pray that His love would flow through the volunteers and touch the lives of those they come in contact with.
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