Tension and fear were written on the faces of Ukrainians when our staff members visited their church recently. These weary people endured almost a year near the front lines where they live under the constant threat of missiles and artillery shells. A week before our staff visited, two missiles landed near the church and shattered all the windows, cracked the walls, and damaged the roof.
Church members were actively working to repair the damages and make it weatherproof again, which added another level of stress. One of our staff members said, “In addition to the fear and danger these people are living under, these churches are very busy but there are very few people left behind to help.” The small percentage of people remaining are mostly those who were unable to flee because of sickness, lack of funds, or old age. “And they have more work than they ever did,” our staff member shared.
These believers are also weary spiritually. One man from the church said, “We need more interaction with Christians. Come visit us again.” He also asked to see children again since the area is mostly lacking the joy and innocence that come with children. “Bring some children with you,” the man said. “Most of the children have left. . . . We just want to see children and hear children again.”
Pastor shares story of being arrested
A pastor at another church was one of the few people who stayed behind at the beginning of the conflict and was arrested after two months. Soldiers accused him of being a spy and brutally interrogated him. “These interrogations were questions that came along with torture,” our staff member explained. “They beat him from head to toe.”
During the pastor’s second interrogation, the pain was so severe that he lost consciousness, which may have saved his life. Our staff member said, “He is sure that there would have been a third interrogation and he believes there is no way his body could have survived another beating.”
Instead of beating him again, the soldiers took the pastor to a hospital where he stayed for several days until he was strong enough to leave. He then fled the country until recently when he was able to return after his city was liberated. The pastor still struggles with health issues related to his beatings, as well as emotional trauma from all he experienced. In the midst of his struggles, this pastor still bravely serves the people around him.
The danger of landmines
A family of ten left their hometown during the fighting and settled into a safer village of Ukraine near Moldova. The economy of this village is taking a hit since the border is closed between Ukraine and Moldova and businesses are stagnant. “They are basically living hand to mouth. They just have nothing, actually,” our staff member shared.
Everyday life is a struggle for the family of ten. When the staff member asked why they don’t return to their hometown that was recently liberated and has a stronger economy, the mother replied, “We would like to but there are so many mines left behind. These mines are everywhere and there is a very high chance that we would lose some of our small children if we move back.”
To save the lives of their children, this family is choosing to fix up a home in a new village rather than return to their hometown.
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