“How has the war in Ukraine affected you and your family?” This was a question posed to me by a teen at a Q&A session this past month at a weekend missions conference I was part of. A powerful question that stopped me – and as I sat there attempting to put my thoughts into words and control the sudden emotions I felt another member of the congregation said “They’re here, not there.” Well put.
I attempted in a few moments to put into words what was on my mind, how it had impacted friends who were fathers with young families, but now they are on the front lines. How it had impacted those we met at Grace Camp who had fled having lost their homes, some their relatives and close relationships. How it had impacted the country, and the many changes that it had brought about. How we left the country with little time to plan or process. All of these had a impact on our lives, on our kids and ourselves. When we think of those things, it doesn’t minimize what we are going through, but it does help us to keep perspective through the process.
So what has been happening? Here is a bit of news from Ukraine, about our ministry, and what is coming up the next little while.
News from UA
Ukraine has been in the news occasionally over the past month for various reasons. One issue that was on the mind of everyone was heat. In the cities, the majority of the population heating is hot water supplied by a central heating plant located somewhere in the city. The hot water is heated by natural gas, and the heat is usually turned on mid October and turned off mid April. The majority of the natural gas used is purchased from Russia. This has been a contentious issue for years – price, payments, accusations and various other arguments are always ongoing. To add to the issues, the gas that Russia supplies to its customers in central and western Europe goes through pipes that go through the network in Ukraine (which had been built during soviet times). So if Russia turns off the gas to Ukraine, Europe freezes too. If Russia wants to keep sending gas to Europe, it can’t turn off the gas to Ukraine. With everything else going on, heat this winter was a definite concern in Ukraine and Europe. Countries were beginning to use reserve stocks and implement emergency measures to try and conserve gas. Thankfully, an agreement of some sort was reached and the gas has begun to flow, and the heat has been turned on.
A “ceasefire” was in place (at least on paper) but in reality it was only created a bit of a lull in the fighting. There are concerns that with the “elections” for the “new governments” that were held in the conflict zone the first weekend of November (which under the ceasefire agreement were supposed to take place in December) the fighting will increase in intensity.
In the midst of this tragedy, God is working through various men and women to reach out with the Gospel in the conflict zone. There are pastors and church members who are still there in the area. There are individuals and churches traveling into the zones to minister through the distribution of humanitarian aid, food and water, clothing, medicines etc. We heard from one of the professors at Kiev Seminary that the other day he saw three men in army fatigues down the hall. They are all military chaplains and at least one of them is a student in the seminary’s chaplaincy program. They had stopped by the seminary to ask folks to pray with them and for them as they headed out to the war zone. Ukrainian churches are also reaching out and ministering to the thousands who have fled the zone and displaced all around the country.
News from us…
I (John)had the opportunity to take part in the Bow Island Evangelical Free Church Missions Conference one weekend in October. Leanne and I were both going to travel down for the weekend, and Daniel and Alicia were going to stay at home in Cochrane (Alicia was scheduled to work that weekend). Mid week we realized that wasn’t a good idea for various reasons, so I traveled down alone. I and another couple who serve in India had the joy of taking part in a variety of meetings and one on one conversations over the weekend.
Alicia has started working part time at a famous landmark here in Cochrane – Mackays Ice Cream. If you come by on a weekend afternoon in the summer, you can plan on standing in line for an hour to get your fix. The line goes out the door and down the block.
Lanae was home for a visit during her reading week at Millar (BC campus). It was just a joy to have her at home for a bit. She is doing well, enjoying learning and growing at school and having opportunities to be involved in the community there. You can catch up with her news at her blogpost http://everlastinglovingkindness.wordpress.com.
One of the things that we have found very interesting (especially when standing in line for the ice cream) is the number of languages that we hear spoken by those standing nearby. At times we have heard 6 different languages. We have also been coming into contact with a variety of people who speak either Russian or Ukrainian. They say that the world has become “flat” because of the movement of people groups and the advances in technology. Standing there in line we can attest that it seems to be true. It seems that either people are chatting in their native tongue, or using their smartphones to take pictures and selfies and sending them off onto the various social networks.
One of the ministries that our SEND team in Ukraine has used very effectively is a course called Kairos (see www.kairoscourse.org). It is a course used to help local churches and believers learn and expand their vision of cross cultural missions. I was able to take the training over the period of two weeks here in Calgary, which is part of the process of being able to becoming a facilitator for the course. I would recommend it both for individuals or for churches to use as part of their missions program.
The four of us are going to Spain the last week of November! Our SEND Ukraine area field conference is being held there this year. Since we had already contributed our funds to the conference and travel prior to our departure for Canada, leadership told us if we would cover the extra above what was budgeted for individual flights, we had rooms waiting. This time will be very important for us as a family, especially Alicia as this most likely be her last field conference and a time of wrap ip with mk friends and teammates.
In December I (John) will also be spending a week in southern Ontario for training and meetings at our SEND Canada office. This is part of preparing for the ministry role we will have beginning in the New Year. After Christmas we will be beginning a more extensive travel schedule, and are looking forward to seeing many of you face to face in the coming months. We will keep you updated. Also, on that note if you know of an opportunity that you would like us to be part of (in your church, small group, or other event) please contact us.
If you have any questions etc, please feel free to contact us.
Talk to you later,
4 the 5 of us