Here is a follow-up post to the report we posted last week from our friends Joel and Loriann who are serving the people of the Ukraine. The Lord is clearly and awesomely at work. May we each be faithful in upholding Joel and Loriann and the people of the Ukraine in prayer during this time of continued crisis.
Daniel Cavanaugh – Vision4Living
Dear Loved Ones,
“I will love thee, O Lord, my strength. The Lord is my rock, and my fortress, and my deliverer; my God, my strength, in whom I will trust; my buckler, and the horn of my salvation, and my high tower. I will call upon the Lord, who is worthy to be praised: so shall I be saved from mine enemies.” Ps. 18:1-3
These verses and others like them have become so real to us over the last few weeks. When the threat of war, war in the country we are living in, is staring us in the face, it is so comforting to know that we have a Mighty Defender.
While this past week has been a calmer week in and around Kiev, the unrest and uncertainty here in Ukraine is still very palpable. As I’m sure many of you have seen, the epicenter of the latest crisis has shifted from Kiev to the Crimean peninsula, as well as the Eastern Ukrainian cities of Kharkov and Donetsk. This past week Russian (or at least Russian supported) troops took over much of Crimea. There has been much provocation by these troops, trying to get the Ukrainian forces to react with force. So far the Ukrainian government and military has shown remarkable wisdom and patience as they have seen their military bases in Crimea surrounded, their naval ships blockaded, and enormous pressure put on some of the naval and military commanders to surrender or even defect. It seems the Russian government is trying to provoke Ukraine into a military reaction so that they will then have an excuse to “intercede” and further invade the country. Even today, the Russian controlled parliament in Crimea has asked Russia to except them back into the Russian Federation. They would give this referendum to the people of Crimea to vote on sometime in May. The Ukrainian government is of course calling this illegal and unconstitutional. As you can see, this conflict is far from being over.
We can’t thank you enough for your many prayers on our behalf. There were a few days this past week when it seemed there would soon be armed conflict between Russia and Ukraine. The Ukrainian government put their military on high alert, as well as called up their reserves. President Putin had troops piled up on the Russian/Ukrainian border and had received Russian parliaments ok to send in those troops. As we watched these things unfold around us, we would be lying to say we were not concerned or that fear did not start creeping in. Being in the middle of a war was something we never thought about when we signed up to be missionaries! We even started to discuss how long were we going to give things here before we felt it was time to leave. Thankfully, the Lord is not only our Protector, but He is also our Peace. Both Loriann and I kept being reminded of a verse in Proverbs and it would not let us go. Both of us felt a quiet rebuke from the Lord through the words of King Solomon, “If thou faint in the day of adversity, thy strength is small. If thou forbear to deliver them that are drawn unto death, and those that are ready to be slain; if thou sayest, Behold, we knew it not; doth not he that pondereth the heart consider it? and doth not he that keepeth thy soul, doth not he know it? and shall not he render to every man according to his works?” Prov. 24:10-12 Were we going to let our situation and the surrounding conflicts dictate or even quiet our witness or were we going to continue doing what God has called us to do and allow Him to be our power and strength? It was only after seeing the question of when and whether we should go home through this verse, that the Lord gave perfect peace to our hearts to stay where we are and not return home.
This past Sunday night during our English class, we had our most open time of witnessing and sharing about God and the peace that only He can give. Our topic was of course the latest developments here in Ukraine. It was interesting to hear the full range of emotions and opinions from those in our group. These ranged from those who took Russia’s point of view to those who were ready to go and fight for Ukraine’s freedom. Near the end of class we tried to wrap things up by sharing that God was in control. Others (Russia, Ukraine, European Union, USA) may think that they are in control or the opposite, that things are totally out of control, but the reality is, God is in perfect control and He cares about each individual, no matter what side he or she may be on. We also shared about the peace God has given Loriann and I to remain here. And that we can have that peace because we know that our lives and future are in the Lord’s hands.
As I wrote last time, the hearts of those around us are becoming more and more open as everyone is seeking for change and peace. Saturday we were in a little village not far from Kiev holding a children’s program. It was fun meeting the twenty five or so new little kids who came. Most of them couldn’t believe that Loriann and I were from America, but what was even funnier was that two little girls didn’t believe that my goatee was real. It was not until I let them tug on my beard that they were convinced that it really belonged on my face! It was the first time someone has accused me of wearing false facial hair! During the small group time, Loriann and I were helping with the older kids. We were talking with them about God’s love and how he died for us, and that He wants to forgive and give new life to everyone. We read John 3:16 together with them. After we finished reading, one of the girls said, “Yes, God died for everyone… except Viktor Yanukovych!” Sadly she was dead serious. I’m sure she was just parroting what she heard at home or at school. But for us it just illustrated the level of anger and resentment that many of the Ukrainian people have towards their former leaders and towards Putin. People are fed up with the corruption and deception that has permeated this country. We are thankful for each different avenue where we can share God’s love, forgiveness and healing that He can bring not only to this broken nation but also to hearts that have become disillusioned, hurt and disappointed.
We continue to ask for your prayers. This crises is far from over. Each day brings new anxieties, new fears, new questions to the people around us. For us it brings open doors and listening ears. Tomorrow (Friday) we will be sharing a message with the young people at our church during an all-night prayer meeting. We will be challenging them to stand strong and be of good courage, because never before has there been as open a door for our witness as their is today.
Please know that we have been touched by each note that many of you have sent. Sorry we haven’t been able to answer you back individually. Your concern for us and our safety has been so precious. And even though we are thousands of miles apart, because of your prayers and support, we feel very close to each one right now. Thank you!
With lots of love for you all,
Joel & Loriann