October 2022 – Jeff just returned from Ukraine in late September. Vladimir Putin, together with other Russian officials, has stated they reserve the right to use nuclear weapons in their war with Ukraine. This is not the first time they have indicated such, but it is the first time they have clearly stated their willingness. “This is not a bluff,” Putin said. His threat is alarming but not new to Ukrainians. This war started in 2014 with the annexation of Crimea, and on multiple occasions since then, Putin has made it very clear that the country of Ukraine is illegitimate, “it is one with Russia,” he said, and “NATO is threatening Russia.”
As I reflect on this recent trip, I am thankful for the times we got to speak of Christ and His love. I am also aware that the believers there are committed to supporting their military. For Ukrainians, this is a struggle for survival. Their military is made up of paid soldiers with some training, and thousands of volunteers who must provide their own uniforms, helmets, bulletproof vests, winter clothes, etc. etc. It is difficult for us, in America, to understand their situation. The soldiers we spent time with were volunteers. They risk their lives daily to protect their families, their communities, and their country. They were Russian speakers in the Donbas region who desire to live in freedom.
This is not an ethnic or religious conflict. Putin has cast the conflict as Russia vs the West and NATO. According to him, the collective “western nations” and NATO support Ukraine because they are “anti-Russian” and desire to dominate Russia. We here in America might be against the war in Ukraine but it is usually for other reasons. In the bigger picture, however, the country of Ukraine represents freedom of religion, freedom of speech, and democracy while Russia does not.
At Mercy Projects, our focus remains on helping the people of Ukraine. Our staff and missionaries all have friends and family serving in the military. Most of them serve as volunteers. We also support the activities of many chaplains, such as Sasha A. pictured at right. The soldiers for her are not just “soldiers” but are boys with wives and families. She visits them on the front lines, and she visits their families at home to encourage them.She is a Calvary Chapel missionary supported by Mercy Projects risking her life, and military commanders are thankful for her service.
Russian Soldiers Go To Heaven
Patriarch Kirill, head of the Russian Orthodox Church, announced that soldiers who lose their lives fighting in Ukraine are “washed from their sin and will be received by God.” The idea is that the West is corrupt morally, and the Russian Church and State alone remain faithful to God. In contrast to these statements, on September 23rd, mass graves with 447 bodies were exhumed in the formerly occupied town of Izium. Only 22 of them were Ukrainian soldiers, the rest were civilians, and many of them were tortured. It is an honor to partner with churches and pastors like Vadim to share the gospel and help people.
Visiting Widows in the War Zone
The woman pictured with me at right is a widow from pastor Vadim’s church. She remembered me speaking at her church several years ago. She is an English teacher with a handicapped son, and can no longer work due to poor health. We brought her groceries, prayed together, and she encouraged us to rely on God. Check out the short video of her on our website.
A Quick Update About Our Ministry
The school year has started and many families are returning to Ukraine. Our staff with school-aged children plan on returning as
well. This is of course, despite the recent threats from Putin. I visited Lena and the Hearts of Love Center for handicapped children. They ask for prayer for heating the building during the winter months. The Center is open but shelling continues for about 50
miles away. Some of our foster families have returned and everyone thinks that Kyiv will be safe this winter. Not warm, but safe.
Sponsorship Funds – We continue to help families in our program whenever possible. For some families, we do not know where they are, and others chose to remain in place. We continue to collect sponsorship funds to help with the most urgent needs. We appreciate your understanding as the situation remains tense and uncertain. I do believe, however, that God has equipped us for “such a time as this” to assist people in need in Ukraine. We are also praying about holding a Winter Camp in January. Thanks again for your generous support and for standing with us during this time of war.