Once Was Blind
Yesterday marked the beginning of the fifth month of war. We’ve gone from counting the war in days, to weeks, now to months. We are praying that some of the NATO prognoses are wrong about this dragging out into “years” territory, and that Ukraine’s victory is nearer than some think.
On a bright note, Ukraine was granted EU candidate status on the 4-month “anniversary” of the war. It is a clear sign that there is no return for Ukraine to the clutches of the Kremlin. On the heavier side, the Ukrainian army was forced to retreat from their position in Severodonetsk, the last key city in Luhansk province. This is positive inasmuch as it means the Ukrainian troops avoided being encircled, but it’s one more city that has first been razed to the ground and then occupied by “the orcs” as we like to call them here.
I think of the people we were able to evacuate from the towns now being occupied by Russian hordes. As I hear stories from church members who have relatives stuck in Russian-occupied territory about interrogations, torture, gang rapes, pillaging and other war crimes, I remember the faces of the people who passed through our church building and thank God that they got out in time.
As things drag on and the needs of refugees multiply, it’s easy to get overwhelmed with the statistics of how many we’ve evacuated, how many we’ve housed, how many we’re feeding, etc. Of course, each of these numbers represents a bigger story. Each number is the life and journey of a real person. In the earlier days of the war when there were only a few stories to tell, it was easier to tell them. At this point it’s become impossible to tell them all.
For this newsletter, I thought I’d go back to telling the story of just one family that we’ve been able to serve. This is only one story out of hundreds, and yet I hope it will encourage you regarding the work God is doing, how His light is shining in the midst of the darkness.
About 1.5 months ago, we evacuated an elderly couple in their 70’s, Alexander and Lyuba, from the city of Sloviansk in the eastern Donbass. Sloviansk, thankfully, hasn’t been taken yet, but it is on the front lines and a next key target for the Russian hordes after Severodonetsk.
Alexander and Lyuba were among some of the refugees least able to care for themselves. Alexander has diabetes and has been blind for a few years now. Lyuba also has heart problems and has great difficulty walking. They were both unable to use the bathroom alone or wash themselves, and Alexander couldn’t even feed himself (getting some help with that below).
This meant that our staff, by necessity, turned into elderly care nurses. It was very difficult for them, to be honest. We’ve helped a number of elderly evacuees to get placed in a long-term retirement facility nearby. For Alexander and Lyuba, this process was not as quick as for some others. We were a bit frustrated with the delays in the paperwork—but Jesus had a purpose.
There is another important piece to this story: Lyuba has been a believer for some 20 years. She was glad to attend our services while living in our building. Alexander, however, was not. He was very bitter at life, never smiling. And, given his lot in life, one can understand his demeanor. But Lyuba had prayed for him all these years—and God had an unexpected blessing in store despite and even through the war.
One night a couple weeks ago, one of our shift workers was able to lead Alexander to put his faith in Christ. The change in Alexander the next day was evident: this old, blind man who never smiled was all of a sudden laughing at things, cracking jokes. It seemed that the weight of his lot in life had been lifted—because now he had a new lot. Alexander once was blind; now he sees.
Shortly after this, we were able to get Alexander and Lyuba moved into the retirement facility (pictured above) where they have proper medical staff caring for them, a room to themselves and regular meals—even if they’re not quite as tasty as the meals we make. Despite things not going according to our plans, we rejoice that they went according to Jesus’ plan. Alexander now has eternal hope and joy. The next time he sees anything, it will be the face of Jesus.
As I said, this is just one of numerous stories to tell and we cannot tell them all—otherwise I’d be doing nothing but writing newsletters. But please know that God is answering your prayers and using your generous donations to work dozens of stories like this! We are grateful for those of you who continue to give. The truth is, now in month 5, those that continue to donate are a small fraction of those who gave during the first month of war. We are especially blessed by those of you who have not forgotten Ukraine, both in your prayers and your generosity. You can donate using the button below.
Last night at our church fellowship time, I read from Psalm 71 (70 in Russian) to our group. It, along with many other Psalms, has become my prayer for Ukraine over these four months. I encourage you to make it your pray for Ukraine as well: