Bullet Holes and Late Night Tea
Nikolay and Olga arrived to our church late last night from Kharkiv. Half of the windows of their car had been blown out by rockets. There were multiple bullet holes in the sides of their car. They arrived a week later than the large wave of refugees that fled right after mass bombings of Kharkiv began. But there's a reason for this: Nikolay and Olga are in their 60's already. They thought, "We're not going anywhere at this point in our lives. This is our home." But then they saw some of their neighbors laying dead in the streets. Rockets fell close enough to shatter their windows. They'd had enough of sleeping in the cold cellar for fear of bombs (for 9 days). The elderly are usually the last to evacuate—but even they have their limits.
When they arrived, we tried to offer them food, but they were too shaken to eat. All they wanted was to get their car inside the gates of our church territory. They didn't actually have many belongings in their car—but it was all they had left in this world. As Nikolay said, "If we lose that to people who might take it during the night, we will be emotionally devastated. We won't be able to go on."
They agreed to at least have some tea—because no real Ukrainian refuses tea at almost any hour of the day. Nikolay began to tell me his story. His father had been debilitated in WW2. Nikolay himself had barely evaded going to war in the USSR's Afghanistan debacle—only to be sent to Chernobyl and be present there during the catastrophe in 1986. In a word, this man has known his fill of tragedy. He was also incredibly well-read (not rare for the Soviet intelligentsia) and had a lot of questions about Protestantism. He was eager to understand more about our church and beliefs.
I was impressed how familiar he was with figures such as Hus, Wycliff, Luther and the like. Eventually we got through the historical trappings and to the essence of what set the Protestant Reformation apart: "The just shall live by faith." After an hour or two of conversation, Nikolay—a Soviet man from a military family brought up as an atheist—made 3 conclusions:
1) "I hope I won't offend you with my directness: I always thought the Bible was for imbeciles. I now realize I was wrong and need to read it."
2) "Discussing these things—the Scriptures—really brings an unexplainable peace to my soul."
3) "I want to understand more. Do you have some books you can give me?" My answer: of course! He got loaded up with a modern Russian translation of the gospel of Luke, J.D. Greear's book, Gospel, and Walter Martin's Kingdom of the Cults. (A big portion of our conversation also revolved around what makes Christianity unique, hence the last offering.)
I have no doubt that Nikolay will read these books. I have no doubt that Christ will continue to work in his heart. His wife, Olga, called me today from western Ukraine where they arrived safely to thank me again for the conversation—though she was mostly a silent listener between Nikolay and myself. In her words, "It really brought peace to my husband's heart." Pray for the seed that was sown in both their hearts to be watered.
Yet another reminder, friends: Satan is only shooting himself in the foot! His end is soon! Victory is Christ's! The more the devil rages, the more Christ's victory is manifest!
If you'd like to help us serve refugees like Nikolay and Olga, you can donate using the giving button below.
PS - a special joy for me is that my friend and fellow trainer in City to City Ukraine, Nick Mikhaluk, became a grandpa today. His daughter gave birth to a healthy girl in Kyiv—thankfully their hospital was not bombed by Putin's orcs. The light will outshine the darkness!