Six years ago, I had the privilege of visiting Ukraine with Children’s Hunger Fund, the nonprofit organization I have worked at for the past eleven years. There has been an ongoing conflict between Russia and Ukraine for many years. In 2014 there was turmoil in Ukraine over the President who wanted to have closer contact with Russia while the people wanted to join the European Union. Instead of signing an agreement with the European Union, the President sided with Russia. In response, there were protests called the Revolution of Dignity in Kyiv at Maidan square. The outcome of that event was that the President fled to Russia for asylum, and a new president was installed. I remember visiting Maidan square and seeing the memorial of the many people who had lost their lives during the protests. Later in 2014, Russia annexed the Peninsula of Crimea away from Ukraine. They also invaded Eastern Ukraine, causing many to flee to Kyiv and parts of Ukraine.
In 2016, I remembered seeing the effects of the Russian invasion into Eastern Ukraine. There were an estimated one million people who were displaced. We met with pastors who were reaching out to these displaced people. We also traveled with them to villages close to the Russian-controlled area. The memories of that trip are still etched in my mind: watching faithful pastors serve those most in need, beautiful children living in poverty but had smiles, and the tremendous hospitality of those who had very little. The trip greatly impacted me, seeing faith lived out with joy in difficult circumstances. I felt convicted when I returned and still do today; I complain way too much about minor inconveniences. The circumstances of many we visited were dire: no electricity, running water, or bathrooms. Yet, these Pastors reached out to those in need, even though they did not have much. They had with them the most important possession, knowledge of the gospel of Jesus Christ that brings hope.
The memories of that trip have all come back to me as I watched the events unfold over the last month. I cannot help but feel sadness yet hope over the war in Ukraine. We see before our eyes how sin is the cause of all that is wrong. Suffering and death were not part of God’s original design; he created everything very good but has allowed us to see the depravity of the human heart and the need for a Savior. We are seeing the death toll from war, along with millions of people who have had their lives turned upside down in a moment. There is a lot of death, destruction, and the depravity of human hearts for the world to see. It is heartbreaking, and I am not sure how one can make sense of good and evil without God.
In all of this, I still find hope. I do not find hope in situations and circumstances of life but in God, who is sovereign over everything. There is a real and difficult tension to hold, God has not left his throne (Psalm 103:19), yet God allows evil to permeate before our eyes. I find hope that even while suffering, there is a response from the church to provide real hope, both physical and spiritual. I am encouraged that the organization I work for partners with others who are reaching out to the Ukrainian refugees. I find hope that the church will never be destroyed (Matthew 16:18) and that the Lord uses his church to meet the needs of those who are hopeless. I find hope that evil will not reign forever, and in the end, God will make all things right (Revelation 21:4). I find hope that God turns evil upside down for good amid war, even if we do not see it on the news.
Although there are no easy answers, I am reminded of the only true hope for this world:
What is our only comfort in life and death?
That I am not my own, but belong body and soul, both in life and death, to my faithful Savior Jesus Christ.Heidleberg Catechism, Question 1
In times like these, many people want to help. Many worthy organizations are helping, but I am biased toward Children’s Hunger Fund. You can find stories here if you want to be encouraged by how the church responds instead of the endless bad news. If you want to help financially, you can give toward our relief efforts here.