‘He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows, acquainted with grief.’ Isaiah 53 v3
We started the morning by visiting a distribution centre in Lviv, where we dropped of some of the food packages we had made the previous night. This centre distributes food, clothing and medicine to refugees who live in the city. The centre is staffed by volunteers from surrounding churches, who seek to share Jesus’ love and hope by serving people’s practical needs. Whilst we were in the distribution centre, we were reminded of the ever present reality of war as the air raid siren began to sound outside. Thankfully, this siren was sounded for precautionary reasons but it was a sobering reminder of what the people of Ukraine face.
For lunch, we visited Andrei’s home. Andrei, shares his home with four other families who fled the city of Mariupol and the Donetsk region at the start of the war. We were amazed at how these families live together in community, supporting each other and sharing responsibilities. However, we were also mindful of the challenges they face living all together under one roof. Each family has one bedroom each and they share the common living areas. The bedrooms are sparsely decorated and cramped. We reflected on how challenging it must be to find moments of quiet and rest when living so closely with others.
In the afternoon, we had a glimpse into their life of service! Our team split up into three separate groups and visited different families. Sarah and Jo-ine joined Michael and Artum. They visited an elderly gentleman and his wife at a rehabilitation centre. The right side of the gentleman’s body was so badly hurt by a shelling attack that his right leg had been amputated. The Team try to visit this couple as often as they can, bringing them packages of food and encouraging them in prayer. Vincent and Adrien went with Sergey and Christina. They visited a lady called Ine who lives with her daughter and elderly mother in a temporary refugee shelter. Their living area is cramped and sparsely decorated. Ine’s husband is fighting at the front and Ine was badly hurt when their village was attacked. She is currently awaiting surgery for both her legs. Ine shared her story and Sergey translated. Ine was keen to share her heartbreaking story of how their home was destroyed and the depression and trauma she has experienced since. She spoke of how she clings onto Jesus throughout her darkness. Mattijs joined other members of the team. They visited a lady who lives with her son and eight other families. Her son and husband are at the front. She spoke of how she feels forgotten, as the world’s attention and focus on Ukraine starts to wane. At the start of the war, she received food donations once a month but now that has been reduced to one package every three months.
After these visits, we reflected on the beauty of the Christian faith, that at it’s heart is a God on a cross, a God who not only understand our suffering but offers us the promise of his presence and a future hope. In the bleakness of that rehabilitation centre and the darkness of a refugee shelter, the light of the Christian faith pierces through the darkness of the tears and pain.
We ended our day with a major food shop and what joy and encouragement this brought! Along with the team from the church, we visited a large wholesale shop where we bought an array of different provisions for the food packages. We had a lot of fun, flying about the shop and packing the goods into the vans!
For the Team here in Ukraine. We are thankful for their example of sacrificial service!
For the warm hospitality of the Ukrainian people.
For Andrei’s Team as they start to think about their ministry in Lviv. For wisdom as they plan their next steps.
Prayer for families we visited. May they continue to hold onto the hope and comfort that only Jesus can offer. May his light continue to pierce through the darkness!