"All words are symbols that represent unspeakable realities. Which is also why words are magical." (Donald Miller tweet)

Friday, October 16, 2015

war in the land I love

I've been to Ukraine a number of times now. There are less unexpected moments than there used to be. Soooo many good things happening, really. I have a Facebook album full of smiles and joyful moments.

Also, I speak enough Russian now to (a) have an idea of what is being said sometimes and (b) pretend not to understand when a stranger is irked with me. 

But there is a war there now. We didn't see it. We weren't near it. But there were little unexpected moments that reminded us of it.

The exchange rate, which used to be 8 to 1 (Ukraianian grivna to US dollars) is now 22 to 1.

You can find toilet paper in the souvenir market with either Putin's or Yanukovich's face on it. The vendors shrug and laugh - "Ukrainian dark humour," one of them says. 

At one of the village churches, one woman, and then another, asked me to pray. "My son - my husband - is in the war," they said simply, eyes filled with pain and unspoken fear. We wept together as we prayed, and then hugged each other very, very tightly. 

One of my dearest friends has not been called to the war yet, but only because he happened to move from one city to another, so his address isn't current in the system. "I will go if they call me," he said. His mother and wife of only a year are praying they won't. So am I.

I hugged him very tightly too. 

A friend of a friend from the east, where the conflict is, spoke to me of men coming back home from the war. "They are not the same."

Another friend told of the hundreds of refugees their camp housed and rented apartments for last year. Kids whose parents sent them away for the summer, thinking the war would be over by fall. It wasn't. A mama who was evacuated two hours after her adult daughter was shot and killed in front of her. She couldn't even stay to bury her. 

And then others - several of them, separately - told me of the miracle of Slovyansk, a city now under Ukrainian control again, a city rebuilding from the devastation. Pastors there, their buildings taken by terrorists, prayed while the Ukrainian army engaged in fierce fighting. And then suddenly - "The terrorists were gone, after having occupied the city. Just gone. No one knows how. It was a miracle."

Another university student in Kyiv from the western part of the nation, told me, "It is amazing to see, but Poland, who were our enemies for so long - now they are our friends and they are helping us. So I guess God can bring good, even from war."

Several of those university students, part of a Christian group that friends of mine pastor, have travelled east to help with humanitarian aid. 

But the most unexpected of those moments happened on a day off. 

I've been to the war museum in Kyiv several times. We almost always take our teams there. It is ... very sobering.

And this time, outside of it were Russian tanks, captured recently in Ukrainian territory. The signs explained how they knew for sure that they are Russian tanks - even though Russia says they aren't. 

And inside, a new exhibit, dedicated to the Maidan revolution and the current conflict. Pictures and stories of those who have died. I stood there quietly for a long time, absorbing it. 

Ukraine. Land I love. Resilient, strong, determined. Full of life.  

The Lord bless you and keep you.
The Lord make His face shine on you and be gracious to you.
The Lord turn his face toward you and give you peace.
- the Bible, Numbers 6:24-26

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