I lie down and sleep;
I wake again, because the LORD sustains me.
I will not fear though tens of thousands
assail me on every side.
Beginning one year ago, the Russian invasion of Ukraine brought death, destruction, and suffering to millions of Ukrainian citizens. In a January 2023 report to the UN Security Council by the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), “18,096 civilian casualties have been verified since the invasion began on February 24, 2022. This total includes 6,952 people killed and 11,144 injured. The actual figures are likely considerably higher.
The war has forced millions to flee their homes.” These facts are terrible. Especially considering human beings, created in the image of God, are far more than statistics.
Pavlo and Larisa Flee Russian Occupation
George Ainsworth, ANM Regional Director for Europe/Russia, recently received updates from Alexei Simonov, our native missionary partner in Ukraine. Alexei shared the story of Pavlo and Larisa, originally from the Donbas region of eastern Ukraine. Their story of displacement began in 2014 when Russia first occupied the area where the couple lived. They dropped everything and fled to a safer locale, dwelling in a small summer house (dacha) for eight years, even during the frigid Ukrainian winters. On February 23, 2022, they traveled to the city of Chernihiv to visit their son. They arrived on the eve of the Russian invasion, and they were caught in a full-scale war.
God Provides Medication in Ukraine
For many years, Alexei’s ministry, Open Doors, had conducted Christian summer camps for children at a facility near Chernihiv. The Russian artillery completely destroyed this particular camp early on in the conflict. Sharing in the suffering, Alexei and other native missionaries with Open Doors met Pavlo and Larisa during the blockade of Chernihiv when food, medicine, and shelter were scarce. The couple came to the Open Doors church for help, where they continue to attend today.
Recently, Pavlo was diagnosed with cancer and was placed on medication. Embarrassed to ask the church for further assistance, they turned to Ukrainian social services for medicine. The social service workers listened, recorded their needs, and told the couple that someone would bring them the medication. Providentially, the native missionaries with Open Doors have many mutual relationships with assistance organizations in Chernihiv.
As a result of this connection, the following day, a man named Maxim arrived with the much-needed medicine. When Maxim began sharing about God and the church, Pavlo and Larisa were amazed to realize that even though they had sought aid from a secular organization, the help had come through the church.
When brothers from the church visit, Pavlo and Larisa now offer them a home-cooked meal. Through the kindness and support of Open Doors, Pavlo recently came to faith in Christ. Larisa still has doubts, but she reads her Bible.
Faces of Suffering in Ukraine
Pavlo and Larisa are just two of the faces of suffering in Ukraine. Their story of displacement is representative of the experiences of nearly 6 million Ukrainians. Native missionaries like Alexei and the staff of Open Doors are working to relieve that suffering, meet basic human needs, and share the Gospel with the war-traumatized people of Ukraine.
David’s prayer in Psalm 3, recorded above, was likely written in a war camp and is a statement of faith in God’s mercy and protection in the face of such trauma. May its truth continue to strengthen and sustain His people in Ukraine today.