On the 32nd anniversary of Ukraine’s independence in August, Johann Matthies found a charred children’s bicycle in the rubble of a burned-out house in Kyiv. The symbolism was poignant and painful yet inspired pride and hope.
Matthies is regional team leader in Europe for Multiply, the Mennonite Brethren mission agency.
He wrote: “Ukraine has been, and remains, spiritually vital and rich in hope. I believe we are about to witness the creation of a new European people and country. This achievement comes at the price of much blood and many tears. I invite everyone to continue to pray for this treacherously invaded country.”
A source of healing has come to Ukrainian families through summer camp ministries. Pastor Alexei Y. of the Heart of Christ MB Church plant in Vinnytsia reflected on the gift that a few days of safety in the beauty of the Carpathian Mountains on Ukraine’s southwestern border has been for many.
“Our life rhythms are difficult, between thousand-mile trips to the front lines, church services and providing emergency relief to the displaced,” he said. “Being in the mountains, conversations around an open fire — these things allow our hearts to open.”
Pastor Oleksii M. of the Molochansk church plant in Dnipro is grateful for the financial support that has allowed for the refurbishing of railway car containers to house families who attend these camps, as well as evacuees. Oleksii and his teams are furnishing these tiny homes with beds, tables and chairs, refrigerators, wardrobes and more.
“[Evacuees] have lost relatives and loved ones in the war; they live in a constant state of alarm,” he said. “It is impossible to convey with words and photos all the horror people have experienced. Destruction, filth, stench, rotting food and vegetation, broken souls, hopelessness. We, as a church, as God’s people, know where to find hope, . . . [but] so many people are in need of rehabilitation, therapy, rest and peace.”
His prayer is that these containers would become places of shelter and beauty for the traumatized.
Alexei Y. and Sergei P., pastor of New Hope Church in Kyiv, report on the relief provided through the partnership between the Association of Mennonite Brethren Churches in Ukraine and an ecumenical agency, Mission Eurasia. One ministry involves Bread of Life bakeries, which have sprung up in Ukraine and Moldova.
“The bakeries operate 24/7 to provide bread for our volunteers to deliver, along with a Bible, to the displaced,” Alexei said. “This bread is a symbol of life and hope.”
As a generation grows up in wartime, churches try to keep traumatized children and youth from becoming angry, bitter adults.
Sergei F. is an army chaplain and pastor of Small Arch MB Church in Kyiv. The church has a focus on ministries for children and students. A church picnic in a park offered parents and children an opportunity to forget, for a time, that their lives are in constant danger. Days after the picnic, the park was hit by Russian weapons.
Sergei’s wife, Nastya, writes: “God protect our country and families! . . .
In the future, we will reap what we have invested in them today.”