Back to the Lion’s Den

October 23, 2014:   Sometimes we must make hard decisions…decisions that may or may not have life long consequences.  Decisions that when you make, you don’t know what may happen.   You hope and pray that you are following the heart of God, you have prayed, fasted, sought advice, then you step out. You step out in ultimate faith, and watch for God to arrive and show himself.   Today, I boarded the plane to return to Donetsk oblast.  I was apprehensive, but felt this was indeed what I was to do.  The plane ride was uneventful, moving through the channels of the airport, that I always have, in sort of a rote memory.  I don’t even know how many trips I have made to Ukraine since 1998, maybe 30-40…lost count there have been so many.

After arriving, we stay in Kyiv to assess the situation, make food and supply purchases, before setting out to Dzerzhinsk. I had left the van at my friend and pastors very large church in Kyiv, so that when I did return, we could load it up and take supplies to Dzerzhinsk. The plan worked well, with exception that the roads are horrible, terrible on a vehicle, and everyone carries 1-2 extra tires, and a tire pump for any distance driving.

October 30, 2014 :  Today Edward and I left for Dz.  Before we even got out of Kyiv, we passed a few army vehicles, heading to the east.   Next we hit road construction, which last till Kharkiv, we make no ‘time’ at all, and arrive to Kharkiv by 2, but missed the turn, and go through the city.  The traffic is terrible, and it takes an hour and a half to get through, Edward wasn’t watching the road, and that cost us precious time.  I must get to Slavyansk before 5 to turn in some documents for my registration.  Now I will be forced to drive like a crazy person, and then we hit the block posts.  There are many more the further you go east.    

October 31, 2014 – 9:00 a.m. Kramatorsk, heard my first machine gun fire on this trip.  We headed for Edward’s sister’s apartment, again to assess the situation, before driving the 2 hours back to Dzerzhinsk. The apartment was warm, so I opened the window, and in the distance, I could hear it, at least that is what I thought it was…it didn’t sound like a jack hammer or tool, but distinct gun fire.  It isn’t a good feeling, my stomach starts to ‘turn’, and though I know we will be driving right back into it, I’m trusting God to place His hedge around us.

Edward and I leave, and head down the road to our next stop, but not before having to wait 30+ minutes at a huge blockpost.  When we leave, we see the cars are backed up about 1 kilometer!  We get through without problems, and move on others are not so blessed, and have to unload their cars and trucks.  We have another blockpost in Drzucofka, but no problems there, and we arrive at the facility for mentally and physically challenged adults (18+) in Drzucofka, where they have combined the boys facility of Shaktursk with this girls facility.  We arrived and they are glad to see us, and receive the diapers, and other aid.  One never knows the reaction you are going to receive when you knock at the door…maybe just slammed in your face.    After a few calls, the director was happy to see us, and gladly accepted our donations.   It was especially rewarding to see the kids, and hug a few.   It is important to hug on the kids, as they don’t get a lot of hugs, or visitors for that matter.   Touch is very important for them. We asked about Zhenya, from Dzerzhinsk, and they didn’t remember him…as I could not remember his ‘surname’.  Sadly, we walked to the van, and came across a group of older boys in the courtyard playing.  They were standing around the van gawking at the cokes and apples.  I walked up, and they surrounded me, begging for cokes!!!   As I looked at the 8 boys, I immediately noticed one and thought, ‘my, that looks like Zhenya’, but I wasn’t positive, he had grown so much.   But when our eyes met, there was this ‘I think I know you look in his face.  Then I asked if his name was Zhenya, and he said, ‘yes’!   It was such a happy reunion, and I asked him, if he remembered me…he replied ‘yes’, and I do think he did.   Considering we have known him since he was 3 yrs. old, when he was in the shelter in Dzerzhinsk, but due to his mental capacity I wasn’t sure he’d remember, but he DID!!! We visited for a while, and when it was time to leave, he didn’t want to ‘let go of my neck’ was difficult, but I was able to hold back the tears, as I really didn’t know when I would see him again. Then it was time for us to head back to Dz.  I assured the director that I would return with items she had asked for.   

Edward decided that it was too late for him to go ‘on with me, so I left him at the train station in Konstantinavka.  It is funny, because one of the reasons I brought him was to go all the way with me to Dz.  To make sure I didn’t have any problems at any of the blockposts, and there is a very big blockpost at the ‘fork’ in the road, which is the last one, before driving into the real ‘danger zone’…so much for that thought…so here I go alone, into the unknown.   But God is with me, for that I’m sure.  So I sing and pray my way to Dzerzhinsk.  I get to the blockpost, and the men all remember me, see my passport, and my van full of aid to give away, and they flag me through…so I get there without troubles, and it is good to see Valia, who is at the Children’s Center working with the kids.    I share with Valia the situation with Edward leaving me, and we rejoice that the Lord got me ‘home’ safely. Everything is fine at the houses.

Night is always a time of noise…it seems as though they think, ‘if I can’t see my target, then maybe it won’t matter what I’m hitting…’  I don’t know, it just seems that way to me, as there is usually a lot of noise in the evening.   Tonight is no different…the guns start about 9 p.m.   and then the bombs in the distance.   Since it is Friday night, we were not able to call the internet company to get them to restart the internet, so that means no internet, no speaking to the family…no outside communication…until Monday.  

So I’m sitting at the center using the internet, the only source to the ‘real world’ so I’m able to talk with Rich and the family, but he doesn’t like me walking back to the house from the center alone… anyway, I finally walk back home try to get some sleep, but gunfire keeps me up most of the night.  The machine guns just don’t stop.

Saturday, Valia works, so she won’t be at the center, but I go, and the usual kids show up, Olya, Rada, Zhenya, Nastia and Angel, and then comes Artur .  We greet, and it is always good to see the kids again, just difficult with out a translator.   We have a good day, but I can see the need for outreach, food for the poor and weary.  So my task is to figure out how to discern where best to spend the funds I have been entrusted with. 

Saturday night lends itself to another night of ‘noise’, with machine guns most of the night.  Bombs are in the far distance.   Seeing that the check points have seemed to move ‘out’, it is hopeful that the UA territory is expanding, and that the terrorists are being pushed back, or it may just be a ‘sick’ cat and mouse game that Putin is playing on the Ukrainians.  This is war, upclose and personal, Ukraine did nothing to provoke this, putin is just greedy and more powerful, to push his weight around…it is very sad to watch this unfold. Each day one never knows just what will happen…will they make some bold move to take another small village, sniper kill more UA soldiers, bomb more villages, you just don’t know, but you pray for them all, and pray that this will end, and they will return to russia..

Sunday, a great time to reunite with the church members!!   Great to see Valia, and we strategize the time that I will be here.   We must make the most of everyday, because if the situation changes, I must leave.  Organization is an important factor for any successful ministry, this is no different, in addition to incorporating the local officials is important too.  Monday we will go to the city department and get any information to help people displaced by this crazy war. 

Sunday night noisy again, I finally drift off to sleep around 1 a.m. due to the noise… I’m awakened around 3 to bright lights outside, and the sounds of war.   Dear Lord, I’m staying under your wings of steel, and safety; there is so much work, so many that need help, I’m here for YOU.  

God has put this on my heart, after comments on social media.    No one is safe, no one…whether you live in U.S., Syria, Paris….Dearest friends, do not have a false sense of security living in US, danger is all around us.  When people say to me, ‘oh I want you ‘home’, ‘please come home’; I truly appreciate this, but it is not that I’m on a vacation…these types of comments diminish this work, those that are being fed ONLY because we are here to help them, using YOUR money to buy them food.  If I were in the ‘comfort’ and ‘safety’, of my U.S. home, this would not be happening here in UA.  Granted some work does continue in my absence, but there is no one to physically TAKE food to the elderly, other cities, even across town.  I love each of you, but God has called me to serve; He never said it would be safe.  I haven’t seen a place in the scriptures of people praying ‘come home, you are in danger;’ quite the contrary; we are to step out in faith, and know that God will protect, and if not, then the testimony is in our death.  Each of us are called by God to DO something; how you choose to define this, and act according to how God is speaking to you.  Discounting another person’s choices based on ‘safety’, ( which no one is guaranteed where ever they live), is insensitive to that person’s ability to discern.    I know where I need to be, God has placed this burden on my heart for these innocent people, by no action (or inaction) on their part, they are now in the path of bullets and bombs, running for their lives, trying to protect themselves, their loved ones, what they have worked their lives to obtain, through no fault of their own, they are literally living on the edge. I hope that you will support us in prayer and any action you are able to do, to show that you support these innocent people in their plight to regain their independence.

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