For the World

Beautiful Jesus in Ukraine

*Even while living in Holland, Dave has become dear to us through his regular participation in almost everything we offer on Zoom with words of deep wisdom and humility. We’re delighted he’d share with us all his work and recent experience in Ukraine.
– Bill

by Dave Thomas | Secretary, Our Daily Bread

What comes to mind when you think of Ukraine? Political wranglings about aid for the country? Images of destruction on our newswires? The Ukrainians who bravely carry on in this third year of a grueling war?

In January, I visited Ukraine on behalf of Our Daily Bread. This Dutch charity funds small grassroots projects from local churches in the east of the country under the themes Kids & Youth, Resilience, and Livelihoods. When I think of Ukraine, I think of beautiful Jesus. Our savior, who is a tower of refuge and strength. Our Emmanuel who is an unquenchable source of hope and love and has prepared good works for his children to do.

“Let’s do good together” is a phrase I frequently hear when I work with our partners. Preaching the gospel and meeting people’s practical needs go hand in hand in Eastern Ukraine. Our partners live in complete dependence on God, as they never know what will happen next in the frontline communities they serve. And that dependency and uncertainty provide the rich black soil in which beautiful things can grow. In Lyman (Donbas region), our partner runs a monthly women’s club. The ladies enjoy a meal of pizza and sushi (a real Ukrainian fast food treat), play games, and learn more about the gospel. Many residents of the small rural town of Oleksdansrivka (60 km west of Sloviansk) struggle to make ends meet. Thanks to our Seeds of Hope project, they can once again grow vegetables in their gardens each year. Further along the frontline in Sumy (northeast Ukraine), the youth group our partner started last May already has 15 members. As most schools in the city are physically closed due to the war, the group is one of the few places where these young people can meet up. These simple activities might not be game-changers in Ukraine. But what counts is that each of them is a mustard seed in God’s kingdom there.

And it’s God’s kingdom that counts in Ukraine but also at Coracle! I am immensely grateful that I can participate in many of the online activities that Coracle offers. The pay-off “Spiritual Formation for Kingdom Action” definitely resonates in my life and impacts our work in Ukraine. For example, the phrase “Beautiful Jesus” is something I picked up from Coracle’s Executive Director, Bill Haley. It laid the foundation for a sermon and series of seminars I was invited to give at Volodymyr and Tetiana Avilova’s missionary church in Kremenchuk last January. Their congregation of mostly new believers has memorized the phrase, “Fix your eyes on beautiful Jesus because he cares for you”. Margot Eyring, Coracle’s Spiritual Director, gave me some excellent book tips on forgiveness and reconciliation, themes our partners struggle with in the context of the war and sometimes ask me about. I feel very small when we discuss these highly sensitive subjects. However, I know our savior is there as we wrestle with these questions we can scarcely fathom, let alone answer.

So next time you think of Ukraine, don’t forget the pain, the suffering, and the injustice. Hold them in one hand. But, in your other hand, remember the hope that stems from our savior’s love. That awkward tension of living in hope in the face of pain is the disquieting space that our Ukrainian partners serve in. However, by being there at peace through God’s grace, they enable the communities they serve to live and grow. And mustard seeds sown in God’s kingdom never disappoint.

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