Dr. Oleksandr Geychenko, president of Odesa Theological Seminary, a Mennonite Mission Network education associate, opens a window to an inside view of the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
Since we were awakened by the sounds of missile strikes on February 24, many Ukrainians, including myself, have experienced things for the first time. Families are separated as they try to evacuate their loved ones to a safer place. Many people have packed their lives into a suitcase and left their homes, not knowing where they will end up. We have seen our lives smashed. Nothing left. Many bodies are burnt into ashes. The pain is tangible.
Faculty and students of Odesa Theological Seminary, a Mennonite Mission Network education associate, have been immersed in these experiences. We don't stand apart from the pain of our people. One student, Igor, reports that his church is hosting people in the basement of the church building. Church members help others to get to the border of Ukraine and into a neighboring country. Igor's role is to distribute food packages, medicine and hygiene items. The seminary managed to send some funds to cover his fuel expenses. We are preparing to send another sum to enable him to purchase medicine for those who desperately need it. Many students are involved in evacuation of children, women and elderly people from the regions that are threatened by the assault of Russian aggressors.
On March 6, many Ukrainian churches celebrated the Lord's Supper — the first Lord's Supper during this war. For me personally, aside from the usual reflections on Christ's sacrifice for our sins, participation in the life of the Trinity through Jesus Christ and expectation of Jesus' second coming, the high point was identification with the pain of other fellow believers, especially those, who lost their loved ones in Bucha, Chirnihiv, Hostomel, Irpin, Izum, Kharkiv, Mariupol and Sumy. I took the bread and knew that I am part of the body of Christ scattered all over my suffering country. "If one member suffers, all suffer together with it; if one member is honored, all rejoice together with it. Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it." (1 Corinthians 12:26-27, NRSV).
I feel very sorry for those who still think about the Russian invasion of Ukraine in terms of the Russian geopolitical narrative and mass-media propaganda. Their attitude increases my pain. I pray that they will regain spiritual sight and the ability to make moral judgements.
I am very grateful to all those who stepped in to share the pain of our people. It is due to your generosity and sensitivity to the needs of others we could help others. Thank you.
Please, keep praying for Ukraine. Advocate for the people of Ukraine on every level. We want this war to stop, the wholeness of our country to be restored and stable peace re-established.