Elkhart, INDIANA (Mennonite Mission Network) – Ivan* knows what war and chaos are and what it means to live in total uncertainty. However, despite circumstances that do not favor Christian education, he made the decision to study at a Ukrainian Christian educational institution. He lives in the territory now under control of the Donetsk People's Republic, which appeared in 2014 as a result of pro-Russian forces invading eastern Ukraine. These events are still the subject of media discussion all over the world. Ivan offers the following account of his experience and the ministry that continues amidst the adversity.
"When the war started, many people from our church moved: everyone who wanted to escape the war. I was one of them. I went to my older brother who lives in western Ukraine. I stayed there for few months, but then our parents told us that a missile exploded near their house, so I returned to help them. When I returned home and attended my church, I realized that my place is here. I saw that there is much work in the church and very few workers available. I decided to stay.
"Once ours was a strong church with abundant human resources. After the war started, active church members moved. Those who remained had no other choice but to start doing something; otherwise, the church would close its doors. We started to do something.
We regularly visit the border districts close to the demarcation line, where even now severe shooting often takes place, and visit an orphanage there. We also organized a club for teenagers on the church premises, with at least 20 teens at present, as well as a club for older youth.
"In the lives of many children and young people with whom we have fellowship, the war has left terrible scars. Some have lost family members or friends, some have had loved ones die in their arms, and some have survived bombings. People do not forget these things, and they suffer.
"It has made me sad to hear some people say that this war is a punishment for our sins. From my observation, I can clearly see how merciful God is toward us, how sufficient God's grace is even in our circumstances, how people are starting to seek God, and how people in the church have been changed as if they are waking up after a sleep.
"Those who have suffered because of the war are actually the reason why I decided to study at the seminary. I want to help them. I want to understand their needs and offer answers that could ease their pain, and – most important – to be able to share about the One who can give them true hope in life.
"Please pray for peace in our country, for children and youth who have had the war pass over them; pray for the outreach ministry of our church and for those of us who witness to people in Donetsk about the good news about Christ."
*Pseudonym due to safety reasons.