War is the greatest plague that can afflict humanity; it destroys religion, it destroys states, it destroys families.

— Martin Luther

 I’ve never been in a war zone before. My father was a career Air Force officer, so I grew up around the accoutrements of war. I lived in Freetown when Charles Taylor’s blood diamond war crossed into Sierra Leone. More recently I’ve seen the after-effects of brutal tribal warfare on Mt. Elgon in Kenya. But I’d never been in an active war zone – until last month. That’s when I joined fellow Amarilloan Jenz Yoder, our interpreter Tanya, two of her children and three Ukrainian church leaders and traveled across Ukraine, right up to the edge of the most active fronts. 

In Kyiv, we spent several days meeting with ministers and other church leaders from across the country who had come together for a retreat and renewal, to receive encouragement and take a break from the call God had placed on their hearts to serve their fellow Ukrainians in the darkest corners of the country. These courageous men and women routinely and repeatedly go into the valley of the shadow of death to deliver bread, hot meals, drinking water, basic hygiene supplies and to share a message of hope. 

“I hear the missiles and shelling, but God told me no weapon that’s fashioned against us will prevail.” Viktor explained to me that’s why he keeps going deep into the occupied Zaporizhzhya region, where he is even able to minister to the military. The soldiers listen to Viktor share the Good News because, as they said, “you keep coming in the cold, rain and snow – you must have something important to tell us.” 

 Andrei is fearless and bold as he serves in Kharkiv. “The people keep coming, we have to do something.” They are hungry, afraid and in need of hope. Andrei and his team are able to provide hot meals, encourage those who can’t or won’t leave their homes and show God’s love without saying a word. 

Konstantin delivers food and distributes Bibles in Bakhmut, where the war’s fiercest battles are currently taking place. “Are you crazy for coming here?” he’s been asked. His reply was simply “No, I’m a Christian,” echoing Paul’s response “If it seems we are crazy, it is to bring glory to God,” (Cor. 5:13, NLT). 

There are so many more stories, so many more acts of selflessness, so many ways His people are allowing themselves to be used to shine His glory into the darkness that is war. Vadim, one of my traveling partners, put it this way: “God did not bring this war. He came to bring life. We know who is the author of death.” I remain in awe of how I’ve heard and seen these men and women continue to share hope and bring Life to Ukraine.