On Ukraine and how you can help

On Ukraine and how you can help

“We’re all here,” President Volodymyr Zelenskyy of Ukraine said in the video that has since captured the hearts of many around the world.

People are marveling at the strength, grit, and courage of not only Zelenskyy, but of the Ukraine people in general.

I’m not surprised by it at all.

Some of you may remember that I had the privilege of traveling to Ukraine with the ministry Mission to Ukraine in 2013. I wrote at length then about the overwhelming kindness, joy, and especially hospitality of even the most poor who would lay out slices of an orange and what bread they had just to make us feel welcome. I thought I was going to Ukraine to minister to them, but instead, their lives spoke endless Sundays of sermons to me.

So it is with a people determined to–and who indeed have–overcome the unimaginable. For generations now, the people of the land of Ukraine have faced genocides, forced famines, Stalin and Hitler and communism, and for hundreds of years they have been fighting to be free. I found this article I wrote about their struggles back in 2014, and the same things are happening to them all over again. Here’s a snippet:

“…my Ukraine friends [are] crying out in horror at the deaths of tens of peaceful Maidan supporters. They’ve begged for prayers for safety.

Most of all, they’ve pleaded for the West to see them, to notice the corruption and acknowledge the ridiculousness of Russia’s renewed imperialism brought on by an alarmingly apathetic American administration.

‘Russia’s advances in Ukraine are the greatest threat to European security since the Cold War,’ NATO’s chief, Anders Fogh Rasmussen, said…

…Russia’s advances are an abomination shadowing the emergence of hope in the eyes of people like Alina [photo at right, ca. 2013], too-long oppressed, but who know enough about the liberty of independence not to fight back.”The thought that these people are hiding in bomb shelters and have missiles whistling through their skies even as I type is more heartbreaking than I can bear. 

But one thing stands out to me as much now as it did then: their faith. I only thought I knew how to pray until I witnessed and listened to the prayers of my Ukraine friends. Moreover, the presence of God in the midst of so much darkness there is palpable. 

Even in the most recent blog post from Mission to Ukraine, you can hear their faith and the peace that passes all understanding in their voices:

“We also hear many testimonies of God’s miracle like missiles disappearing (announced officially) or not exploding,” they write. “Our soldiers are seeing God’s power and hand all over them. And it is powerful to see huge unity, determination, love and care among all people. Everyone is offering help, everyone wants to do something and to be part of the fight…”

Maybe like me you want to be a part of their fight, too. Please pray for these precious people. Pray for President Zelenskyy and all world leaders for wisdom and an end to this senseless invasion.

Consider donating to Mission to Ukraine.

And know that the Lord who is sovereign over all has not left the sides of the Ukrainian people…just as he never leaves your side.

An open letter to my beloved Ukraine friends

Please join me in praying for my friends—indeed all our brothers and sisters in Ukraine.

Dearest friends, 

My heart is overflowing with anger, despair, and fervent prayers as I watch the news feeds about the unspeakable attacks on your beloved country. 

Can I pray with you right now?

Lord Jesus, we bow before you, prostrate with reverence and begging you to intervene supernaturally as only You can for the people of Ukraine, and in particular Mission to Ukraine. In Jesus name, we beg for you to put a hedge of protection around them, around the mothers and children who so desperately need You, and around our beloved friends. Lord, we claim Psalm 34:7 right now, in which you promise that your angel armies encamp around those who fear you. Guard our friends now, physically, mentally, and spiritually. Send your peace which passes all understanding. Be with the Ukraine government and leaders and guide them with good decisions.

Lord, we acknowledge that you are the God of David and Goliath, over Moses and the Red Sea, over Joshua and Jericho. We claim the same power that rolls stones and moves mountains and are raises the dead to work on behalf of our innocent Ukraine brothers and sisters. 

In Jesus holy name we pray,

Amen

*The photos below are of my trip to Mission to Ukraine in Zhitomyr in 2013. Come, Lord Jesus! Have mercy on them!

The greatest gift of the nativity

One of the most cherished aspects of the Christmas season are lights. Twinkle lights, tree lights, luminaries, lanterns tied up with evergreen and bows, and especially candlelight.

Light was an extraordinary part of the first Christmas, too. Historians confirm that the time at which Christ was born was very dark. Among the Jewish people, doubt was overwhelming since they had not heard from the Lord in 400 years. 

Doesn’t sound far from the current social and mental state of things, does it?

2020.

2021.

Perhaps never before has this generation experienced so much brokenness, so much tumult, so much hopelessness. And just when we think things can’t get worse, somehow they do. 

But…

…if our God has been anything, He has been faithful to show up at the last minute, in the midst of the most impossible, and yes, at the darkest hour.

As Isaiah wrote: 

The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light. For those who lived in a land of deep shadows— light! sunbursts of light! (Isa. 9:2 TMV)This applies not only to our general position in life, but in our hearts, too. Each of us has dark places…cupboards with top shelves never disturbed, shadowy corners under the beds, in the closets and unopened drawers where we hide from those who are closest to us…places we hide from even ourselves. 

In this season of lights, I offer this challenge: kneel before the manger.

Kneel and consider the infant Jesus, who moments before His birth left a glorious, eternal Kingdom to dive into our dark, murky and temporary world to fill it…and to fill hearts with light.

I love how The Message interprets that verse from Isaiah–light! sunbursts of light!–that expose the shadows and defeat the darkness with truth so we can live free. 

Letting go of the pain in our lives, shaking dusty past hurts from our sandals, and illuminating all that darkness won’t guarantee every day will be happy, but it will guarantee freedom to live joyfully and accomplish the plans He has for us. Sometimes that is a one-and-done prayer. Other times, it is a daily, even moment-by-moment prayer. Best of all, the Light of the World means we can become the people He made us to be in order to carry out His mission for our lives freely and with great joy. 

You are here on this earth at this time for a reason, friend.

Let that sink in.

Now more than ever lost, hurting and broken people need to know they are not alone, and the Holy Spirit accomplishes that through people like you who are brave enough to fearlessly use their gifts and talents for Him. As you think about this year past and the one to come, ask the Lord to search your heart for thoughts, patterns, or anything that might be holding you back.

The greatest gift of the nativity is that He came to set you free—from sin, from an abusive past, from those who doubt or criticize you, from fear, and everything in between—to use and give your gifts to others. 

Go and be the light you were meant to be, dear friends. 

And merry, merry Christmas.

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