Sunday, August 7, 2022

Unity in the Midst of War

“Has it ever occurred to you that one hundred pianos all tuned to the same fork are automatically tuned to each other? They are of one accord by being tuned, not to each other, but to another standard to which one must individually bow. So one hundred worshipers meeting together, each one looking away to Christ, are in heart nearer to each other than they could possibly be were they to become “unity” conscious and turn their eyes away from God to strive for closer fellowship."

The Pursuit of God by A.W. Tozer

This quote stuck with me for some time after I came across it a few weeks ago and I came to see it's truth lived out in the Ukrainian church in these past months of war. I can only speak from experience in regards to my local church, Fimiam Church, but I believe it is a good representation of many, if not most, evangelical churches across Ukraine in these days. 

Fimiam Church has always been an active church body with brothers and sisters in Christ ministering in many spheres within the church and in society. But the onset of war led to the departure of over 100 church members to other countries and an influx of displaced people from other parts of Ukraine. Many ministries of the church were put on hold and new ministries, such as housing displaced people, daily prayer meetings, regular distributions of food and other humanitarian aid, and weekly evangelism services for the many displaced Ukrainians now living in Lutsk, needed to be organized and launched virtually overnight. New leaders needed to emerge to accept responsibility for these new directions of ministry. Displaced Ukrainian believers who found a church home in Fimiam Church desired not only to be knit into the church body, but also to serve as well. New ministries in the uncertain time of war, new leadership, new responsibilities, a near-constant need for flexibility, people serving alongside unknown and new people, and a rapid pace of change. It could have been a set-up for chaos, conflict, and confusion, but that is not what has occurred. Why?

First and foremost has been God's mercy and kindness to protect us from the chaos and conflict that could have taken place. Also, our pastors have led out in truly amazing ways, exemplifying humility and selflessness in ministry, reliance on God in prayer, and genuine and open love and concern not just for members of Fimiam Church in Lutsk and abroad, but also for other believers who came in search of a temporary or new permanent church home. I'm certain plenty of other good reasons could also be listed. 

But after I read the above quote, I slowly came to realize that the unity among believers at Fimiam Church and across many Ukrainian churches in this period of time is not a testament to the efforts of church leadership to teach on unity or attempt to "create" unity in the church. Instead it has been the automatic outflow of the individuals of the church being united to God in fervent times of prayer, in times of joint worship, and in personal times in His Word. Unity as a body of brothers and sisters has been the result of the unity of each individual with God. 

What are some other thoughts I've had recently regarding the war? In no particular order...

- War has brought a fresh realization that I am dependent on God for everything. He holds each of our lives and the outcome of this war in His hands. I can do nothing to stop the enemy, but God has all authority and so I pray to Him. When I awake in the morning, particularly after a night in which air raid sirens sounded, I thank God for His protection through the night and for the gift of a new day. I've read the news and I've seen the pictures. I know there are others whose lives ended on their beds when a missile struck their residence in the night. I do nothing to sustain my life through the night, so my day should start with gratitude to the One who does. 

- As a PT, I find myself hopeful that one positive result of this war will be improvement in the prosthetics and wheelchairs provided to people in Ukraine. There is a currently a great desire to provide the very best care and equipment to our wounded soldiers and that is good and right. Assistance is often sought from the West to provide the best prosthetics and wheelchairs. That is good, but I do hope that after the war, more Ukrainian prosthetists will have the knowledge, skills and materials to provide good prosthetics as this is an area that has been truly lacking. Also, I am hopeful that the process of obtaining a wheelchair will be streamlined and wheelchairs that meet the needs of the individual will be provided. So far we have had probably 10 soldiers with spinal cord injuries go through rehab at Agape. Thankfully, most came to us with a wheelchair, and sometimes a really good one, already provided to them. This is NOT the case for the average Ukrainian. Getting a wheelchair generally takes months, like 6-12 months, so if the person wants to be mobile at all they are forced to locate and purchase a wheelchair themselves, not a process most people can accomplish on their own. So I find myself increasingly hopeful that the rapid rise in the number of people with amputations and spinal cord injuries will have a positive result on the provision of prosthetics and wheelchairs in Ukraine. 

- I'm really glad I learned Ukrainian. Over the years, many Ukrainians have expressed surprise that I learned Ukrainian as many, probably actually most, missionaries learned Russian in the past. There were reasons for that, not the least of which is that Lutsk is a Ukrainian speaking city and I knew that ahead of time. With Russia as the aggressor and enemy in this war, many Ukrainians who have been Russian speakers are switching to Ukrainian, many Ukrainian speakers are trying to utilize less Russian words and phrases in their speech, and the topic of language comes up pretty often in various circles and strong opinions can be expressed regarding what language should or should not be spoken in Ukraine. All that to say, I'm increasingly thankful to have learned Ukrainian! 

- I'm thankful the Agape Rehabilitation Complex exists not just to improve people's lives physically, but to share the truth and love of the Gospel with them. The biggest need for us all is salvation from our sins. Only then can we live with true hope! And hope is something every Ukrainian seeks right now. I'm thankful we get to share the Source of true and eternal hope with people at Agape. 

- And to close, Ukraine is a beautiful country, don't you think? 

And Ukrainians are brave people! It's harvest time in Ukraine and the harvest is being reaped despite the war.

Please continue to pray for Ukraine, Ukrainians, the church in Ukraine and victory for Ukraine in the war!! 

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