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A light in the darkness of war


The officers and corps leaders of the Ukraine Division, Eastern Europe Territory, support each other and their displaced and suffering communities, relying on God for faith and courage.

Early on the morning of 24 February 2022, the sound and impact of heavy shelling woke many Ukrainians. Russia had invaded Ukraine and a war had begun. This war continues today, killing and wounding hundreds of thousands, displacing millions and destroying cities, towns and villages across the country.


The Eastern Europe Territory (EET), led by Australian officers Colonels Cheralynne and Kelvin Pethybridge hosted a day of prayer for the war-torn Ukraine Division on Sunday 26 February. It's never too late though, to pray for Ukraine. Please see the information at the end of this article for details on downloading the English-language poster, PowerPoint prayer presentation, and other resources for prayer.


Below we share the text of three testimonies – from Major Kostiantyn Shvab (Ukraine Divisional Commander), Major Daniil Lukin (Kropyvnytskyi Corps Officer) and Natalia Rak (soldier and corps leader at Dnipro Corps, Ukraine, with her husband Dmytro).

 

Major Kostiantyn Shvab

To watch Major Shvab's video testimony, click here.


Well before 24 February, all my colleagues and acquaintances, from Ukraine and abroad who are confident in politics and are connected to different authorities, were saying that the war is going to start in Ukraine. My friends from different parts of the world tried to convince me to take my family abroad. But we decided to stay. I knew that the war was going to begin, but I firmly believed that God would save us. I couldn’t believe how, in the 21st century in the centre of Europe, such horror could ever happen.


The day of 24 February started for me with telephone calls from my friends and relatives who described the horrors of the war. They said they heard rockets, saw tanks, heard explosions.


Our life has changed. Endless crowds of people from Eastern Ukraine were fleeing to Europe via parts of Western Ukraine. They passed through Vinnytsia, (where Majors Kostiantyn and Irina Shvab were then corps officers) both during the day and at night, regardless of the curfew. The arrival of people was endless.


We opened the Vinnytsia Corps doors for people to sleep over. The number of people was too great for the corps building, so many of them stayed at our home. Our home was filled with people, different people, every day. Our house was so full that I had to step over people in our bedroom to get to the bathroom. People were sleeping on the floor because we had nowhere to put them. But people cried and thanked us for sheltering them.


From the first days of this war, horror gripped every Ukrainian. I do not know how God gave us the strength to hold on – a strength he still gives us. There was still some hope in our hearts that God was in control, and everything would end well.

I remember when I was delivering humanitarian aid in the Kyiv region. I was driving along the road that had recently seen tanks passing, and I saw destroyed cars – cars carrying peaceful people who were shot and burned alive. I saw destroyed houses. It is horror. It is pain and tears.


Despite all of that, I had hope that God was giving me hope. He still gives me hope to this day. Not just me, but thousands like me. We have hope that God is in control and will bring us all out.


I see and hear today that other states, other organisations, are helping Ukraine. My heart is filled with hope, my heart is filled with joy, that we are not alone. At the same time, every care shown for Ukraine, and for Ukrainians, fills my heart with the light that God controls everything. We are not alone, and we are not destined to perish.


I thank everyone who helped us, who is helping us. I thank God that I belong to The Salvation Army which, from the very first days of the war, has taken an active role in alleviating the suffering of other people – many people, adults and children. We clothe, feed, encourage, help in every way. I am proud to be a part of The Salvation Army which brings comfort, support and encouragement.


Even today, bombs and rockets are still whistling over us. There is still a threat of death over us today, but I don’t know. I am not afraid. I know that God holds us in his hand.

 

Major Daniil Lukin

To watch Major Lukin's video, click here.


The light always wins because the one who created the light is stronger than the darkness.


The war caught me unprepared. I cannot say that I did not know that the war could start. My mind told me that war was inevitable, but my heart continued to believe that it could be avoided. Hundreds of thousands of soldiers who gathered near the borders of my Motherland with full weapons, with jet fighters, with tanks, with artillery, said the opposite.


On the morning of 24 February, I woke up to the roar of fighter jets and the sounds of distant explosions. I was not ready for that. I don't know at all how you can prepare yourself for that – to prepare for the fact that all your plans are no longer worth anything, your way of life is completely destroyed, stability and security have just left your house with a loud slamming of the door. Although no, it wasn't a slamming door – it was another explosion, this time even closer to my house. I don't know how to prepare myself for this.


Instead of normal emotions, I feel fear, uncertainty, sadness. The future no longer seems bright and clear. It has plunged more and more into the darkness and there is only one thing that can stand against the darkness – a light.


In Genesis 1:3-4 it says, “And God said, ‘Let there be light’, and there was light. God saw that the light was good, and he separated the light from the darkness." God is the source of light, He is the author of light. He is the one who dispelled the darkness. He did it at the creation of the world. He did it 2000 years ago, and he continues doing it today.


I found light in God for myself and for my future; and the darkness receded. His light has one important characteristic – it does not only light you, it gives you the power to shine yourself. To shine where it is darkest.


You can't avoid lighting yourself when his light is in you. Today, this is often expressed in help for those people who suffered from the war in Ukraine, which has been going on in our country for a whole year.


There are millions of people in Ukraine today who have lost everything: houses, property, lost friends, relatives, lost hope. They need help and support. They need light. And the light that is in me – it prompts me to do everything that depends on me, so that they receive this help, support and see the light. The light that chases away the darkness. The light always wins because the one who created the light is stronger than the darkness.


Despite all of that, Ukraine fights, holds on and is healed by the love of people who support each other every day, giving love and care to those who need it most. People share water, food, clothes, blankets, and shoes, but there is nothing more valuable than time, attention and love.


The love of Christ, which penetrates through people into this troubled world, is the light that helps us survive physically, emotionally and spiritually. The smile of a child who recently saw his friend torn apart, the one he played with yesterday. A child’s hug, the one who stopped talking because a rocket flew straight into his home. The lively eyes of a boy whose father was killed in combat – these are the things that do not fade away and is the same light.


Children are exhausted by the war, teenagers are in search of themselves, women have lost their support, men do not understand what to do, grandparents have had to leave their entire lives and start again from scratch, volunteers, and ministers who 24/7 reach out and distribute, comfort and love. These are the people who inspire and hold Ukraine because they do not give up ... because they live.


Our [Salvation Army] team in Dnipro consists of an actor, a store owner, an animator, a boy with a disability, a biochemist, a rescuer, a few teachers, a translator and many other people. We have become one family who, despite everything, brings the love of Christ into people’s lives.

 

Natalia Rak

Ukraine – explosions, fear, cold, despair, pain, tears, hunger, confusion, sadness, rage. Ukraine is filled with all of that. Every centimetre of this land is ‘burning’ – somewhere like in Bakhmut because of fire, somewhere like in Mariupol from sheer horror, somewhere like in our Dnipro from a hole the size of the lives of people who died in a destroyed house.


Natalia (bottom right) and her team serve others in Christ’s name and strength, in the Dnipro Corps and community.

Despite all of that, Ukraine fights, holds on and is healed by the love of people who support each other every day, giving love and care to those who need it most. People share water, food, clothes, blankets, and shoes, but there is nothing more valuable than time, attention and love.


The love of Christ, which penetrates through people into this troubled world, is the light that helps us survive physically, emotionally and spiritually. The smile of a child who recently saw his friend torn apart, the one he played with yesterday. A child’s hug, the one who stopped talking because a rocket flew straight into his home. The lively eyes of a boy whose father was killed in combat – these are the things that do not fade away and is the same light.


Children are exhausted by the war, teenagers are in search of themselves, women have lost their support, men do not understand what to do, grandparents have had to leave their entire lives and start again from scratch, volunteers, and ministers who 24/7 reach out and distribute, comfort and love. These are the people who inspire and hold Ukraine because they do not give up ... because they live.


Our [Salvation Army] team in Dnipro consists of an actor, a store owner, an animator, a boy with a disability, a biochemist, a rescuer, a few teachers, a translator and many other people. We have become one family who, despite everything, brings the love of Christ into people’s lives.


God opens his arms in this terrible time for everyone, again and again. He seems to hold every Ukrainian, every disappointed soul, wipes away the tears of despair and sadness and gives a reason to smile, and feel joy and happiness in the everyday.

This is our tired but happy Ukraine. Ukraine with the desire for peace in our hearts and around us. We are strong in Jesus Christ. We are free in our Saviour. We are healed by his wounds. We are enlightened by his love.

 

Resources

The resources for prayer are simple ones that can be used both individually and corporately in a variety of ways. The themes – peace, protection, provision, endurance and strength for those displaced and far from family – can be used as the basis for private prayers and devotions anywhere, as well as incorporated into Sunday worship through prayer stations and responsive prayers.


The posters are available in English, are based on Isaiah 41:10 and contain the words:

“From the ruined cities and villages, covered with the fragments of a once peaceful life, prayers flew like alarmed birds, begging for protection for the children, elderly, relatives and friends ... Insightful and fervent prayers rush to heaven – ‘Lord, help!’


“Brave, persistent, desperate and incredibly strong; frozen with fear, vulnerable, those who do not stop believing and hoping, Ukrainians – our prayers for each of you! For the end of the war, for recovery, for your families and homes, for your land!


“God himself says: ‘There’s no need to fear for I’m your God’. He gives strength, hope and safety. His love embraces everyone.”


For more information and to download resources in English, scan the QR code, or click here


Resources are also available in the languages of the nations making up the EET – Bulgaria, Georgia, Romania and Ukraine.

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