If we had to sum up our trip to Kyiv last month in one word it would be “accompaniment”. The ministry of presence is hard to explain and understand, but you know the power of it when you experience it. I will never forget the best friends of my parents coming to the hospital every morning when my mom was dying. They would bring coffee (without asking if anyone wanted it – they just knew we all did) and the newspaper and quietly sit with us.
In Ukraine, the needs are so great that just being there alongside our pastors and partners felt insufficient. But, in the same way that our family friends sat with us, it was significant to be in Kyiv last month.
Before our trip, we reached out to a pastor and his family, who are dear friends and partners, to tell them we were coming and planning to worship at their church. They immediately wrote back and invited us to lunch with them after church. During the week we were there, a member of their church serving in the army was killed on the front lines. He left a wife and 5 kids and the whole church was devastated. The funeral was on Saturday. When we heard about this, we wrote the pastor and offered to cancel our lunch on Sunday so they could rest or spend time with their church family. He wrote back and said, “No, I don’t want to cancel, what I need most is to be with you”. Accompaniment- for the pastors and caregivers who are pouring themselves out in unimaginable ways.
Our ministry team provided chaplain training for 20 pastors, volunteers, and chaplains that came in as strangers from many cities throughout Ukraine, from various denominations, and three days later left as friends. During the last dinner together, many of them commented that they had a new picture of the body of Christ after the time together. The peer-to-peer accompaniment provided was so powerful; we witnessed them practicing scenarios, lamenting, asking questions, eating, sharing stories, and hugging each other. The real fruit came afterwards, when they shared on our group chat about going 2 by 2 to the hospitals visiting wounded soldiers instead of alone. Accompaniment in action.
The third instance where we saw the power of accompaniment on our trip was while we were meeting with different churches and partners – it was clear to us they know what they need to do and they are doing it, but they are simply exhausted. We heard repeatedly, “We need missionaries again. Can you send missionaries – even just one - to help our team/church?” They were not asking for humanitarian aid, money, or training - just accompaniment. Will you join us in praying that God will raise up more long-term workers for Ukraine and Eastern Europe who can support and encourage the ministry going on in Ukraine?
We knew at the beginning of this response that it was going to be a long-term collaborative effort, but next month the war will pass the two year mark. Two years of scattered families, broken communities, death and destruction. Pray with us for an end to the war, for peace in Ukraine and for God to move mightily to end the suffering. You can also give to sustain the long-term response. To date we have raised almost $2 million, but this response will carry on for many years to come even if the war ends tomorrow. We have a goal of $3 million dollars, and we are praying God will open doors so these funds will be used to share the love of Christ and invest in disciple-makers.
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