I missed them in church this morning.
A couple of months ago a new family came to our church. My friend Susan told me they just arrived from Ukraine–a widowed mother, her two daughters and a nephew. The first morning they were in church I delighted in watching the twelve-year old boy clap along as we sang our praises to God..
Imagine being in a new country, with a new language and customs. You have no money, no ability to find decent work to support yourself and your children.
This week, Dmytro, the boy (names changed) flew to Switzerland to be reunited with his mother. I saw a video that brought tears to my eyes as the two gripped each other. His mother kissed her son all over his face, and the look on his face was one of pure joy. What will their future hold?*
And it appears the mother and her beautiful daughters may also return to Ukraine soon, after visiting another area to assess possibilities in America. I pray for their protection, and for the millions of others suffering under the current war.
Their presence brought us together as a church in meaningful ways, from volunteers to pick the children up from school, to financial assistance, to prayer, to gifts and toys, to some English tutoring, outings, etc. When I asked if they had translators in the last few weeks of our American schools, Dmytro said no. But Larysa said “Yes, Google Translate”. Not easy to use Google Translate for a phrase or a concept! But learning to know these new friends gives me a renewed perspective on refugees’ needs on arrival in a new country.
- Profitable employment
- Food and Housing
- Faith, which may be practiced in a different way than their prior experience;
- and much more.
So yes, I missed them this morning. Missed seeing their lovely faces and greeting them with hugs. Our church felt a bit emptier than when they were here. This family has blessed us, as we have blessed them. I pray we will be open to others whom God sends our way.
According to World Vision, children make up half of all Ukrainian refugees. “The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) reports some two million children have fled the country, with another 2.5 million displaced within Ukraine…The U.N. has said that another Ukrainian child is becoming a refugee nearly every second, and that more than one of every two Ukrainian children are now displaced.” For very helpful FAQs and more information, see https://www.worldvision.org/disaster-relief-news-stories/ukraine-crisis-facts-faqs-and-how-to-help#what
Friday evening we met Mila, a Nordstrom seamstress who altered some slacks for me. I thought her accent was Eastern European, so asked about her home country.
“Oh my! My father was born there.”
I asked about her family. Mila, her husband and children are here, but her parents and siblings remain in Ukraine. I told her we are praying for her country, and would pray for her family. It was a warm conversation with care expressed on both sides.
A letter to Philip Yancey from his Ukrainian publisher said that Zaporozhye, a city near where my father grew up, with a population of 710,000, has taken in another 200,000 refugees fleeing other areas where the battle rages. While they may be without scratches or burns, they are traumatized emotionally.
Imagine terror that impacts you so you cannot even speak.
Imagine constant sirens going off, the ever-present fear that you may die.
Imagine being a child, separated from your parents and/or other family members.
While Ukraine is no longer as prominent in the news as it was two months ago, let us continue to pray for, and become involved as we can, with the people there and with refugees in need of help.
Ukraine is not the only country facing such monstrous challenges. Whenever we learn to know individuals and their stories, God opens our hearts. We can be part of God’s healing the brokenhearted!
There are also believers who continue to minister beyond their own fears and insecurities to bring hope to many in need. They too need our prayer and support, not only for physical, but for emotional and mental coverage.
Several organizations with feet on the ground in Ukraine, Poland and surrounding countries:
Have you become acquainted with refugees from another country? How has the experience impacted you?
*These photos are representative, and for security reasons, are not photos of the real people I talk about.