Category Archive: Escape

Ukraine Trauma Continues

I missed them in church this morning.

people on concert
Photo by George Webster on Pexels.com

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.

a mother and son hugging
Photo by Ivan Samkov on Pexels.com

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.

  • Language
  • Profitable employment
  • Income
  • Food and Housing
  • Friendships
  • 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.

“Ukraine.”

“Oh my! My father was born there.”

“Really!”

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.

a boy supporting ukraine in a rally
Photo by Sima Ghaffarzadeh on Pexels.com

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.

He heals the brokenhearted

    and binds up their wounds.

Psalm 147:3

Several organizations with feet on the ground in Ukraine, Poland and surrounding countries:

Novo.org/ukraine-crisis

mcc.org/stories/crisis-ukraine

https://www.worldvision.org/disaster-relief-news-stories/ukraine-crisis-facts-faqs-and-how-to-help#what

samaritanspurse.org

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.

PRAYER FOR AFGHANISTAN

Picture a young M*slim woman, physically, emotionally and mentally abused by the husband she was forced to marry at age fourteen. Desperate, near death on occasion, losing several children in the womb. Then Jesus helped her escape. The Jesus she saw in a vision at fourteen when he told her he loved her – this girl who felt unattractive, unloved, unwanted. She didn’t understand then. But later, she gave herself fully to Jesus as she learned who this Man was who appeared to her in her teens.

Satan tempts her at times with the fear of the past, the scars she’s borne. But she fights him with the full armor of God.

“Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm.” 

Ephesians 6:10-13

The elements of that armor?

  • The Belt of Truth
  • The Breastplate of Righteousness
  • Readiness to share the gospel of peace
  • The Shield of faith, with which to extinguish the evil one’s attacks
  • The Helmet of Salvation
  • The Sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God, and
  • Praying at all times in the Spirit for all the saints.
smiling woman wearing hijab
Photo by Cedric Fauntleroy on Pexels.com
This is a representative photo and is not the woman I write about

This young woman has fought against evil and is finding freedom from the memories, the scars of her past, and I praise God for her life and her testimony.

And now we see desperate people trying to flee Afghanistan in the wake of our withdrawal of troops and the takeover by the Taliban. Oh, how we need to pray for these people, beloved by God who gave His Son that ALL might know Him. I can’t even imagine the terror they feel as they rush the airport, cling to airplanes from which they fall to their deaths, as they try desperately to flee a horrible regime.

I know many of us are praying for the Christians who will be sought out and persecuted, likely killed. Franklin Graham has called for today, Sunday 8/22, to be a Day of Prayer for Afghanistan, especially for Christians and those who have worked with America. I am copying here a prayer by Anne Graham Lotz (daughter of Billy Graham) for the people of Afghanistan.

“…I cannot shake the very heavy burden I feel to pray for Afghanistan. The following is a summary of how I am praying as I pour out my heart before God. Please join me if you feel led:

Creator of the Universe. Ruler of All. Lord of the Nations. Are You not the Judge of all the earth? If my heart is broken…shattered…over what’s taking place in Afghanistan, what must Your great heart feel? So I come to You and plead Your mercy for Your people who are now hiding in basements, caves, any hole they can find, knowing that demonic forces will not stop until Your people are found and slaughtered. So I pray for Your people…followers of Jesus…to be supernaturally protected and delivered. Send Your angel armies to surround Your people, as You did for Elisha (2 Kings 6). Blind the enemy so they cannot locate Your people in hiding. Didn’t You teach us Yourself that when we pray, we are to pray that we would be delivered from evil? (Matthew 6) So. Deliver Your people. By any means. Please. But if You do not, and if You allow Your people to be slaughtered, then I pray that You would give dying grace to each and every one of them. Men. Women. Children. Fill them with Your supernatural peace. Give them a vision of Heaven opened for them, as You did for Stephen in Acts 7. Open their eyes to see You, Lord Jesus, standing at the right hand of the Father, waiting to welcome them Home and give them a martyr’s crown.

And then I pray…yes I do… for the fullness of Your wrath to fall on the evil perpetrators, whether they are in Kabul or Tehran or Washington, DC. Holy God. Avenge Your people. I know You hear this prayer. Now I wait to see how You will answer. Even so, come Lord Jesus. Surely it’s time for You to be glorified in all the earth. For the sake of Your great name, Amen”

Anne Graham Lotz

Please join me in this prayer. May God keep His sovereign hand on His precious people.

post by carolnl | | 2

MIRACLES … AND NEEDS

Friends of ours invited parents of a former refugee and immigrant to Canada to stay with them when they came to visit their M*slm background Christian son in Canada. That was two years and 10 months ago. This family comes from a nation where persecution against Christians is strong and violent. Previously, a brother and sister chose to become believers and suffered heavy persecution in their homeland. When life became too dangerous, they fled to a nearby country, where they have been living as refugees.

An aerial view of a Refugee Camp
Aerial view of one refugee camp

When the parents left their country to visit their son in Canada, they were allowed to leave with the stipulation that they give poison pills to their Christian children who had become apostate. They took the pills with them, but disposed of them and didn’t act on those orders.

Another son back in their country has been badly beaten and suffered much because of his siblings choosing to follow Jesus, and possibly because he himself has now become a believer.  The parents think that he is a believer because he had been so eager to learn about Jesus and later, after the police stopped and searched him one time, he told his parents, “They don’t know that what I have is on the inside.”

Through conversations with their children, with our friends (through translation), and through the love of Christian community, the parents have both become Christians. Their immigration hearing was Friday this week. As they and our friends met with their lawyer, she thought their testimony was not very good (because of their poor memories and communication… possibly because of the trauma and PTSD) and they might lose the case. She was not encouraging and actually made the process difficult and frustrating for all of them.

Thursday night many of us joined a zoom prayer meeting where we “met” the parents online for the first time. What a joy to pray together with other believers that S and T would be able to remain in Canada, but above that, that God’s will be done, even if that meant a return to their country to be a witness and suffer for Jesus’ sake. We didn’t know which way the hearing would go, but knew already that one obstacle had been removed. A key government figure who planned to oppose their asylum request was no longer going to be involved.

The next morning, at least 106 of us had committed to pray during the hearing, many at specific times. Don and I prayed for those who would hear their testimony, that the parents would receive grace and favor and be at peace in this situation. Early in the afternoon, we received an email with a YAAAAAAAAAY Victory! in the subject line. I ran to find Don. The female decision maker had read all of the documentation our friend prepared (over 300 pages) the day before the hearing, and realized this couple would indeed be persecuted if they returned to their country. She granted them Permanent Residency and after five years they can apply to become citizens.

We were in tears, and we certainly know they were!! Tears of joy, of watching a miracle of God take place. There are lots of steps ahead–our friends’ church has hired them as janitors. They need to learn more English and at some point probably move out on their own. Our friends have worked tirelessly to help them, and they need respite.

But God is so gracious in granting this huge miracle!

Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.

I Peter 5:7, NIV

So we see God’s mighty hand at work on the one hand; and we plead for his mercy and care for so many other needs. God is a good Father and his ways are higher than ours. But we know there is significant pain all around us.

What can we do?

First, pray. Pray for those you know who are hurting, in need, lonely, afraid, sick. We so often think of prayer as a last resort when it should be our first. I love the way THE MESSAGE often refers to God’s name: God-of-Angel-Armies! Wow, to think our prayers can help move that mighty army!

Reminds me of a true story of an escape from Russia to China over the Amur River in 1929 Bolshevik Russia. The 26 escapees watched for times of shift change, when the smallest number of guards were on duty. They left at midnight, trying to keep babies from crying, horses from whinnying. They were never fired on and reached China safely. When the superiors questioned the two guards the next morning, they said “There were armed guards all around the group. We had no chance.”

Second, step in where you can. Visit, listen, share the love of Jesus with those who are open, bring cards, food or flowers–the list will vary depending on your life circumstances, location, etc.

Third, if you can, give to organizations that have integrity in reaching desperate needs…

  • worldvision.org
  • samaritanspurse.org
  • mcc.org
  • mercyships.org

Or to on-campus ministries to reach our students:

  • intervarsity.org
  • cru.org

And your local church likely gives a portion of its budget to missions and to community needs. We were part of one church which has given over a million meals to Second Harvest Food Bank; and joined with other local churches after a local tragedy shook our community. Together, the churches provided resources for counseling for the mothers of both the 15-year-old boy and of the eight-year-old girl he murdered.

We are the Church, Christ’s body here on earth. We’re in a spiritual battle and need to engage as he leads us. My way may be different than yours; and yours, than your neighbors’.

So let’s rejoice in God’s still-miraculous work, and pray for his guidance, his heart in us for the world around us.

What’s your Family History?

In researching Mennonite history for a novel I’m writing, I found the story of a whole village that escaped Russia through Siberia and over the Amur River to China, from where they went to Canada, the United States, and South America.

This was 1929, when the anti-God Communist government was imposing collectivization. They took property from individuals, leaving them barely able to provide for their families. They arrested and executed or sent to labor camps those who owned a horse or cow, machinery—or taught Sunday school or wrote letters to family in North America or Europe.

My grandfather was a minister/farmer; his family, including my father, was in the last group to receive exit visas from Moscow in 1929.

My grandfather, 3rd from left, back row, before he was married. Photo taken about 1900 in the Ukraine.

Others were desperate enough to escape illegally. One such route was over the Amur River in Siberia into China, and from there to the Americas.

Border guards were constantly on the lookout as the Amur was only about a mile wide at the point they planned to cross to China. Escape attempts were fraught with tension. Leaders tried to time their escapes in mid-day when they thought no sane person would cross the river; later in the afternoon when the guards were less well staffed; in the brilliance of the setting sun which they hoped would blind the guards temporarily; or at shift change between 11 and 12 pm.

The entire village of Shumanovsk (Siberia) planned to leave together–a very risky business with 60 sleighs and 217 people. They had to cross the Amur when it was frozen over. Villagers had been hiding sleighs and goods in their barns in preparation. The leaders knew there were several in the village they couldn’t trust to keep the plans to themselves. So they waited until late one night, then went door to door, knocking softly. “We leave in one hour.”

They approached the two homes of those they didn’t fully trust. “We leave in one hour. You come with us, or not, but we are going.” No time to warn the border guards.

There were some tragedies on the journey–several sleighs broke down and had to be repaired or their occupants shifted to other sleighs while crossing the river; and at least one baby was smothered as his mother tried to keep him from crying out. But the group reached China, across the river, as a whole.

In stories from two sources I read that the group learned later that the two border guards who were supposed to be watching for nighttime crossings were arrested. They were asked why they didn’t stop the group or call for help.

The men’s response was that they saw a large group of armed men around the group and supposed they could not overpower them, so they left them alone. The refugees thanked God for the guardian angels protecting them.

I think in these days we need to hear stories like this. I need them! While many have suffered and still do suffer for their faith, we need to be reminded of stories of God’s deliverance as well. And we need to remember that whatever comes, He will be with us–whether that’s by guardian angels surrounding us or by taking us Home to heaven.

Our pastor reminded us this morning that GOD IS GOOD. His character is good, and He does not change. So whether it’s Coronavirus, divisive politics, or anything else stressing us, we can rely on His goodness, knowing He uses even bad things for His own purposes.

For the Lord is good; his steadfast love endures forever, and his faithfulness to all generations.

Psalm 100:5