Category Archive: Fear

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.

Light in the Darkness

The people who walk in darkness will see a great light. For those who live in a land of deep darkness, a light will shine.

Isaiah 9:2 NLT

This scripture was the theme of our West Coast Christian Writers’ conference last weekend. And I thought how meaningful this verse is at this time in our world. Some of you know my family, and Don’s, emigrated from Ukraine in 1929 (mine) and 1874 (Don’s) in order to pursue freedom of worship and from oppression.

With Mom at great-grandfather’s grave (Abram Frose, later changed to Froese) in Ukraine

I looked through a powerpoint presentation I made after my Mother and I visited Ukraine on a Mennonite Heritage Cruise in 2006, when we were both widowed. A wealth of memories and emotions flooded back, and I wanted to share some of these with you. Most of Ukraine’s people eagerly hold onto their independence (despite those Russia-backed separatist groups Putin is now recognizing). I hope these photos will help put a face to the people and land of Ukraine as we pray for them.

At right is a photo I took of my great-grandfather’s house, with his initials, “AF”, still present in wrought-iron at the peak of the house.

This is the entrance to a root cellar, which became the children’s hiding place when bandits attacked the Mennonite Villages.

Original home of Franz Isaac

At right, a group of six who traveled to my father’s village of Schoeneberg. Our tour leader, Olga Toews, is on the left. This was the home of the grandparents of the two gentlemen in the back, and the woman in babushka and apron was kind enough to invite us in, and to assure the brothers the floor was still solid. Most of these homes had been divided into two or three units by 2006.

Mom and I, along with cousins Irene and Peter Prieb (at right) met two of my father’s cousins for the first time, the women on Mom’s left and right in the photo above. The man behind me is the son of one of these 80-something physicians. Their father had married a Ukrainian woman and so, never left the country. He was later executed.

Amazing variety

Mom and I traveled by boat to a fishermen’s village, where our host and hostess had stayed up all night to prepare an amazing feast for us – traditional vereneki (cottage cheese dumplings), sausage, meatballs, parsley potatoes, cheese herb bread, and much more. Mom got sick on the fruit punch. Perhaps we should have tasted the vodka instead!

According to Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council, “For churches and humanitarian aid workers, the echoes of 2014 and 2015 still haunt {the Ukrainians}. In the last outbreak of violence, ‘We saw more than a million people [displaced],’ Father Vitaliy Novak  remembered. Based on that, he worries, this conflict ‘will be, I think, much more, a bigger size.’ With the clock ticking, he and other organizations are desperately trying to get their hands on medical supplies, clothes, extra food. “We pray to God it [doesn’t] happen,” he said, because for now, “we don’t have any resource[s].”

The New York Times 2/21/22 stated, “While Mr. Putin’s ultimate plans remain a mystery, a full invasion would constitute the largest military action in Europe since World War II.”

Please join us in praying that light might be seen in this very dark situation; and that God’s people will have strength and God’s grace to endure through conflict.

Yes? No? Wait?

Most of us have seen the news: seventeen missionaries, serving Christ in Haiti, abducted. Among them are two teenagers and children aged eight months, three and six years. The missionaries had been brought back to the US and Canada after the assassination of Haiti’s President, but were recently sent back to the country.

In a letter, the families of those abducted said “God has given our loved ones the unique opportunity to live out our Lord’s command to love your enemies.”

The group invited people to join them in prayer for the kidnappers as well as those kidnapped. They expressed gratitude for help from “people that are knowledgeable and experienced in dealing with” such situations.

I grieve for these men and women, for mothers trying to care for an infant and two small children in captivity. These missionaries are from Amish, Mennonite, and other Anabaptist groups, while Don’s and my roots are of Mennonite origin. And I pray for their protection, for grace in their captivity, for their release.

And God cares!

Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you.

I Peter 5:6-8

He also brings hope.

Hope when discouragement seems to reign over the world and our hearts.

Hope when we feel lost inside, fearful.

Hope that comes from his Word, which is still so very relevant today; and from his Spirit within us that speaks truth to us.

So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.

Romans 10:17, ESV

In spite of abduction, war, death, fire, flood, as well as personal challenges, God promises us hope which comes from faith if we will spend time listening to, and reading or hearing his message to us. Faith that what we see is not all there is.

The Bible is God’s love letter to you and me. Who else sent His Son, the eternal Son of God and part of the Triune God, to live among us, to show us the character of God. No other religious leader has died a horrific death, rising three days later to conquer death and offer us eternal life through His sacrifice for us.

Some think God is punishing, vengeful, that he could not possibly forgive what they have done. But look at the promise in John 3:16-17, verses familiar to many of us:

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.

John 3:16-17

His desire is not vengeance, but reconciliation, relationship.

And God’s answers to prayer are not always what we think is best. His answer may be “Wait”, as it was when I longed for my first husband to pop the question! It may be “No,” as it was when people around the world prayed for the release of missionaries Jim Elliott, Nate Saint and three others at the hands of the Auca Indians in 1956. No, God didn’t spare the lives of these five men who were trying to reach a tribe in Ecuador with the Good News about Jesus. But through that murder, and through the continuing faithfulness of Jim Elliott’s widow, Elizabeth and Nate Saint’s sister Rachel, that entire tribe came to faith in Christ. His is a long view, if you will. This earth is but one step in our life’s journey. Eternity will be, well, eternal!

lightning unk on green grass field
Photo by Alexandre Bringer on Pexels.com

And his answer may be “Yes.” The daughter of friends was to be married at two o’clock this afternoon, outdoors in the Santa Cruz mountains. As many of you know, we have a storm today–heavier rains in northern California and in the mountains, with evacuation orders in place for parts of Santa Cruz because of debris and the threat of falling trees.

Don and I have prayed much this week for this wedding. We’ve prayed for rain, and didn’t want to ask God to shut the windows of heaven. We also wanted this family to have a wonderful day of celebration. Impossible to have both? When they planned the wedding the weather was projected to be clear; now there were no canopies available for rent in the area, for either the outdoor wedding or reception.

brown trees under blue sky
Photo by Jelena Juhnevica on Pexels.com

Our pastor told us this morning that another wedding at the outdoor venue cancelled yesterday (Saturday), and our friends moved their wedding up by a day. Photographer, caterers, pastor, all were available a day early and the couple had a wonderful wedding day without rain. I expect many were praying for this, and give glory to God for making a way in a situation that seemed impossible.

I don’t know what God will do with these abducted missionaries. My mind is not his. But I know this. God is good, and he loves each of those seventeen adults and children. And he will work through the resolution of this horrendous situation, whatever it may be. AND, he wants us to ask! Please join me in prayer for them.

Father, good God, please grant your peace to these servants of yours as they wait in captivity. Convict the gang members and show them your love through this group. Provide the grace that's needed for each person, and especially for the parents of the small children as they help their little ones navigate captivity. I pray the group will be able to stay together so they can encourage and uplift each other. Keep your word alive in their hearts. And in your mercy, I ask for their release. Be with their families; and in whatever comes, may your name be lifted up! In Jesus' name.

Amen!

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.

Peace and Goodwill

Advent – the Coming. As we await the arrival of Christmas this year, we focus on hope.

Hope has been elusive this year. Our culture is very much about “now”. We’re used to fast food, getting things we want right away. At Costco, in bulk! We get irritated if we have to wait.

And now we see waiting everywhere — the line around the corner at Marshall’s; another at Petco; still another queue of customers waiting to enter the bank. We’re being stretched with the current restrictions on our activities and on how many people can be in a store at one time, whether we’re waiting for groceries, Christmas shopping, or something else.

But Jesus gives us hope. Isaiah 11:1 promises that God still has a plan. A plan that was carried out by Jesus Christ when He came to earth to walk with us, to die a horrible death and return to life three days later. God will not forget us. He will have the last word.

A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse; from his roots a Branch will bear fruit.

Isaiah 11:1

We can trust him. He is righteous, wise, just …

The Spirit of the Lord will rest on him–the Spirit of wisdom and of understanding, the Spirit of counsel and of might, the Spirit of the knowledge and fear of the Lord … with righteousness he will judge the needy, with justice he will give decisions for the poor of the earth …

Isaiah 11:2-4

And a day is coming when He will make all things right.

  • He will end injustice (11:4) and will rule in righteousness, faithfulness, and be incorruptible
  • He will end conflict (11:6-7)
  • He will end pain (11:9), and
  • He will end ‘religion’ – there will be no need to teach others because knowledge will fill the earth (11:9b).

There is an element of hope as I realize that every day I’m one day nearer to that day of righteousness and peace.

I don’t claim to know what God is up to in our nation, our world during this anxiety-laden time. I do know He wants us to turn to Him in repentance and faith, trusting that He is good, that He has a plan that ends in ultimate glory for those who trust in Him.

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow wrote the words to “I Heard the Bells” lost his beloved wife in 1861. The American Civil War began that same year. The following year his son joined the Union army to fight in the Civil War without his father’s consent. Shortly before Christmas 1863, Longfellow learned of his son’s war injury. The poet’s pen had been dry as he suffered the agony of loss and the depression accompanying the ongoing Civil War. But friends encouraged him to write a poem.

That Christmas morning in 1863, Longfellow heard church bells and wrote this poem.

I heard the bells on Christmas Day
Their old, familiar carols play,
and wild and sweet
The words repeat
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

And thought how, as the day had come,
The belfries of all Christendom
Had rolled along
The unbroken song
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

Till ringing, singing on its way,
The world revolved from night to day,
A voice, a chime,
A chant sublime
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

Then from each black, accursed mouth
The cannon thundered in the South,
And with the sound
The carols drowned
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

It was as if an earthquake rent
The hearth-stones of a continent,
And made forlorn
The households born
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

And in despair I bowed my head;
“There is no peace on earth,” I said;
“For hate is strong,
And mocks the song
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!”

Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:
“God is not dead, nor doth He sleep;
The Wrong shall fail,
The Right prevail,
With peace on earth, good-will to men.”

I wish you peace and good will during this Advent season. However you celebrate, whether alone or with others, be safe, be wise, and rejoice that the Savior of the world, born in a manager so many years ago, is alive and well and working in and through us.

Joy to the World!

What are your plans for Christmas? How can you make it a special time even if not with those you usually join for time together?