Category Archive: Protection

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.

GPS and a Shepherd

I had just gotten into my SUV after the Sunday school class and had not asked for directions. But my phone’s GPS popped up with “17 minutes to Evergreen Valley Church.” I have been attending a Sunday school class at another church, then scooting home to pick Don up and go to Evergreen (EVC), our home church. How did my GPS know where I was going next? Hmmmm, think someone/thing is tracking?

Pastor Tim is teaching on Psalm 23 this month. He challenged us to memorize this psalm, and to use it as a basis for thanksgiving. There is so much wealth in this poem. We need to start with God–always; it’s so easy to start from my point of view, my circumstances. But the Psalmist begins, “The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not want.”

The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.
   He makes me lie down in green pastures.
He leads me beside still waters.
    He restores my soul.
He leads me in paths of righteousness
    for his name’s sake.

Psalm 23:1-3, ESV
freepngimg.com

When I start with my circumstances I can easily become disheartened, overwhelmed, and even numb. But when I look to God first and ask what He is doing through my circumstances, I have a different perspective.

He is my shepherd, right now. My GPS, my personal guidance system, from now ’til eternity. You don’t see sheep running around on their own, like you might wild Mustangs. Sheep are totally dependent on their shepherd for food, water and protection.

And so am I. I live in a country where independence is highly valued. Self-reliance can become a barrier to trusting God. But I’ve often been reminded of my need to rely on my Good Shepherd…

  1. When I, and the staff women with whom I lived in the inner city, were threatened with death and mutilation
  2. When I had to trust God for financial provision while working in a non-profit
  3. When I have choices to make that will either further my agenda, or His
  4. When I lost a beloved husband to death
  5. When I’m weary and my husband needs help with his computer and I need my shepherd’s “green pastures” and “still waters” to respond rightly
  6. When my neighbor is critically ill and I feel helpless in knowing what to say, and God just helps me love her
  7. When family members and dear friends suffer with chemo and Covid and loss, and I cry out to Him for them

We are made to have companionship with the Lord, to rely on Him, to trust in Him. These words of Isaiah are familiar to many because they are repeated in Handel’s MESSIAH:

He will tend his flock like a shepherd;

    he will gather the lambs in his arms;

he will carry them in his bosom,

    and gently lead those that are with young.

Isaiah 40:11

Within the twenty-third Psalm is the wonderful truth that as our Shepherd, God leads, guides, and directs our paths. How often have I headed one direction to have Him turn me around, sometimes painfully.

  • The man I thought I’d marry (which would not have been His best for me)
  • The career choices I made with His guidance
  • Asking forgiveness of others where needed because of His Spirit’s conviction
  • The two lovely men I did marry, and the blessings of each
  • And the joy of serving God in a variety of ways over the years.

There’s much more in this Psalm yet, but for this week, these scriptures will be my focus.

Where have you experienced God as your Shepherd?

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 | | Closed

Anniversary and a Funeral

Have you found that joy and pain coexist in your life, that they cycle through your days, weeks, months? I was reminded of that again this week.

Last Monday I opened the front door to see a beautiful mixed bouquet of flowers and a sweet stuffed bear, along with a note from my loving husband on our eleventh anniversary.

Our marriage is a second chance at love for both of us after losing our first partners. A God thing. After being widowed awhile, I asked the Lord if He had someone else for me, to sort of “drop him into my lap.” I had no desire to be part of the dating scene after being married to a wonderful man for twenty years. Don had prayed a similar prayer.

And, at a widow and widowers’ grief recovery meeting two years after Jerry’s death, there he was…dropped into my world, as it were (and I into his). Handsome, tall, white-haired, and kind. So kind, not only to me but to both the women and the other men in the group.

Our marriage has survived the normal ups and downs, and a few extra that come with the assumptions and expectations of extended family members. We’ve experienced the delight of traveling, being in small groups together, cooking together, planning for our future, laughing at our dog, Paige’s, antics, just “being” together, and learning to know and love each other’s families. There’s been a lot of joy packed into these years.

Then yesterday I attended a zoom memorial service for Virgil, who was a teenager when I met him in the inner city of Los Angeles. He was one of the teens in our Bible clubs, teen choir, and activities. My memories of him are of a very pleasant, sweet young man.

After 38 years, I reconnected with Virgil two years ago at a World Impact women’s reunion when he came to pick up his wife, Robin. Still gracious, kind, loving his wife.

And during Virgil’s memorial service, I learned so much more about his life in those intervening years. He ministered with World Impact for twenty-seven years, then started a church. His sudden and unexpected death in late December was a shock to all of us.

I had forgotten that our staff came to know Virgil when, as a 12-year old boy, he broke into one of our staff homes. That was a turning point in his life as the men on staff took an interest in him, taught him about Jesus Christ and a new way of life. And Virgil responded with a heart that hungered to know more about his God.

So, despite tears and sorrow, his service was a celebration. A celebration of Virgil’s life, his ministry, and most of all, his love for God and his family. Friends told of his faithful follow-up by text or phone; his care for others; one said he was the first good example of a black father this younger man had seen. And I pray for comfort and healing for Virgil’s wife and children, and his loving, extended family. The lion of pain has invaded their hearts.

So, joy and sorrow, grief and gratitude, constantly in flux in our lives. I praise God for those faithful men who built into Virgil’s life, who then built into the lives of others for the glory of God.

Reminds me of Daniel, who was captive under four Babylonian kings: Nebuchadnezzar, Belshazzar, Darius, and Cyrus. Because of Daniel’s “excellent spirit” during that captivity, he served each ruler faithfully, not saying what they wanted to hear, but speaking the truth as God revealed it to him. And he kept getting promoted to higher positions.

During those years he developed a habit of kneeling to pray in front of an open window that faced Jerusalem, his home. He did this faithfully three times a day.

And when he became one of the most powerful leaders in the country under Darius, others became jealous and tried to trap him. But they realized they couldn’t accuse him of anything regarding the kingdom because he was faithful in his duties and they couldn’t find fault with him (Daniel 6:4). So they said “Let’s find a complaint against him regarding his faith in God.”

They tricked the king into writing a decree that, once sealed, could not be changed or undone. The decree stated that anyone who asked any request of someone other than the king for the next 30 days would be put into the den of lions! Whew…a terrifying thought!

close up photo of lion s head
Photo by Alexas Fotos on Pexels.com

But when Daniel heard the edict, he went home, knelt and prayed in front of that open window three times a day, just as he always had (Daniel 6:10). He knew his detractors would see him. He could have prayed in his bedroom, away from the window. But he trusted his God. And when King Darius, horrified, realized the trap into which he had been led, and from which he could find no escape, he said to Daniel, “May your God, whom you serve continually, deliver you!”

Moody Publishers / FreeBibleimages.org

That night, as Daniel walked, prayed, slept–we’re not told–the king fasted, tossed and turned all night. Early in the morning he rushed to the lions’ den, groaning in anguish. He cried, “O Daniel, servant of the living God, has your God, whom you serve continually, been able to deliver you from the lions?” Then Daniel said to the king, “O king, live forever! My God sent his angel and shut the lions’ mouths, and they have not harmed me, because I was found blameless before him, and also before you, O king, I have done no harm.” (Daniel 6:20-22).

The short story is that Daniel was taken out of the lions’ den and his accusers thrown in and killed.

May I, may we who trust in our God, Lord, Savior, King–stand firm as Daniel did, trusting God in our times of joy or promotion; and of sorrow and loss. Grief will come; joy will brighten some of our days. But in all, our God has promised to be with us as He was with Daniel. And whether we are liberated without a scratch, as Daniel was, or our God takes us to Himself, He is with us. Blessed be the name of our God!

At this, the administrators and the satraps tried to find grounds for charges against Daniel in his conduct of government affairs, but they were unable to do so. They could find no corruption in him, because he was trustworthy and neither corrupt nor negligent.

Daniel 6:4

Question: Do you know someone like Daniel? Consistent, trustworthy, faithful, walking with his or her God? I’d love to hear about that person’s impact in your life.