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One Year of War

For 365 days, Ukraine has been on the center stage of history. This has been a year of unprecedented hardship for our Josiah Venture Ukraine team serving God in the midst of a full-scale war. Yet for such as time as this, our team has been living out God’s great story. Some people pity us; others fear for us! Some people question our willingness to stay; others are a little envious of such a calling! Regardless of how you might view the situation, join me in reflecting on the living hope of Jesus that has sustained us as we approach the one-year commemoration of the attacks of February 24, 2022. 

Three key observations come to mind as I attempt to summarize quite possibly the hardest year of our lives: War has changed us for good. The Scriptures come alive in suffering. God is on the move.

1. War has changed us for good.

Our team in Ukraine is made up of 25 full-time staff who have all been changed by this tragedy. People have asked us, “how has this war changed you?” and we honestly answer that no segment of our lives remains untouched by 365 days of war. Yet somehow, by the grace of God, we can declare that the positive changes outweigh the negative. For example:

  • Our souls are deeper, leading to new depths of relationships and Gospel conversations everywhere. When you stop counting on tomorrow, your todays become richer and more significant. 
  • We are more compassionate with those we encounter because every person you meet is carrying a heavy burden. 
  • We catch ourselves in the middle of complaining and quickly repent. Any instability or discomfort I may feel at the moment doesn’t compare to what people in Eastern and Southern Ukraine are experiencing. We choose gratitude that we have a roof over our heads and can still minister in this beloved land.
  • We are strangely comfortable with danger because the Lord has proven to be our physical shield and refuge. These are no longer abstract concepts. 
  • We are more anchored in Jesus Christ as our suffering servant. As we console others and ourselves, we resonate with his ultimate suffering that led to victory over sin and death. 
  • Our faith has been severely tested by the fire of 1 Peter 1, and by His grace, we are still standing. The Church is still standing. Our purpose and mission are alive.
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2. The Scriptures come alive on the path of suffering.

A unique result of the past year is that the Josiah Venture Ukraine team has had little choice but to read the Bible through a lens of war and suffering. In doing this, we experience fresh Biblical truth maybe never experienced before in Christian life.  For example, my heart soars with:                

  • every gut-wrenching Psalm 
  • every woe of Job and every firm answer from God
  • every contrast of the wise man and the foolish man from the Proverbs
  • every run-in with Pharaoh and every conversation with a foreign king
  • every battle scene for the Promised Land and every supernatural miracle in Israel’s wars
  • every wall rebuilt in the tumultuous history of Jerusalem
  • every comforting word of Jesus
  • every thousand that were added to the church in the face of persecution
  • every promise of Revelation that fast-forwards us to final victory

I believe we identify with the story of God so deeply because the Bible is the ultimate drama of good versus evil. We see ourselves in this adventure every single day as we teach at youth group in the dark, as we head to the bomb shelters during leadership training conferences, as we text one another when rockets fly over the nation, as we share generators through winter power outages, as we preach the constant message that today is the day of salvation, and as we spur one another on to be messengers of hope, even when we catch ourselves growing weary of doing good. The Scripture has genuinely come alive as our story too.

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3. God is on the move, especially in Europe.

As scriptures come alive through the path of suffering, every Bible verse has potential new significance. Take, for example, the introduction to Peter’s epistle. While this is a greeting that may get skimmed over by some, to those who feel like “elect exiles of the Dispersion” or for those of us working with such people, we pause and take keen notice.

To those who are elect exiles of the Dispersion in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia, according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, in the sanctification of the Spirit, for obedience to Jesus Christ and for sprinkling with his blood: May peace be multiplied to you. 1 Peter 1:1-2

8 million Ukrainians are refugees outside of Ukraine’s borders, with 5 million of them in Europe. Several million more are internally displaced inside Ukraine. Tens of thousands of Ukrainians have been mobilized in the military. Looking at the situation with spiritual eyes, we take note of this supernatural dispersion of Ukrainian believers. According to the foreknowledge of God the good Father, we have been elected for this unsolicited migration. We did not choose this dispersion, but God is using it to draw many to himself. The Ukrainian refugee crisis has woken up the European Church to serve the hurting. The Ukrainian Church is exploding across Europe. The Church inside Ukraine is more unified than ever before. This war is destroying pretenses against Protestant believers (a consequence of Communist ideology). The Gospel is going forth in places of power, like in the presidency and in city halls. We get daily reports of souls being saved because the Church is living out its calling like never before.

God knew this was going to be a long battle ahead for our team and our nation. This is what Peter is referring to as the “sanctification of the Spirit, for obedience to Jesus Christ.” God foreknew that it would not end in a few weeks like we naively hoped at the beginning. We have all been washed in humility; we have had to surrender many hopes and dreams of what could have been. We confess that it is not our will but his that is being done.

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People ask why God hasn’t stopped the war yet, and “what will it finally take to stop this war?” Those are questions no human has the answers to. Only a supernatural intervention from the hand of a miracle-working God can stop the plans of a seething enemy who knows his days are numbered. God has not stopped this war for reasons we cannot fathom. He sees a future that we cannot see, and he understands the importance of eternity more than we can. He sees every person who has surrendered his or her life to Jesus as a result of this conflict. This war has not changed God. He remains worthy to be trusted, even when we are not getting our hearts’ desires. 

So in the meantime, we live between the date of our upheaval, February 24, 2022, and some unknown future date when God will change the tides, just like the first church of the Dispersion. In the beginning of a letter about hope in suffering, Peter’s first wish for those scattered was that “peace may be multiplied to you.” The Lord’s peace has been multiplied to the Josiah Venture Ukraine team. We are elect. We are being sanctified. We are trying to be obedient. And the presence of God the Father, the Spirit, and Jesus Christ is with us as we face day 366 and whatever else is to come.

Listen to a national reflecting on the war in Ukraine



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