by Rolfe Carawan
God's Covering and Answered Prayer In Ukraine
As we have travelled through Ukraine, God has been opening wide the door to minister to those being terrorized by Russian shelling and drone attacks into residential areas.
We were also provided the privilege of meeting with medics and soldiers on the front lines near Donetsk. As I shared in my last blog about our time in Izum and Niu York, I want to focus on our time here in Novomoskovsk and Donetsk.
We are staying with Pastor Stepan and Vera Bokoch and their beautiful family. This is a home full of grace and laughter and much food. Great food, I might add!
Seriously, the hospitality of the Ukrainian people is truly remarkable. They go out of their way to provide everything their guests need and most of what they might want. This is a large family of four adult children and several grandchildren. What I find instructive is their care for one another through fairly well-defined roles - each, in service of the others, along with their guest. It’s quite a dance to behold.
This family, like most Ukrainian families, spends a great deal of time lingering around the table after a meal, sharing their plans or reflecting on the day’s journey. In our Transformed Living home mentoring experience, Lea identified the “Table Principle,” as she observed the many, many benefits having time together brings to the marriage, the kids, and now the grandkids. I wondered aloud what a study to identify the average amount of time a Ukrainian family spends around the table with family and friends. A lot! That is all I can say.
Jerry noted that it must work as most Ukrainian families are close-knit and relatively healthy. However, I am the worst at just sitting around a table “chewing the fat,” as we say in the South. But I am inspired to do a better job at this, trusting that it will improve my relationships with my family and others. (Suspend your disbelief…miracles do happen.)
General to General
On Tuesday, May 9, because of our desire to meet with the soldiers, as Jerry did last Fall, we had lunch with a retired army General that has been pressed back into service due to the war. As you can imagine, the General is extremely busy, and we recognized this as a divine appointment.
Though running a bit behind, the General arrived with his driver for a brief meeting to share with us what we might be able to provide his soldiers that would be greatly appreciated. As this 83-year-old man entered the room, all rose to greet him. Standing very erect with no hint of a smile, he shook hands with those whom he knew.
He then turned to Jerry. At first, the General greeted Jerry as he had done to all before him. Suddenly, something marvelous occurred. The General recognized Jerry, having met him some seven years earlier in a city where Jerry ministered. Oh, if only I had my camera rolling so that I might share this scene with you. This stoic General’s face lit up, and with a massive smile, he pulled Jerry to himself and gave him a huge hug!
As I watched this embrace of mutual respect, it was clear that these were two chiseled Generals representing their respective Kingdoms. One for Ukraine, the other for God’s Kingdom. The atmosphere became charged immediately. The two were like-hearted comrades that had survived their separate battles with yet plenty of fight left in them.
We sat down (can you guess where), and the General began sharing his journey as well as a little briefing of what he was seeing in this terrible war. True to form, Jerry injected God’s word and promises into the conversation. A conversation that went so well, the General canceled his next appointment so that we could spend more time together.
We discovered what we could provide for his men…toiletries, shampoo, body wipes, toothbrushes and toothpaste, and the mother of all necessities, chocolate! Oh, and a couple of chainsaws would be very helpful. Due to your financial support, we were able to provide everything the General requested for up to one hundred soldiers.
Things that are so basic to us in our daily lives are luxuries on the battlefield. Thanks to everyone who gave their time to pray and those who could give financially. To those who wonder if their prayers matter…THEY MATTER!
It would be impossible for me to overestimate the importance of your prayers! They were answered in both great and small ways. From the unity and favor we experienced all along the way to God’s clear protection from harm or injury, though shelling continues throughout Ukraine.
Especially here in eastern Ukraine. We would arrive in a town or village or city to learn that they had been under attack the day before and would be attacked after we had left.
Seriously, if this happened just once, you might be tempted to chalk it up to good timing. When it occurs a second time, you are likely to take notice. But to have it happen three times in a row, the last being just a few kilometers from open battle, you must acknowledge God’s divine providence in response to your (and I mean yours’) prayers!
When, on Wednesday, we were granted the opportunity to go to the front lines, the Colonel warned us that there was active shelling. We acknowledged as such and were still convinced that we were to go. We put on the protective vest and helmets they gave us and headed out.
We first arrived at the medical station and met the doctors and EMT’s serving there. We could hear small arms firing near us and the louder, more familiar, large guns, rockets, and missiles further away.
Because our escort was a Colonel, the officers had to give us some attention, but at first, it was less than warm. However, as we asked questions and they shared their responsibilities, things started to defrost. Then Jerry turned the conversation to that of their families, and as I had witnessed time and time again, God’s love melted hearts.
We were soon asked if we would share tea with them as they continued their stories. In the middle of one such recitation, there were heard new voices just outside. As if it were by now a natural reflex, two of the medical staff sprang into action, believing it was a wounded soldier being brought in.
These brave men and women normally see 6-10 or more soldiers a day as they frantically work to save their lives. Gratefully, it was not someone wounded, but men from the intelligence service coming to get us so we might visit them. But the fact that it wasn’t another injured soldier was remarkable because, if I got the interpretation correctly, there had not been any wounded that day, and it was after 5 pm our time. Amazing is our God!
Lastly, we were given the opportunity to visit with one of the intelligence units, and I was afforded another opportunity to witness God’s favor in action. We had nearly 45 minutes with the unit, and it was very moving. At about mid-way in our conversation, the Colonel stood in the doorway and began to give testimony of how God answered his prayers for his wife when she became deathly ill.
Jerry and I were both a bit stunned by this man’s transparency. Highly unusual, to say the least. Honesty and greater liberty were now evident as the others shared. By the end of our time, we were laughing with our new-found friends. It was hard to leave them.
I share this with a desire that you will be able to recognize how truly valuable you are to the success of this and any other mission God has you take part in.
We are thankful for the opportunity to see and experience the power of God’s love in action. And we are deeply grateful for you! Thank you for praying and partnering in this worthy endeavor.
To Jesus be ALL the honor, glory, and praise forever and ever! Amen