Written by Pastor Jeff Shearier
We have 3 families that arrived to us just after midnight Thursday night. They escaped from 3 different cities in Ukraine – traveling to the Romanian border and the unknown. They did not know each other before they ended up in a transport van together. They left behind all they knew. Originally there were 30 persons on their way to us but as the time got closer to crossing the border all but 10 had turned back. They had heard scary stories of perhaps being trafficked for organ selling or sex-trafficking. But, these 3 brave families traveled on. The refugees were honest to tell me that Romania was one of the last places they wanted to go, wanting to head further West, but now they see that their reality here is so much better than what they imagined. None of them had ever left Ukraine before. They were not in the first groups to leave Ukraine. Those were people leaving with cars or money for traveling on somewhere further. The families we have now and that will come are those without possibilities of traveling further. These words were written by the director of the Heart of Hope International Ministries located in Sibiu, Romania (heartofhope.org)
Sibiu is eight hours from the Ukrainian border. Heart of Hope International Ministries operates a Christian camp that has offered summer camps for orphans housed in the state-run orphanages. Some of you may have travelled there a few years ago with Douglas and Karen Bernhardt. Heart of Hope is now housing refugees from Ukraine. They are offering a safe place, staffed with faith-filled volunteers and staff, for these who are fleeing a very unsafe situation.
I am sharing this information with you for two reasons.
First, living in Oregon, Ukraine seems a place far away—a place seen in new stories on television. It’s hard to know how to help—or even how to pray—when you don’t have a connection. We do have a connection with Heart of Hope. We’ve seen pictures of the place and the staff as they’ve served the orphans in the past. Now they are doing something to help. If you wish, you can go to the website to see pictures of the families and pray for them. The website can direct you to other ways in which you can help as well.
The second reason for sharing this to show that the Christian church is not retreating in fear. So many stories from our chaotic world would suggest that churches are closing, clergy are disrespected, and the Word of God is ignored. A believer could feel that the Church is in retreat. These pictures, these stories would show otherwise.
There are of course other stories that would show otherwise. New churches are being organized—some in places that would surprise you. Believers and church workers are holding faithful to God’s Word even in the face of persecution. Remember when Jesus said, “You will have suffering in this world. Take courage! I have overcome the world?” (John 16:33)
However, we are not waiting for the world to take its best shot. Jesus describes His Church on the move. In Matthew 16, Jesus assures us that He builds His Church on the “rock” of His Word and “the gates of Hades will not prevail against it.” We are on the move, pushing against those gates—each one forgiven, each one hoping, each one confessing in Jesus’ name—and Hades doesn’t win. Jesus already has! That’s Easter’s news. That’s the ground of our trust and the reason for our mission. It’s also the basis for our…
Joy in the journey,
Pastor Jeff Shearier