A Month of War in Ukraine

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A Month of War in Ukraine: Perspective from Central Ukraine

Story by Benjamin Morrison
Photos courtesy of Calvary Chapel Svitlovodsk

This is a first-person account from Benjamin Morrison, pastor of Calvary Chapel Svitlovodsk, Ukraine. The city’s location in Central Ukraine makes it a crossroads and temporary place of refuge for many of those fleeing the heavy bombing and fighting in many parts of the war-torn country.

A full month has passed since Russia began its full-scale war on Ukraine. It’s odd to write that: a month of war. Back when this started, none of us knew how things would play out or how long it would last. We probably expected that this would all be over by now. But it’s not.

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Since the war began, Calvary Chapel Svitlovodsk has been helping to meet the practical and spiritual needs of refugees fleeing the war in Ukraine. Svitlovodsk is located in Central Ukraine at a crossroads on the way to the bordering countries. Most refugees stay just a short time; however, with the overcrowding in the Western Ukrainian cities, some evacuees are choosing to stay in Svitlovodsk long-term.

It’s ironically comforting to know that [Russian President] Putin definitely thought this would be over by now as well—but, then again, he’s made numerous miscalculations so far. He did not count on how hard and how well Ukrainians would fight against his wicked schemes. He did not count on losing more Russian soldiers in Ukraine over the course of a month (15,600 as of March 23) than he did in the Chechen wars in two years. While the suffering and loss and death are real—God is showing forth His victory in the midst of it.

He only is my rock and my salvation; He is my defense; I shall not be greatly moved. Psalm 62:2

As things have continued on, we here have changed and adapted as well. Most people in most places in the country don’t react when the air raid sirens go off. This is a stark contrast to how everyone promptly headed for bomb shelters as soon as the sirens sounded during the first days. Now, people have learned to listen for what kind of artillery is being fired and how far away it is. Thankfully, we here in Svitlovodsk have still not heard anything close—only some faint explosions in the distance, or missiles flying overheard on their way to some other location.

                  

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At this point we’ve had well over 100 refugees who have stayed in our church building. Many during the beginning stayed only for a night before continuing west as fast as possible. But the further out we get, the longer they tend to stay. The reality is that the big cities in the west of Ukraine are already severely overcrowded. With 12 million internally displaced Ukrainians (not counting the 3.5 million refugees to other countries), it’s not surprising.

This means that more and more refugees are looking for other options for relocation. As our city has remained peaceful, more and more people are looking to stay here, despite the fact that we are further east than Kyiv. Over the last week we’ve helped four different families to find long-term places to rent. This means that our relationships with the refugees are also becoming more long-term.

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Men from CC Svitlovodsk load a van with large bags of flour. That flour will be delivered to a hot point near the fighting to provide what is needed to make desperately needed bread.

It seems that, recently, the opportunities to share the Gospel have similarly become more of a “long game.” Some of the recent refugees who have stayed in our building have been outright atheists or at least not particularly open. I’ve found myself having lots of long, apologetic-type conversations (though always at their request—I'm not about to debate a shaken refugee if they aren't interested). And as a bonus, the ministry team that's present is getting a crash course in apologetics!

One guy, Andrey, has been staying at our church for the last few days. After a lengthy conversation on the nature of morality, hell, etc., I gave him C.S. Lewis’s Mere Christianity, and he has slowly been making progress in it. I expect it's only a matter of time before the Lord breaks through. Sometimes the plowing stage takes a while before seeds can be planted, but we are grateful that the increase is all from God, whatever part He might grant us to play in the process.

Recently our family also decided to do something we haven’t done since the war started: take a day off. When everything was chaos and adrenaline in the beginning, taking a day off seemed impossible. But it has become obvious that we need to approach this less like a sprint and more like a marathon, and that means pacing ourselves. We grabbed lunch out. We went on a nature walk in the beautiful spring weather. We got the summer tires put on our cars. We watched the end of the sunset over our reservoir. And most importantly, we didn’t go to the church building at all. We still had a few questions that had to be solved during the day by phone, but we were able to mostly unplug and recharge.

But You, O LORD, are a shield for me, my glory and the One who lifts up my head. Psalm 3:3

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Both city residents and refugees attended last Sunday’s service at CC Svitlovodsk. Pastor Benjamin Morrison has had the opportunity to share the Gospel with refugees. Some have engaged in him in long, apologetic-type conversations.

We are reminded that Christ is our Keeper; He is our strength and our song. He is the One who gives us victory and certainly doesn’t need us to do His work—though He delights to include us. I was blessed to end the day by joining a short prayer meeting in Dublin (via Zoom) and being prayed for by the saints there. I’ve been so thankful for the body of Christ in this time and how, truly, God has used this tragedy not only to work in the lives of many in Ukraine, but also to beautify His Church throughout the world.

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Pastor Benjamin Morrison and his wife Lena.

As we head into Month 2 of the war, we ask you to continue praying:
• Pray for God’s justice to shine forth swiftly.
• Pray for God’s comfort for the thousands who are suffering: who are trapped in besieged cities with almost no food, water, light, etc., who have been wounded, who have lost loved ones. May God be their defender and their hope.
• Pray that God would stir His people in Russia to stand for truth at whatever cost. I’ve been blessed to hear and see the bold stands made by a number of ministers there. Many are trapped by fear of what it might cost to speak out. Pray for boldness of the Holy Spirit for them.
• Pray for strength and wisdom for all of us: for us not to grow weary in doing good, for our soldiers and leaders of the country to experience God’s strength and wisdom in this time.

Financial Assistance
To support the work being done in Central Ukraine, donate to Horizon Christian Fellowship (Benjamin Morrison)

 

                  

(To learn more about U-Turn for Christ, visit their website)

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All verses above are quoted from the New King James Version, unless otherwise noted.

© 2022 Calvary Chapel Magazine (CCM). All rights reserved. Articles or photographs may not be reproduced without the written permission of CCM. All Scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the New King James Version. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc.® Used by permission.

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