Forty Days of War in Ukraine

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Forty Days of War in Ukraine

Story and photos by Benjamin Morrison

This first-person account from Benjamin Morrison, pastor of Calvary Chapel Svitlovodsk, describes his thoughts after 40 days of war in Ukraine. CC Svitlovodsk, located in Central Ukraine, has been a refuge for many fleeing from the most active combat zone.

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In serving the refugees passing through Svitlovodsk, Ukraine, Calvary Chapel believers have had the chance to meet many different people with many different stories—just as each pair of these shoes worn by evacuees in Svitlovodsk is individual and unique. More than 40 days have passed since the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

Today [April 5] marks 40 days of war in Ukraine. Forty days is, of course, a period of significance in the Bible. Satan tested and attacked Jesus for 40 days in the wilderness. We in Ukraine can relate to being attacked by Satan for 40 days. For 40 days Goliath harassed and taunted the people of Israel, sure that he would defeat them. We can relate to being harassed by a seeming Goliath—though we are convinced it will end the same way, with God bringing victory.

But 40 days is not only a period of testing and trial in Scripture. It is also a period of God’s miraculous sustaining. Those same 40 days in the desert, God sustained Christ without food and gave Him strength to withstand the devil. Moses met with God on mount Sinai for 40 days and saw His glory. Elijah, hunted without cause by a wicked ruler, was fed by God and sustained for 40 days.

Ultimately, Christ presented Himself alive beyond all hope to His disciples for 40 days after His victory over the powers of evil. We can relate to these things as well. We have seen the strengthening, the glory, the sustaining of God beyond what anyone thought was naturally possible. We trust that Christ will reveal His full victory over the powers of evil once more. But how long must we wait?

                  

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By now, most of the world has seen the horrifying images resulting from the Russian occupation in Bucha and read of the atrocities being committed. But this is only one such town. The places where this occurred are many. The Ukrainian cities that are still occupied by Putin’s forces continue to suffer unimaginable evil. Pray for their deliverance, for God’s miraculous sustaining and victory beyond hope.

But victory does come—even when the darkness seems thickest, even when hope seems lost.

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Benjamin Morrison (center, by the door), pastor of CC Svitlovodsk, encourages families finding refuge at the church. Svitlovodsk, located in Central Ukraine, has been a key stop for refugees fleeing the war with Russia. Believers in the church have offered both practical help and spiritual hope for all who come.

In serving the refugees passing through Svitlovodsk, we’ve had the chance to meet many different people with many different stories. One such person was Oleg (named changed for security concerns). Oleg is now an old man. He was fleeing from the Russian bombs dropping near his home, just like millions of other Ukrainians. But there is something unique about Oleg’s story: At one point in his life, he had been on the other side of those rockets. He had been the one launching them at innocent civilians. With heaviness and guilt in his voice, Oleg admitted to me that at one point he had been no better than Putin’s forces terrorizing Ukraine today.

He had tried for decades to do everything he could think of to atone for his guilt: simply being a “good person”, helping the needy, and performing religious rituals assigned to him by the Orthodox church for penance. He told me that once after confession to a priest, the priest even said, “There is probably no hope for you after that, but here is how you can try to start your penance.” Oleg knew quite well that he could never pay the penalty for his sins. He doubted that even God could forgive him. I got to share with him that he was right about the first point—and quite mistaken about the second.

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Lena Morrison (far left), Pastor Benjamin’s wife, stands joyfully with refugees near a bus that has brought them from the front lines.

I shared with Oleg about the “thief” next to Christ on the cross. This is, of course, an unfortunate translation that makes it sound like he was a pickpocket who got an unduly harsh sentence. The words used by the Gospel writers are terms that describe a violent criminal, a marauder and murderer, an evildoer.

That “thief” knew that he was getting everything he deserved. But something unexpected happened. God did a work of repentance in his heart. In that moment shortly after mocking Jesus, he came to believe that the dying man next to him was indeed the true Lord and King, the Savior. And that was it. That was all that was needed. Jesus said that he would be welcomed into the Kingdom. Repentance and faith that his penalty had been paid by Jesus.

I shared with Oleg that, just like that violent criminal on the cross, when he stands before the judgment of God, he can point to Jesus and say, “There hangs my penalty fully paid!” With tears in his eyes, this hardened old soldier, crushed under guilt for decades, prayed with me to receive the news that he could never have hoped for: Christ has paid his penalty.

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Two of the children finding refuge at CC Svitlovodsk enjoy some normalcy in their lives as they color and draw pictures. Their beautiful eyes reflect the trauma they’ve endured as their lives have been upended by the horrors of the war.

Forty—it’s also one of the Psalms, a book which has been particularly precious to me and many Ukrainian believers in this time. It’s a prayer that at once cries out for God’s deliverance, but also for His salvation from sin. It tells of the long waiting for God to rise up, but also of the glory of His salvation. May its words be your prayer for us here in Ukraine tonight. May you cry out beyond hope for the miracle of repentance in the hearts of many (even Russian soldiers), and may God be glorified in His salvation of Ukraine.

Psalm 40 (ESV):
I waited patiently for the LORD; he inclined to me and heard my cry.
He drew me up from the pit of destruction, out of the miry bog,
and set my feet upon a rock, making my steps secure.
He put a new song in my mouth, a song of praise to our God.
Many will see and fear, and put their trust in the Lord.

Blessed is the man who makes the LORD his trust,
who does not turn to the proud, to those who go astray after a lie!
You have multiplied, O LORD my God,
your wondrous deeds and your thoughts toward us; none can compare with you!
I will proclaim and tell of them, yet they are more than can be told.

In sacrifice and offering you have not delighted, but you have given me an open ear.
Burnt offering and sin offering you have not required.
Then I said, “Behold, I have come; in the scroll of the book it is written of me:
I delight to do your will, O my God; your law is within my heart.

I have told the glad news of deliverance in the great congregation;
behold, I have not restrained my lips, as you know, O LORD.
I have not hidden your deliverance within my heart;
I have spoken of your faithfulness and your salvation;
I have not concealed your steadfast love and your faithfulness from the great congregation.

As for you, O LORD, you will not restrain your mercy from me;
your steadfast love and your faithfulness will ever preserve me!
For evils have encompassed me beyond number;
my iniquities have overtaken me, and I cannot see;
they are more than the hairs of my head; my heart fails me.

Be pleased, O LORD, to deliver me! O LORD, make haste to help me!
Let those be put to shame and disappointed altogether who seek to snatch away my life;
let those be turned back and brought to dishonor who delight in my hurt!
Let those be appalled because of their shame who say to me, “Aha, Aha!”

But may all who seek you rejoice and be glad in you;
may those who love your salvation say continually, “Great is the LORD!”
As for me, I am poor and needy, but the Lord takes thought for me.
You are my help and my deliverer; do not delay, O my God!

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Lena Morrison enjoys time with two refugee children.

Donations
To help us serve refugees in Ukraine, donate online to: Horizon Christian Fellowship (Benjamin Morrison).

If you would prefer to donate via check, please make it out to: “Horizon Ministries”. Leave the memo line on the check blank with a separate note enclosed: “for the Morrisons”. Send to: Horizon Ministries, 7702 Indian Lake Rd., Indianapolis, IN 46236.

                  

(To learn more about Calvary Chapel University, visit their website or read our past coverage on the school)

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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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