A vacation from the war? Surely that is not possible for any of our volunteers, pastors, friends, relatives, soldiers, widows, or orphans currently living in Ukraine. They can’t simply “unplug” for a week at the beach. Take a break from cooking and eat out – not possible. Neither is getting lost in a good book, cuddled up in a cozy blanket while enjoying the blasting cold AC. It’s hard to concentrate when air raid sirens continue day and night. No, folks living in Ukraine cannot take a vacation from the war.
I took a vacation from the war. I live in America, so I could take some time away from writing about all the work our team in Ukraine has been doing. I had to “unplug” a bit and try to rest, rejuvenate, and relax. During the past 116 days of war, I have tried to keep everyone up to date with how Hope Now is serving in Ukraine. From evacuation convoys, housing refugees in 6 countries, constant fundraising, collecting & delivering medical supplies, reestablishing students in foreign and online schools, equipping soldiers with essentials, supporting local churches who feed thousands, encouraging pastors, buying vans, and bringing humanitarian aid to hot-spots and to our precious kids in our child sponsorship program. It sounds exhausting, but personally, I didn’t have to physically do much of it. I was just a part of organizing or coordinating it, really.
I can’t imagine how mentally and physically exhausted our devoted Ukrainian team members must be. They are serving non-stop! And much has happened while I was on vacation. Schools in Ukraine had their “Last Bell” and graduations – most were held online, since nearly half of the students are now living abroad. Our own Elevate scholar, Andrei had his graduation (in person) at Sophia School. Like many young Ukrainians, he is unsure about his future, and doesn’t know what the next steps are for him. At the moment, he helps his foster parents pack and organize the many humanitarian aid trips they make to areas most devastated by the war.
Our team members continue to find ingenious sources of where to buy food and other essentials to make up food bags for our orphanage kids. Since the war, the 200-bed orphanage was taken over by the army – so our children are scattered in villages and staying with relatives, guardians, and pastors who have become make-shift foster parents. Our volunteers “hunt” for diesel each morning, and when they find some, they hunker down for hours waiting in line until it’s their turn to spend $8 for a single gallon. They have become experts at finding, retaining, and building up enough diesel to make a trip to see to the kids each month. Inna, Lena, Luda and Roma work so hard preparing packages for all the kids – they even made individual candy bags, as they thought this would remind the kids of all the fun times we came to see them at the orphanage & at camp – where candy bags were our trademark.
Many of our volunteers scour various internet sites to find military clothing or equipment that specific soldiers request. Since our evacuations stopped about 6 weeks ago, our brave navigator Yaroslav has instead learned to seek out and find just what those soldiers ask for. Olga and Lena also receive individual requests and make care packages for soldiers who have gotten in touch with us, through a variety of surprising ways, but usually through a church or a Christian friend of a friend. Back in the USA, Sasha keeps up with her former classmates from the orphanage, many of whom have joined the army. We have been able to supply them (and in several cases, their whole unit) with much needed clean army boots, jackets, vests, gloves, etc…
Sadly, when I went on vacation, Ukraine did not. The war is still relentlessly raging on – even if we hear less about it now that 116 days have been endured. Let’s not tune out Ukraine. Let’s pray, support and put our faith into action like never before. In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead. But someone will say, “You have faith; I have deeds.” Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by what I do. James 2:17-18 If I could, I would gather up everyone in Ukraine and send them on an all-expenses paid luxury vacation of a lifetime! Lately, I have been wishing that the invading country would also just take a break and go on vacation too! Somehow, it doesn’t seem that either of those scenarios are particularly realistic. However, we are making plans for a Ladies Retreat in Poland, where we hope that at least some of our key team members will be able to attend. They will have to temporarily say goodbye to their husbands & relatives, churches, and homes in order to make the 2-day drive across the country to the Ukrainian border and into Poland. I can only imagine what unthinkable thoughts will be going through their minds when they hug their loved one’s goodbye, to be gone on vacation even for just a few days.