If you looked at headlines this morning, you might wonder how there can be a God if so much frightening  crime is happening every day. Would God allow so many innocent children to be orphaned in a war zone?   After the Kansas City shooting, too many of us remember the violence that took place in our own community. I live in a small town close to Milwaukee which is, per capita, the most dangerous city in the country right now. Opening the headlines every day I read about a new victim to road rage, shootings, or stabbings. This morning, I counted 3 dead in the headlines. It feels like the safety I once took for granted is gone.

Bad stuff happens, good people might ask “Why?” My current employment I often talk with those who are left in the aftermath of these violent crimes. Many times they ask, “Why?”.

Early February 2014 the pro-Russian president Viktor Yanokovich was ousted from power following Euro maiden protests when Yanokovich refused to sign a Ukraine association agreement offered to him by they Europian Union. Which spawned a bitter conflict in Kyiv. Russian backed militants seized many Ukrainian towns and villages established the Donetsk People’s Republic and The Luhansk People’s Republic separatists’ groups this set off the Donbas war. Many fled Donetsk at that time. While we lived in Ukraine, we lived in an area that was not involved in the conflict. There was a lot of civil unrest, but we were mostly unaffected.  Our city’s public housing complex was filled, and we bought groceries several times for refugees fleeing the east. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/European_Union%E2%80%93Ukraine_Association_Agreement

Since the full-blown war against Ukraine broke out, we have been blessed to meet many Ukrainian brothers and sisters in Christ. Sasha is one such preacher, his courage in the face of adversity has been a blessing to me.

 At the time of the Donbas war, he was working in a small congregation just south of Donetsk in the nearby (but at that time, safe) town of Mariupol on the coast of the Azov Sea. During this time of unrest his congregation of 50 helped a group of 73 refugees fleeing the conflict from Donetsk. Some of them were Christians, but they brought with them their families and little children. He couldn’t turn Christians away, but that meant he also couldn’t turn away the families of these Christians. Instead, they took them in, fed them, clothed them, and taught them the gospel. Many of them became Christians themselves.

Mariupol was an early target in the full-scale war that began in 2022. the Russian army sent a barrage of weaponry and violently disrupted this community. Strategically Mariupol stands between the Crimea and the Donbas.  Ninety percent of the city’s infrastructure was leveled.

Christians in Mariupol sought shelter in the building.  Sasha told of that scary time that lasted for two months. The church was located on the west bank of the city. Christians stayed together in the building and passed the time praying and taking turns reading scripture aloud. The only water they could get was salty, they drank salty tea. Gas lines were on the ground, it was very dangerous. They had to leave the safety of the building to cook food over an open fire. There were so many bodies littering the street no one even bothered taking them away.

They lost their homes, many of them are still separated from their families. Sasha’s grandchildren live close to the Russian border in Ukraine and attend school in an underground bomb shelter. It is hard to concentrate on their lessons when rockets fly overhead and the teacher sends them home again.

He has often thought back to that time when Ukraine was first invaded in 2014. He was able to help those in need, so he helped. He is so thankful he did. Those that became Christian through this opportunity have spread through out the globe, taking the gospel with them many of them have taught others, and won countless more to Christ. God has given him a bigger family. He says Christians should serve every time they are given the chance.

At that time a great persecution arose against the church which was at Jerusalem; and they were all scattered throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria, except the apostles. Act 8:1

God doesn’t make bad things happen, but he does allow you to make choices. He allows others to make choices that might affect you. The only part you have control over is how you react to decisions others make. Like Sasha, you might be the victim of unfair circumstances, how will you react?  

Sasha has spent nearly two years now serving the Lord in a congregation in Poland. He is making plans to move from there because he feels called to the work of the Lord in another country.

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