This statement of Tatyana, a young Ukrainian woman, sticks in my mind. It was her answer to my question about how much her village suffered under the Russian occupation.
“Not as much as Bucha and Irpin,” answered Tatyana. “Look around; only grandmothers live here. This is why they did not rape women. I am the only young one here.”
Tatyana looks at me with her beautiful blue eyes as she shares stories from life with Russian soldiers next door. She takes care of a horse farm and did not want to leave and abandon the animals.
The grandmothers who saved her later gave us a spontaneous concert of Ukrainian folk songs. They said, “Today is the first time since the war that we are singing again.” I pray it would become a daily ritual. A song from the ruins.
100, 60, 130. Those are the numbers of food bags we distributed this week. But it’s more than food. We are not just the hands that give, we are the ears that listen. It is like an invisible currency, a small exchange in the business of relief work: We hand over a bag, and then we hear their stories. Who left, who died, who is still missing. What hit the house. Where the Russian tanks stood. How the Russians raged. When the village was liberated.
It would be easy to just drop the food bags in the city hall and have people come and pick them up. But we don’t just want to throw some food to those who are hungry. These are people with precious souls. Deeply burdened, in need of a different relief than merely food.
This morning, I picked up my Bible and read Jeremiah’s complaint to God. Having to face evil, he curses the day he was born. But God says to him, “Have I not set you free for their good? Have I not pleaded for you before the enemy in the time of trouble and in the time of distress? Can one break iron, iron from the north, and bronze?” (Jer 15:11-13)
And Jeremiah answers, “Your words were found, and I ate them, and your words became to me a joy and the delight of my heart” (Jer 15:16).
This is what I have experienced every single day of this war. I feel God’s Word sustaining me from the inside; like an unbreakable metal. And it is beautiful to recognize the same spirit in brave Ukrainian women like Tatyana.
She shared how she once translated for an English-speaking Bible course many years ago. She came to love God back then and said that only prayer helped her through the time of occupation. We joyfully shared about God’s miracles in our lives and prayed for her neighbor, a soldier, who is still missing. All this time, Tatyana’s friend stood by silently. As we said goodbye and sat in the car, Tatyana came running and popped her face through the window.
“You don’t believe it,” she said. “My friend just said, ‘Now I know for sure that God truly exists.”