The Three Priests

God’s servants in Ukraine these days remind me of the Biblical prophets. They are radical. There is no distance to the pain and ugliness their people experience. Maybe the war has made them radical. Maybe this flame has been inside of them all along; as it is maybe in all of us if we would find ourselves in a situation beyond our own wisdom.
Meet Mihail – a Ukrainian orthodox priest. The construction of his church was almost finished when the war broke out. He quickly decided to turn the cathedral into a humanitarian aid hub in his village, which would soon receive 2,000 displaced persons, escaping with nothing but the clothes they wore.
The smaller chapel was turned into a camouflage nets factory. First, the women of the village sewed white masking nets to hide in the snow, then they changed to spring colors (a mix of green and brown), and soon they will have a “summer” edition.
All this time, prayer did not stop. No matter what people are doing inside the church, prayer is held every single morning.
Mihail says: Some ask me why we continue making nets, though our region was liberated.
I say, let us have them. And hope we won’t need to use them.
Let our girls and boys learn how to fire a gun. And pray they won’t need to do it.
In the next village, we meet Vasyl. You can recognize him from afar in his traditional black robe as an orthodox priest, but don’t be fooled by that. He is the first to enthusiastically lift 25kg-bags of rice and flour. He and his wife received us into their family as their old friends. I have rarely felt so loved in an instant. They are from Lviv and only started pastoring this parish in January, but said they simply did not have the heart to abandon their church as Russian forces entered the village.
The third of them; Volodymyr. His gentle and kind spirit is a door opener. He knows everyone and their needs. He has lived in many countries but said he could not leave his village as it got occupied. He stood in the gap even for a Moscovian priest facing troubles. He said, In the same way as you are ending one thing, you will start the next thing. I think this is a universal law that applies to more than the spirit Ukraine will be coming out of once the war is over. He also said: The Russians are fighting out of hatred against something – we Ukrainians are fighting out of love for something.
God’s servants in Ukraine these days remind me of Ezekiel. He left the temple and laid on his side for 390 days to symbolize Jerusalem’s siege. They remind me of Jeremiah, pointing out the hypocrisy in the nation, exclaiming “the temple of the Lord!”.
The picture of a camouflage net in a church may seem odd to most of us. In the end, we want to associate “church” with peace, quietness, and lighting candles. But I for my part think the church is exactly where it needs to be. And by the way, the war turned our Bible School classroom into a flag-sewing factory. I want to return it to its old purpose, but I agree with Mihail, it might not be done just yet.

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