As the Glorious news that “He Is Risen” continues to resound, the brokenness in our world so in need of a Savior is starkly evident, too. The destruction in Ukraine is tragic. I have worked in this part of the world since 1992, including 11 years as Director of EEMN until 2015 (now Son Network). The images of the injured and dying and of the bombed buildings are heartbreaking, with many of the places familiar from my travels.
In addition, a different kind of devastation is impacting the Russian people who courageously oppose the aggression whenever they can hear the truth about the war. One very dear friend wrote that they know people who are getting hate emails blaming them and other Russian people for the actions of Putin and his minions.
At the same time, it has been encouraging to see the way people have stepped forward to help as refugees flee. As of mid-March the number had approached three million, some of whom I know very well. The numbers are large, but at the root it is still about individuals and churches helping real people and families in need, one family at a time. Seeing the network of relationships we developed in that region step up to help is a blessing!
For example, Pastor Vlado and his wife Monica run the youth center in northern Slovakia where we hosted EEMN English Bible Camps starting back in 2007. That youth center now is hosting more than 50 refugees, including Pastor Scott Yount and his wife Lena, SON missionaries to Ukraine. Knowing people from both places so well, and seeing them serve one another and work together in this crisis, is a reminder of how God uses relationships when the unexpected happens.
From another perspective, the relatively rapid escalation of the war and the scope of change that has happened so fast is a vivid reminder of reminder of why decisions we make – or fail to make – yesterday and today DO make a difference. The swift closing of doors, the lives lost and those now at risk, underscore Jesus’ words:
“As long as it is day, we must do the works of him who sent me. Night is coming, when no one can work.
What Do I Mean?
When EEMN started a Bible school in Odessa, Ukraine (while I was Director), a war ravaging the nation was the furthest thought from our hearts and minds.
When we traveled to Hong Kong in 2017 for an ALWM English Bible camp working with Chinese national children in partnership with Lutheran ministry partners there, we didn’t expect that it would be a one-time event. For the Chinese children we ministered to from across the border, this was their one opportunity (that we know of) to hear the Gospel as President Xi Jinping and the communist government closed more churches and arrested leaders.
For people who considered past short-term teams to Ukraine or China and decided to wait for another year to serve, for example, “that ship has sailed” for the foreseeable future.
It has been amazing to see the outpouring of financial support to that region in the midst of the current crisis! At the same time, it’s too late for the seed-planting, disciple-making and relationship-building work done for many years in Ukraine by those who lived and served there – short or long term.
In our personal lives, as well as in the ministry God calls us to do, we can’t presume we’ll have endless “tomorrows” to get around to responding to His call.
Yes, right now our brothers and sisters in Russia, Ukraine and Belarus need our prayers, and refugees need our help as they flee!
In other countries where the need is great, the door is still open to work!
For us and our CGM partners in many places, it is still day!
In our sphere at ALWM that means we can still build a Christian school, do youth ministry, and plant churches in Cambodia! We can still carry out medical evangelistic outreaches and work with local churches in Vietnam, which currently has some religious freedom despite the communist government.
LBT is still translating the Bible among 102 language communities.
WMPL is still praying and working on many fronts, with opportunities to pray, give and go.
FOMM is still working cooperatively and fruitfully, building on a half century of relationship in Madagascar with the Malagasy Lutheran Church.
A sense of urgency in being faithfully engaged in His call to the nations – especially where the need is greatest – permeates the work of ALWM and our CGM ministry partners as we move forward into the post pandemic world. We are called to work while it is still day.
What about you and your congregation? Where are you called to pray, to give and to go while doors are still open?
With that perspective on our hearts and minds, we are excited to announce our CGM Regional Global Mission Conference, hosted by and organized with Ascension Lutheran Church, Ames, IA, on Saturday, October 1, 2022.
The event is co-sponsored by our CGM Global Mission Partners: Friends of Madagascar Mission, Lutheran Bible Translators, World Mission Prayer League and Awakening Lives to World Missions!
The theme is: We’re Still Called to the Nations: New Global Mission Strategies for the 21st Century. We hope you’ll join us, either in person or through the live stream!