A month has passed since the war broke out. Early on, the analysts predicted a quick war, which would last for days, maybe a week. But now, after 31 days the war became an ongoing reality in our lives. And this presents some specific challanges.
The continuing nature of the war challenges those who stayed in Ukraine. Our denomination’s minister in Beregovo, western Ukraine wrote the following.
First of all, we thank you very much for your prayers and for all the help that the love of our Lord Jesus Christ urged you to give. The Lord is listening to your prayers, because in this uncertain and fearful situation, the Holy Spirit is working in every brother and sister through His Word to bring peace and calmness when fear and unbelief want to take hold of us.
The situation is getting more difficult. Air raid alarms have become an everyday thing. And they have a great impact on the human heart, especially on women and children. […] Many refugees from inner Ukraine are flooding here because of the war. Several towns of our county can no longer accommodate more refugees, so more and more are coming to our towns and villages. The shops are running out of stock and the price of everything has gone up. Fuel is also starting to run out at the petrol stations. Three out of five petrol stations have already closed.
So far, we could gather for worship, Bible study, and prayer meeting. Last week we also had the Lord’s Supper, through which the Lord has strengthened us. We are trying to witness to our friends and relatives in the surrounding area and to help those in need with the support that our brothers and sisters have sent. However, Satan is also at work, trying to destroy the unity between husband and wife, […] and then among brothers and sisters. Thank God, through the Lord’s teaching, we are able to repair the destruction that Satan has caused.
We feel that the time of examination has come: we have to give an account of what the Lord has taught us so far in the time of peace. Now is the time to give an account of our faith, our trust, our love for him and for one another. The Lord will test where our treasure is, here on earth or in heaven.
A lingering problem for the men is conscription. Unfortunately, this increases tension between couples. The wives ask their husbands: “What if they take you away? What will happen to us here?” Husbands have no exact answer to this, only that the Lord will provide. This is a good and true answer but not always reassuring enough for their wives. We need more confidence in the Lord.Bertalan Lorinc, RPCCEE minister in Beregovo
Christians in Ukraine must find a way to live in faith, hope, and love amidst these ever changing and worsening circumstances. They need to live – as Paul wrote – “as sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; as poor, yet making many rich; as having nothing, yet possessing everything.” (2Cor 6:10) And it is indeed the grace of God that shines through the life of Christians such as Bertalan and his church.
However, the ongoing war challenges us, who live in the receiving countries, as well. We haven’t experienced directly the horrors of the war. But we continue to accommodate people who are fleeing from war zones, who have lost their homes or loved ones. On average, we welcome 7-8 refugees in our church building in Budapest every night. Volunteers from our church go to one of Budapest’s railway stations to welcome and help the refugees arriving. According to fresh statistics, the number of refugees in Hungary has reached 500,000. Compared to this number, our help and efforts are tiny but we hope that it is important for those we can reach.
As weeks passed by, we observe a different trend. In the first two weeks, refugees were looking mainly for a stay for one or two nights, and after that they traveled further to western Europe. But now more people are looking for a prolonged stay. They either have no other place to go, or they face administrative challenges. Either way, these refugees need a longer-term help. If they want to stay in Hungary, they need a job and a permanent place to live. If they want to move to a different country, they need administrative and sometimes financial help. But either way, they need the comfort of God’s word. Today I received an email from a Presbyterian minister in Kharkiv that some from his church are in Budapest. They need the most important thing, which this world cannot give them. They need a church where they can worship and enjoy Christian fellowship. They need a church where God is present with his holiness, love, and comfort.
And so we need to think more about how can we help these people. It is one thing to do a ‘crisis management” for one or two weeks. But it is rather different to plan for helping them in the longer run. Thus, our denomination’s Ukrainian Relief Committee has started to discuss these aspects. Paul’s words to the Christians in Galatia describes this task: “And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.” (Gal 6:9) Calvin’s comment is helpful (as always):
This precept is highly necessary; for we are naturally reluctant to discharge the duties of brotherly love, and many unpleasant occurrences arise by which the ardour of the best disposed persons is apt to be cooled. We meet with many unworthy and many ungrateful persons. The vast number of necessitous cases overwhelms us, and the applications which crowd upon us from every quarter exhaust our patience. Our warmth is abated by the coolness of other men. In short, the world presents innumerable hinderances, which tend to lead us aside from the right path.John Calvin: Commentaries on the Epistles of Paul to the Galatians and Ephesians, 179-180. (emphasis mine)
But as Christ’s disciples, we cannot grow weary of helping. We cannot give up. Let me illustrate why it is important. A man from our church was asked to transport some refugees from one railway station to another in Budapest on their way to Western Europe. It was a group of sixteen, three adults and thirteen children. These people haven’t known each other before, but the war brought them together. Our man stepped to one of the ladies who knew a little English. With few words and much body language they started to interact. The refugees were exhausted, so our man told them that he will take them somewhere to eat. “But we have no money” – said the lady. “I will take care of it.” – assured her our man. During the lunch they communicated even more, and the lady told their heart-wrenching story. But when they said goodbye to each other, the lady’s conclusion was this: “I cannot understand how people can say, that there is no God. Our experience tells that God is there, loves us and helps us.” In spite of the innumerable pain and suffering they went through, there was an even stronger beacon of light that shone through the darkness: the love of Christ through the good deeds of His body, the church. The way this group was treated and helped by Christians, left a heavier imprint on the soul of this lady than all sufferings combined. That is why we shall not grow weary of doing good–because through our deeds they may glorify God (1Peter 2:12).
Dear Brothers, we are so thankful for your inquiries, prayers, and support. Through this our churches in Ukraine and Hungary were able to help many. Please keep us in your prayers, and pray specifically:
- For the Christians in Ukraine (both in the war-zones and in the more peaceful regions) that they will find daily comfort, consolation, and grace in the Lord to combat their fears and to witness to Christ with their words and deeds.
- That the Lord will grant us wisdom and strength that we will find the best ways to help the people in need in the longer term.
Below you will find some pictures of our church in Beregovo, Ukraine and some people we were able to help.
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(A magyar változatot igyekszem hamarosan feltölteni.)