Our time with the Ukrainian children has been wonderful so far. And heartbreaking.
They are such beautiful kids, with contagious smiles, and they seem to be having a great time at camp. But we’re learning more and more about the life they are living as war refugees, and I won’t even be able to write this without tearing up. The lesson Ben and I taught on Thursday was about the point where Joseph’s life went from good to bad. As we prepared to teach, the parallels were obvious – especially the fact that Joseph had to leave his home and was separated from his family. We found a beautiful pot and put a nice plant in it as an illustration of Joseph’s life. As we reviewed the things his brothers did to him, we destroyed it – blow by blow with a hammer, until we had a heap of broken pieces. (Trust me. This was hard to do. It was a pretty pot.) Then we talked about how God has a way of making new, beautiful things out of broken pieces… including our lives. Later this week, we are going to make new stepping stones for the camp with what was destroyed. I chose my favorite verse for our memory work that day. “Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.” Romans 12:12 So we moved to a time of asking exactly how we can be praying for them in their time of affliction. Several people commented on how the kids didn’t have to think at all before they started writing. It was clear that each of them had something on their mind.
I started getting the slips of paper back today from the translators. I knew that these were refugee children and that many of them have lost family members in the war in Ukraine. But reading through them, by names that I can now put with faces…heartbreaking. “Pray for my dad to come back”, and Oksana would add the note for our information that his dad was killed in the war. There is one child who said to pray for her family, and we found out that a bomb was dropped on their property, killing her mother. There is a boy here whose mom came with him because his father was killed and he won’t let her out of his sight. We have certainly seen moments when these things overcome them and they breakdown. When I think about what they’ve been through, I’m truly amazed it isn’t more. Even those who haven’t suffered such tragedy have clearly been impacted and are fearful. Almost every paper said something about the war, asking for peace, or wanting to go home. By “home”, I don’t think they mean they want to leave camp. They want to return to homes they have been forced out of because of the conflict.
So I ask you to join me in praying over these precious children, their families and Ukraine. May God speak love and hope to their young hearts during this brief time they are with us.