It has been more than six months since the invasion of Ukraine, and the situation has intensified as the counter offensive for southern Ukraine that has been overrun by Russian troops began not many days back. The toll on human life has been steep as reports from Kherson emerge: farmers with no battle experience fighting against tanks, missiles and drones employed by the Russian army. Yet, in the horrors of this war and the massive displacement of people, the evangelical church in Ukraine has stood firm in the worst-hit areas of the country. It is true that most of the churches have been destroyed, but people still meet for worship under whatever circumstances they can. In Moldovia and Poland, pastors ministering to Ukrainian refugees have started several churches that quickly fill up with people, as the hunger for the gospel of life poured among a people who have seen the hand of death. Church planters in the Donetsk region next to Donbas where the war is thickest have started several churches and ministered to thousands as they fled their homes. New Life Christian Radio that bears the same name as our church decided to stay in Odessa despite the war to broadcast messages of hope and the gospel to those in a place of war. As one missionary to Ukraine put it, “Believers in Christ have become the lighthouses of hope in the most difficult of times.”
My mind goes to an Upper Room filled with people praying (Acts 1). Rome had recently flexed its might through the jealous hatred of the Jewish high priests and the Sanhedrin; they had arrested Jesus and crucified Him on the cross. Yet, the atmosphere in that room was not of despair but of anticipation. Jesus had risen and instructed them to wait till the power of the Holy Spirit would come upon them. And when at Pentecost, the Spirit came in tongues of fire, the church exploded to life in Jerusalem in the shadow of the very place where Golgotha had been – God’s people as lighthouses of hope in difficult times. I think of difficult times ahead, not just in Ukraine, but in all our lives: rising debt and inflation that has swallowed the economies of nations; devastating droughts in one part of the globe and terrible floods in another; moral collapse in our countries as laws are twisted to encourage sin; the rampant persecution of Christians under the jurisdiction of governments that hate the name of Christ; and strange new illnesses infecting thousands while the old ones defy control. We may very well live lives filled with terror, shrinking into our fears at every mention of bad news, or we can declare the name of Christ as the light of the knowledge of God in every place – as lighthouses of hope in difficult times.