Thinking of Ukraine

Ukraine, May 2000

I had the chance to visit Ukraine in May of 2000. And even though it’s been more than two decades since that visit, I’ve been seeing a lot of familiar places on the news this week. The recent military action between Russia and Ukraine has got a lot of people talking about that part of the world. And I definitely feel stirred up about things, too. I’m thinking of Ukraine, and I’m praying for Ukraine these days.

Ukraine, May 2000

When I flew into Kiev in the Spring of 2000, I was working as a videographer for a missions agency that was helping to mobilize missionaries, develop Ukrainian leaders, and start new churches throughout the region. So my job was to meet people and capture their stories, in order to share those stories with the rest of the world.

Ukraine, May 2000

Ukraine was still in its first decade of independence from the Soviet Union at that point in history. And I found it especially inspiring and beautiful to see the way that young Ukrainian leaders were following God’s lead to make disciples and plant churches in Ukraine and beyond. Many of them are still doing the same thing, all these years later.

Ukraine, May 2000
In particular, I remember being impressed by Kolya, Sasha, and Andriy. They were all in their twenties, like me. They all cared about contextualizing the Gospel for their culture, like I did. And they were all figuring out the Christian leadership thing while doing it, just like me.
Ukraine, May 2000
I loved my time in Kiev. After having grown up in the United States during the Cold War, I was under the delusion that anything East of Berlin was dark, discouraging, and dismal. But my experience in Ukraine was so different from my expectations! The food was delicious. The scenery was beautiful. And the people were delightful.
Sean and Tania

Years later, when our family lived in Amsterdam, we got to know several other Ukrainians. They became close friends. Sergei was a brilliant artist with a sweet and gentle presence. Sean (an American) and Tania (a Ukrainian) were especially dear friends who even honored me by allowing me to officiate their wedding.

Sean and Tania

I’ve gotten to know a few Russians through the years, too, and there are many in Russia that I would also consider to be brothers and sisters. But I’m mostly thinking of Ukraine this week because they are the vulnerable ones. They are the ones in the actual combat zone. So, yes, I’m thinking of Ukraine, and my Ukrainian friends (wherever they might be). And I hope they know that they’re not alone.

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