Written by Matt Robinson
One of the reasons I wanted to go to visit our friends with TCI in Ukraine, was because I wanted to know how they were really doing. In the lead up to our trip we were hearing less and less in the news about the war in Ukraine. We didn’t want to just find out the rest of the story though, we wanted to make sure our friends and community here in the US didn’t forget about the Ukrainian people either.
Getting into Ukraine was a pretty quick trip. The border between Poland and Ukraine only took us 2 hours (The border on the return trip would take us nearly 8 but that’s a story for another day). Immediately, I was struck by two things as we drove into Ukraine. First, they were a nation at war, ready to fight to the very last person over every inch of their country. Every city we entered had barricades up at strategic points. 
 Sandbag Barricades at the Border
Consider that for a second. Where we crossed was over 10 hours from fighting in the East, and over 6 hours to the Northern border shared with Belarus. The war wasn’t near to these communities at all, but they were ready and they didn’t want to underestimate their Russian aggressors at all.
The other thing I noticed instantly was how beautiful Ukraine is. Locals told us we visited a week or two early to be able to see the sunflowers in full bloom, but they were still breathtaking.
Field after rolling field full of beautiful flowers. If you had time, I could show you photos of fields of wheat and lots of other crops. They have such rich soil. You might have even heard how much of the world’s wheat they produce. A crop that they are determined to get out of their country and to the rest of the world to ensure there is not a global food shortage.
We arrived late in the evening into Ivano-Frankivsk. A pleasant European town almost like you would imagine seeing if you backpacked through Europe for a year.


Sergey, Matt, and Valek
When we arrived, I got to give giant hugs to close friends of mine, Sergey and Valek. Sergey was my translator during my trip in 2019, and Valek is the President of TCI. That evening we had dinner with them and a few other people. It was so good being able to share a meal with them. It was also sobering to hear their stories of the past several months. Living in a country at war is full of loss, struggle, and broken plans. Their grit and determination to press on was powerful.
They told us to be ready for air-raid warnings but to not be worried about them. Up to this point, Ivano-Frankivsk hasn’t been hit by any rockets. Their advice was timely. 3am the following morning the sirens throughout town went off. The hotel alerted us as well. Ukraine’s rocket tracking system gives most Ukrainians around 5 minutes to seek shelter if something is launched in their direction. We quickly found our way to a Soviet-Era Bomb shelter 3 stories below the ground in the building next to our hotel


In the Bunker

Nothing landed anywhere close to us. Once the all-clear was given we climbed the stairs and made the short trip back to our hotel rooms. We found out the next morning that the warning sirens had been for Caliber missiles Russia had launched. Some had been intercepted, while a couple of them hit farming equipment.

News update from The Kyiv Independent
That morning it was time for church, and we had the privilege to worship and share at two different churches. I was so excited to preach at a new church that was started for war refugees called Reconciliation Church. They are currently meeting in a basement and have around 80 people. We got to worship with families of all ages. It was an honor to be able to teach from God’s word and try to encourage them.
One of the young men I met was named Dan. Our church is praying specifically for new Pastors and Ministry leaders to be raised up in Ukraine because the Christian universities there are already aware of 500 pastors that have been displaced because of the war. Before the trip Parkside made 500 numbered stickers to remind us to be praying for new Pastors to step up in Ukraine.  During my message I said that I was praying for Pastor #18. After I finished Dan came up and told me that maybe he was Pastor #18. That in itself almost brought me to tears. We exchanged contact info and promised to stay connected.

Dan and I have stayed in touch the past couple of weeks. Dan was preparing to move to a nearby city and work with young adults through a Christian organization called CRU. We were both excited as he was stepping into a new adventure and ministry. Then this week Dan messaged me that he had just been drafted by the Ukranian Military. His training just started on September 14th. That’s not at all what Dan was expecting. We are still messaging each other, and I am still praying for Dan, Pastor #18. I can’t imagine what thoughts or emotions he’s experiencing. What’s it like living in a country that’s at war and under attack?
This weekend you probably saw Ukraine back in the news. They completed a military maneuver that so greatly surprised Russian forces that over 2000 square kilometers of land was liberated. I read different strategists say it was Russia’s greatest defeat since 1943. It was a military chess move that Ukraine was putting pieces in place for weeks. The nation and the world are still celebrating this crucial, game-changing victory. 
And at the same time there’s more to the story. The Chesnuts who traveled with our team, messaged us this week. One of the connections they’ve made was with a man who was smuggling food and medical supplies into Russian occupied territory in Eastern Ukraine for people who couldn’t evacuate. They met his wife and two kids and learned about his story. John and Ruth were messaging us to ask us to pray for him. For his safety I haven’t included his name. He needed prayer because on his last run into occupied territory he had been struck by shrapnel in the back of his head. The emergency surgery had saved his life but they don’t know if he’ll ever regain his vision.
This war is more than headlines and news stories. It’s more than a cruel dictator trying to bully surrounding countries. It’s more than our feelings about rising gas prices or military aid packages. It’s young men being drafted and heading off to war. It’s senseless violence that steals a man’s ability to maybe ever see his wife and children again. There is so much more to the story. .
Please keep praying for peace. Please keep praying for justice and restoration. Please pray that God would protect the innocent. Thanks for joining me in prayer.

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