Ukraine (MNN) — The dust has begun to settle over the city of Avdiivka, Ukraine after days of intense fighting. What’s left behind is destruction, death, and incredible tension that could result in another surge of violence.
Bret Laird of Slavic Gospel Association spoke with their coordinator for their Crisis Evangelism Fund.
Laird says, “In recent months it’s been relatively quiet. And by relatively quiet [I mean] there’s fighting that’s been going on a daily basis there essentially since 2014, but it’s been relatively minor skirmishes. But then this week, things really flared up to a really intense level where heavy weaponry was being used.”
Rockets, mortars, and heavy artillery resulted in a significant number of fatalities on both sides this last week. Some say this level of fighting is the first since the Minsk ceasefire agreement in February two years ago.
While the number killed differs from source to source, Radio Free Europe as reported by SGA says almost 10,000 have been killed since the beginning of the war in 2014.
By Monday, the fighting had eased a bit. Avdiivka is still occupied by civilians, even given evacuation plans after water and electricity were lost in the cold temperatures.
Laird says, “Both sides kind of agreed to a ceasefire while the electrical grid and some utilities to the town were repaired, but as soon as those repairs were finished, then the shooting started again.”
Al Jazeera reports that evacuations are still happening because of the uncertainty of the situation.
The victims of war
The coordinator for SGA shared how it’s not just military and buildings affected in this war, but innocent civilians.
One family fled their home in Avdiivka to go to Odessa. A trip that should have taken them less than a day took over three because of the fighting.
The mother, only 24, has diabetes and suffered an episode during this time. They tried to get her into the hospital, but only a pricey bribe could have gotten her in to see a doctor. The hospital was overrun with people injured in the fighting. Now, this woman is in danger of losing her vision.
“There’s a high human cost to these type of things and people and children who are terribly affected,” Laird says.
Not choosing sides
Some of us had to learn in grade school the delicate balance of relationships when two of our friends were enemies. While it’s much more complicated when it comes to entire countries, SGA continues to serve faithfully. And, they make the main thing the main thing.
Laird explains, “We have extensive ministries in the Russian Federation, we have extensive ministries in Ukraine. It does create some challenges for us, the fact that those two countries are at war. But we also believe in the power of the Gospel to bring peace and hope into these situations. We believe the love of Christ is the answer, and the forgiveness that can only come through the Gospel is the solution here.”
As if to represent the spiritual warfare going on behind the physical, Donetsk Christian University has become a tool for fighting. Several eyewitnesses have said separatists are using the property to launch artillery at the Ukrainian military.
“The believers, obviously, who long for the day when that territory will be returned to the churches, are sad to see what was designed to be a place to train ministers of the Gospel of peace — to see that territory being used for warfare and for violence.”
But again, Laird says, Jesus is the answer.
“We believe the Gospel is the solution. We believe hearts need to be transformed, the hatred that both sides have for each other needs to be transformed by the Gospel through repentance of sin and faith in the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.”
With the renewed fighting, there’s been another wave of refugees from the affected areas. What they have to flee to isn’t all that welcoming. The SGA coordinator says some are staying in an old, abandoned, and condemned school. To stay warm in the subzero temps, they are huddling around stoves.
“Folks are really in some pretty desperate conditions. There’s need for medicine and food.”
You can help them survive this winter and this war through SGA’s Crisis Evangelism Fund. In addition, they have a project called “one-plus-one”. Local churches work with their congregants. Each food pack they receive comes with an additional food pack to give to their neediest neighbor. The packs also come with a Bible. It’s a great way to open conversation about the Gospel.
To help, click here.
Laird leaves us with this thought: Even in the darkest moments and the most terrible situations, we can rest in the fact that our God is sovereign, He is good, and He will make things right.