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The Pastor’s Piece – March 27, 2022

The Pastor’s Piece

FCFI

March 27, 2022

For the last several weeks the fighting between Russia and Ukraine is front and center on the world’s stage. (Step aside Covid). But the struggle we all share is – how can we help? We are so limited in what we can do. I’m haunted by pictures of bombed out buildings lying in piles of rubble. I see pictures of people digging through debris in search of lost belongings and treasures. One picture is that of a blonde haired mother holding the hands of her two young daughters who look to be about 6 or 7 years old as they walk across a shattered concrete parking lot. They are wearing brightly colored down coats and knitted, pink stocking caps and matching mittens. In the background is an old yellow car that looks like it’s from the 60’s and two Russian tanks. The soldiers on the tanks are in a crouched position with machine guns pointed at something off in the distance. They look like those little green plastic army men my brother used to play with when we were kids.  I can’t erase this scene from my mind.  To the young, fatherless family fleeing across that dirty, cracked concrete parking lot, this is just another day in their war-torn neighborhood. 

The churches in Ukraine have not been spared the ravages of war. The pastors there are trying to help the people of their congregations. When someone from Martintown Community Church needs help, we ban together as a church body and do what we can to help – whether it is a cash infusion, meals, visits, or even something as simple and meaningful as a prayer blanket sent by mail to let them know they are loved and in our prayers.  But what can the pastors in Ukraine do? Their church buildings have been destroyed along with the homes and businesses of the people who attend their churches. Tithes and offerings have come to a screeching halt because there is no income or profit to tithe to the Lord. But even in these desperate times, the Lord’s work goes on. At this very moment, churches in Ukraine and in neighboring countries like Poland, Hungary, and Romania are sheltering refugees, assisting those who wish to cross the border and supplying food to the poorest families in their communities who are hardest hit by the economic problems. They continue to hold church services, even in bomb shelters and support their communities by sharing the love and peace of Christ in these hard times. I imagine we would do likewise under the same conditions. 

In a book titled, You’re Only Human, author Kelly Kapic writes: “God extends his love, provision, and values through the people who make up his church. His offer to be a refuge and strength frequently comes through his church. When he wants to bring a word of grace, a safe hug, a warm meal, it often comes through his church. Even when the church cannot do everything itself, it keeps seeking to promote the common good.The central mission of the church is to point people continually to the Messiah: he alone fully reveals the love of the Father and pours out his Spirit on us. The goal of all our good efforts is to draw people to the embrace of the triune God, not to serve as a replacement for him. All the gifts we exercise must ultimately point back to the true Giver.”  

This means that as Christians, we can read the news without losing hope. We cannot heal or restore our broken world, but Christ can and will. In that respect, our limitation isn’t weakness. It makes us rely on the only true Source of strength.

If you’re a regular to this column, you’ve read how we have been supporting a pastor in Romania who has taken in Ukrainian refugees as they flee across the border to safety. The refugees have been welcomed with a place to stay complete with hot meals, warm facilities, and clean beds. The work goes on and will go on for a long time even long after the war ends – if it ever does. 

Following is part of an on-going update on that situation, where our Romanian pastor friend has taken in a total of 68 people at his facility. The people of his church are staffing the efforts to care for these refugees who consist mostly of special needs children. They are there with their moms, grandmas and other siblings. The dads and granddads are fighting the war in Ukraine. Pastor said that last week he spent a large portion of time taking the kids to the doctor. These children hail from all over the country and when they arrived at his camp, they also brought a variety of illnesses with them. He had been taking them to the doctor five or six at a time. By the end of the week, this had slowed down and now he appears to be on top of it. Things are settling down a bit and routines are being established. As time goes on, Pastor is thinking about the logistics of what the future holds as far as facility and equipment needs. Please pray with him as he seeks God’s direction as he figures out needs and priorities.

May God’s richest blessings be yours.

(Kevin Cernek is Lead Pastor of Martintown Community Church in Martintown, Wisconsin)