The horrific events of recent weeks have caused Christians in Ukraine to reflect on what it means to be a follower of Jesus in a time of war. For my Ukrainian friends, words such as 'discipleship' and 'mission' have taken on new meanings. They are no longer academic concepts, but have literally become matters of life and death.
The war, for all its suffering and hardship, has given Christians in Ukraine unprecedented opportunities to engage with their local communities. Our charity, Dnipro Hope Mission, is privileged to equip not only 'professional missionaries', but also 'missional professionals' in Ukraine.
One of our partners, Alexander, who before the war was working as a vet, is now engaged full time in delivering life-saving medicines to care homes and orphanages on the frontline in Eastern Ukraine. He often has to literally dodge bullets on his way to deliver essential supplies. In this context, 'discipleship' involves real courage as well as compassion.
Another friend of ours, Roman, worked as a lecturer. He now uses his skills as a communicator and linguist to write very powerful reflections (in English) about the cultural and spiritual changes that he is observing in Ukraine as a result of the war. He thereby helps people throughout the world to grasp the deeper issues at stake in this war.
One of my own relatives, who was working as an opera singer before the war, now finds himself on the streets of Dnipro filling sandbags and digging trenches. He puts his professional operatic voice to good use by singing Ukrainian folk songs and Christian hymns while out on duty. By his 'singing ministry' he helps to lift the spirits of people caught up in this new frightening and surreal situation.
In the village where my wife grew up, elderly women have discovered a new vocation: to bake pies for a local Ukrainian garrison defending the region from the Russian invaders. The pies are sent to a local church, where they are given to Ukrainian soldiers returning from the frontline.
These testimonies of ordinary people doing extraordinary things challenge us to think about what we can do on our own 'frontlines'. Although we might not find ourselves literally on the frontline in Ukraine, all of us are still called to join in God's mission to transform the world into the image of his Kingdom.