Our Position in Ukraine

As you are no doubt aware, Ukraine is in the middle of a political crisis. The details of the conflict–which have grown more gory in recent days–are readily available on major news outlets, so I won’t waste space here repeating what’s been said by others. The purpose of this post is to inform you of our family’s position in Ukraine relative to current events.

euromaydan

There are quite a few foreign missionaries (Americans, Canadians, Czech, and others) who live and minister in Ukraine. Certainly many of our supporters and friends back home are wondering, “With all this in the news about revolution in Ukraine, what are the missionaries doing?” I’ll tell you: we’ve been calling each other on the phone and asking that same question. 🙂 While that last sentence may have brought a smile to your face (as was its intention) it is nonetheless true. In my circle of friends–both American and Ukrainian–I don’t know anyone who’s ever had to flee a country due to civil war, the declaration of martial law, or violent revolution.

Over the past few days, several options have been discussed. We have tried our best to peer a little ways into the future and discern how we should respond. Should we stay put? Should we leave? Whether we stay or leave, what preparations should we make? For my part, I feel that I have found reasonable answers to those questions based on the facts available. But before I share our plan, let’s take a quick look at the current state of things in L’viv.

The Status in L’viv
For my entire adult life, I have made my home in L’viv, a medium-size city in western Ukraine with a population comparable to my Texas hometown of Fort Worth. As of this writing, the bulk of the violence is occurring in Kyiv, Ukraine’s capital city, which is located a little more than 300 miles east of us. For now, things in L’viv are mostly calm. Yes, it is true that protesters have taken over the Oblast Administration building (as they have in many other oblasts across the country), and have forced the governor to resign, but happily, the city continues to operate mostly normally.

Yesterday, I was in downtown L’viv for an hour or so running errands, and except for the peaceful gathering of protesters in the main square (our “maydan”) there were no signs that anything was amiss. Public transportation is functioning normally, traffic is horrendous as usual, shops are open for business, and people are going about their daily lives as best they can. There are no riot police on the streets. Furthermore, all major utilities and other services have continued without interruption. We have light, gas, water, heat, cell phone service, and internet access. Nothing has been turned off, and to my knowledge, the rumors of internet censorship have proven false. For now, at least, L’viv is very much a safe place to be.

Cause for Concern?
Given my description of peaceful L’viv, you might be tempted to think that we are not concerned about current events. Nothing could be further from the truth. We are not panicking, and we are grateful that our city is still safe, but the violence in Kyiv, the new anti-protest laws passed recently by the government, the lack of unity amongst opposition leaders, and the scores of people who are suffering the loss of life and limb, all provide ample justification for the use of the term crisis.

While the reality of the conflict is clear, the wisest course of action is perhaps less so. At first glance it may seem best to adopt a get-out-while-you-can approach, but in case you haven’t had to flee your country lately, let me assure you that it is by no means a simple decision to make. We all have homes and ministries here, to say nothing of dear Ukrainian friends who face a very uncertain future. And if we do leave–which is a possibility–where would we go? Probably Poland. But once there, where would we stay and for how long? What would be the sign that it’s safe to return? In our absence, what would become of our ministries, our homes, our churches and our friends?

If all that seems like a cloud of complexity, that’s because it is. War–if that is indeed what we are facing–is never simple. But despite all this, we are not without direction.

Our Plan
God has blessed us with a wonderful team here on the mission field, and for the most part we try to do things together. The current crisis is no exception. All three of the men who lead Euro Team Outreach–myself, Nathan Day, and Jessie Beal–have discussed the situation and decided on a course of action for our team. This is our outlook in a nutshell:

  1. Our bags are packed. For now, we are staying put. But there are several possible events which could change our minds, and if one or more of those occur, we are ready to leave on short notice.
  2. We have set up a rendezvous point where our team would meet immediately in the event that phone and internet communications are cut off, which is a real possibility if martial law is declared.
  3. If we do decide to leave, Poland is the likely destination, though there are others as well. Ukraine borders five US-friendly countries on its western side. Poland, the closest of the five, is less than two hours by car from L’viv.
  4. We are praying and trusting that the Lord will guide and protect us now as He always has. We are persuaded that those who fear God need not fear anyone else.

Conclusion
To date, none of the foreign missionaries we know in L’viv have made the decision to leave Ukraine. We’re all still here, and we’re all praying that this situation will be resolved peacefully. Our ministries are moving forward, and our families are continuing with daily life.

Bear in mind that this is not Syria or Afghanistan. For the most part, Ukrainians are peaceful, reasonable, freedom-loving people who now face the difficult task of standing up to injustice in their country. They don’t want chaos any more than we do. I’m sure I speak for the entire missionary community in Lviv when I say that we love the country of Ukraine, and we pray earnestly that God would bring peace, liberty and prosperity to this land.

“Some trust in chariots, and some in horses:
but we will remember the name of the Lord our God.”
(Psalm 20:7)

This entry was posted in Family Updates by Joshua Steele. Bookmark the permalink.

About Joshua Steele

My passion is leading people to Jesus Christ through the pages of Scripture. To that end, I have served as a missionary in Mexico, Hong Kong, Thailand, the United States, and currently Ukraine, where I have lived and ministered since 2001. In 2004, I married Kelsie, the girl of my dreams, and God has blessed us beyond measure with a precious family. Our five children Abigail, Rebekah, Hosanna, Kathryn, and David are the joy of our lives! Together, we live to glorify our Savior and proclaim His Word to those around us.

21 thoughts on “Our Position in Ukraine

  1. Josh and Kelsie…Thank you for this well-written explanation of your situation! We are continuing to pray for your sweet family, and your ministry there.

  2. Josh, this reminds us of our years in Lebanon during the civil war there (1975-1987+). Your position sounds very sound and reasonable to us. We are convinced that God will continue to bless and use you for His glory even if the troubles get much closer to you!

    • Thanks so much. Always good to hear affirmation, especially from someone with experience! Blessings to you, and thanks for standing by us.

  3. Thanks for the update. Pray for your family often. FYI to Kelsie – Sarah & family arrived in Texas yesterday for 3 weeks.

  4. Josh,
    Thank you for the update. You have invested much in the people with whom you work and the Ukrainians whom you serve. We pray that God will give wisdom for your current circumstance and that lost people would be brought to salvation and Christians in Ukraine will be strengthened.
    With Hope in Christ,
    Donna Dean

    • Thank you, Donna. We’re very grateful for the privilege of serving here, and we trust that God will bring blessing on Ukraine through this situation. Blessings to you and your family!

  5. Praying for wisdom, protection and provision. Thank you for the update. Blessings from the states. The Ballenger Family

  6. Really well written post. Thank you so much! Will be praying. We also live in a foreign country that is stable but in the middle of a lot of instability. We’ve considered a lot of the things you talked about here. Great post!! You guys are in our prayers, as well as the Ukrainian people!!

  7. What news! Thank you for the update! It is true, when fearing God there is NOTHING else to fear! 🙂

    Just as a ‘God thing’, on my blog stats I recently saw that Ukraine is the second country (after the US) reading my blog! Praise God. I hope my blog will encourage and bring some of them to Christ.

    Praying for you and your family! (And I didn’t know FW was your home town! That’s our ‘backyard’)

  8. Out of curiosity, do you have any contacts in Poland? If not, my parents’ pastor has some missionary friends in Poland that, if you needed a contact, I could probably get their info for you. 🙂

    • Yes, we have several. We’ve been traveling to Poland for many years now, and we have friends there. All the same, we appreciate the offer of a contact. If the need arises, we’ll let you know! 🙂

  9. Myself and 3 other American 20-something girls are living in Sumy, Ukraine working with orphans. A lot of our family and friends have expressed concerns about us being here. We liked your plan and have somewhat adopted it for ourselves. Out of curiosity and mutual concern, would you be willing to share what the kind of events are that you have on your list that would make you pick up your packed bags?

    • Certainly. Our first indicator that it’s time to go would be the declaration of martial law, or what the Ukrainians call a “state of emergency”. Our understanding is that if this were to happen, internet, phone, TV and radio would be cut off. Such a scenario would constitute grounds for us to leave Ukraine, at least until communications are restored. Beyond that, it’s hard to know exactly what could happen, but in general I’d be looking for events developing that make me feel threatened (e.g. escalation of violence in my area, the threat of border closings, increased aggression by the government against its people, etc.). Another factor to consider is proximity to a viable exit point. We are in western Ukraine, which puts us close to US-friendly countries. If I were located in Sumy, however, I might look at things a little more carefully, since leaving would take more time. If you are American citizens, then travel to Russia or Belarus would not be feasible without a visa. Hope that helps! 🙂

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *