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.
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.
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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
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.