15 months. That’s how long Ukraine has been suffering with violence, conflict, and war. People have fought to be brave and hold onto hope in these times. Hope in the government. Hope in the world. Hope in themselves. Hope that someday, somehow, someone can change what is happening. Yet, day after day, the battles continue, the death tolls rise, and things continue to get worse. Over the last 2 weeks, they got a lot worse. An already crippled economy plummeted. In the last year, we’ve seen the hryven (Ukrainian currency) to dollar exchange rate more than triple, from 8 hryven to the dollar to almost 30 hryven to the dollar (and much of that has happened over the last few weeks). In the course of a single day, it jumped to 38 hryven to the dollar, and then dropped back down to 28. As Ukrainians have watched all this, panic has ensued. Grocery stores are busy all day long, and staples, such as flour and sugar, are in demand. Prices are skyrocketing. In about a week’s time, gasoline went from 16 hryven/liter to 29 hryven/liter. Many imported items have doubled in price over the last couple of weeks. And now, shoulders start to slump, eyes look weary, and a nation of people are losing their hope. And yet…there is a place of hope.
There is a place where I forget how hopeless many in this country feel, because I see hope…in the Church. When I gather with Ukrainian believers, I don’t see hopelessness. I hear prayers for a country that is loved and is suffering, yet I see hope, joy, and light in the eyes of the people around me. Truly, the Lord is good, and His mercy endures forever! He is a strong Rock, and as everything crumbles around them, Ukrainian believers are finding that He is a sure foundation. Their hope is not lost, because their hope was never in the government, the world, or themselves – their hope is in Christ, and while everything around them has changed, He has not. Now, the real work for believers begins. It is time, like never before, for the hope of Christ to be shared with people throughout Ukraine.
This is one of those times where you see the big picture. You see God’s master plan coming together. He knows everything that will happen before it comes to be. Nothing in Ukraine has caught Him by surprise. He knew, that at this time, Ukrainian believers would need a way to reach multitudes of their countrymen with His hope. So, he led the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association to bring Franklin Graham’s Festival of Hope to Ukraine in 2015. It was initially going to be held in a city in eastern Ukraine. When the situation there destabilized, they chose not to back out of Ukraine, but to move the festival to Lviv – to our city. Since September of 2014, active preparations have been ongoing to get Ukrainian believers ready for this massive opportunity. Pastors are being engaged, equipped, and inspired. Believers are being encouraged to pray now for people they will invite, to organize transportation to bring groups from other cities and towns, to join a 2000-voice choir, to sign up on the hospitality team, to train as decision counselors, and to be trained and prepare to disciple new believers. Our church, Living Word, is seizing the opportunity and is actively involved in preparations for the festival, and for welcoming new believers after the festival. On June 20, 2015, Ukrainians will gather in a 35,000-seat stadium and hear the message of true hope that is only found in Christ.
For our part, we know God has us here for such a time as this, and we don’t want to miss a single opportunity. All 3 of us will be as actively involved as possible with the Festival of Hope. At the request of the festival organizers, Bria wrote a song specifically for the festival and has been performing it at different festival events; she will also be performing at the festival. I will be serving as an English-language decision counselor. Krista will arrive back from Cyprus just in time to attend the festival, and serve in any way she can. Aside from the incredible opportunity the festival presents, we pray that we will be found faithful every day to share the hope found in Christ with those around us. This is the time – God is ready to pour out His love, His salvation, His hope on the nation of Ukraine. It is inspiring to see the Church in Ukraine rising up to be His hands and feet, and it is a joy and privilege to be here and serve with them. What a mighty, awesome, beautiful God we serve!