Sometimes when crossing the border back into Ukraine after a long or short absence, the Beatles 1968 tune, “Back in the USSR” plays in my head, like a song that gets stuck, and plays like a broken record. I am not a big Beatles fan and I don’t know much about the song. I am guessing there are political dynamics and suggestive undertones in the lyrics that I would not be interested in or care to understand. The only lyrics I can even sing is the catchy, “Back in the USSR, you don’t know how lucky you are, to be back in the USSR.” I don’t believe in luck and the USSR no longer appears on world maps, making the song obsolete or at best, a historical footnote of a bygone era. I am happy that the world has changed and that we are not back in the USSR. The sickle and hammer back dropped in red has not flown in a quarter century. This year will mark 25 years since the fall of the Soviet Union when an independent Ukraine emerged from its ashes. A subtle and soft yellow and blue flag replaced the red that was reminiscent and symbolic of revolution and terror in the minds of many. Ukraine, said to be the bread basket of the world fly’s colors of blue over yellow to denote a blue sky over a wheat field. I never tire of returning to Ukraine, the moment of crossing the border a calm, peaceful feeling of being at home fills me with joy. We feel blessed to be able to live and work in Transcarpathia, Ukraine. We are thankful to God for the opportunity to be at home in Transcarpathia, serving the Lord here.
Flawed, prone to moments of passivity, and failures of prideful self-interest, we recognize that we are truly nothing without Jesus Christ. Our very best efforts amount to nothing but absolute failure without Christ and the work of the Holy Spirit. We pray that that God can use us through the work of the Holy Spirit and through grace alone to share the message of the Gospel and to support and encourage the faith of many brothers and sisters in Christ here in the borderlands of Eastern Europe.
These lands of Eastern Europe and the Ex-Soviet bloc are no stranger to revolution; the soil is soaked red in blood from centuries of world wars, turmoil, and insurrection. However, one more revolution is needed. Not a revolution of class struggle, power, territory gain, or uprising, but a spiritual revolution. A renewing of the heart and an inner revolution of the soul that only God through the work of the Holy Spirit can bring to these lands. Christ’s precious blood was shed for our sins and in this, Jesus bore the punishment that was ours. Pray that this message of hope and life in Christ will fall upon open ears and receiving hearts. The world is changing fast, spinning out of control with much uncertainty for the future. What a comfort it is that God is sovereign and that not a hair can fall from our head apart from the will of our Heavenly Father. We hope and pray that the people we work among will more and more turn to God, putting their faith in Jesus Christ, and in faith accept this gift of salvation through grace alone. We hope and pray that people around the world, in these uncertain times, will realize treasures of this world are not treasures at all, but only earthly things that will rot, decay and will not last, recognizing there is no hope, no future, no comfort outside of God and His Word, which is sharper than a double edged sword, piercing our hearts.