My name is Sian Tweeddale, and I’m going to the Ukraine…sounds like a little kid in a big world to me. I guess it’s a good thing the Kingdom belongs to such as these! There are nineteen of us going – eighteen other beautiful souls from Christian Fellowship Church, most of whom I just recently met. I grew up in CFC and now attend Forum Christian Church. I was having coffee with Michael Acock one morning a few months ago after returning home from Japan and my time in the Navy, catching up like people do. He mentioned the trip and the idea took root in my mind.
Fast forward to this day and I am here writing to you to introduce you to the Dnipro Ministry Team, one of the three teams made up of our nineteen members. Each team will have its own purpose, doing different things in different places. While on our trip, I’ll be writing regular updates for the Dnipro Team about our adventures for our friends and family.
Dnipro (think knee-pro without the ‘D’) is a city on the Dnipro River in central Ukraine. There are seven of us traveling there: Michael Acock, myself, Whitney Cravens, Jessica Ragsdell, Nathan Sims, Nene Peter, and Larry Cox. We will be staying in a hotel and spending most of our time in the church of Pastor Maxim Belousov and his wife Julia. God is already in Ukraine. He is moving in the church there, in the hearts of the people. Believers in this church frequently travel to the front lines to fight for their country. They have lived for over a year in this war-torn environment where terror has become the every-day, where stress and exhaustion are their constant companions. There are over 100 children in their church. Our purpose is simple: we are going to spiritually support our brothers and sisters in Christ, to show love and bolster where we can. And if nothing else, we are merely going there to BE with them, our fellow believers, in their time of greatest need. We are all one body in Christ, just made up of different parts. God chose each member of our team for a purpose, each member providing an individual function vital to the whole.
Our eyes are open to the danger. From outside the church looking in, at best, our decision to travel to Dnipro appears naïve. At worst, senseless. But we all know that we serve a Great, Big God. The only God. So let me remind us of Paul’s words in Romans 8:30-31, “And having chosen them, he called them to come to him. And having called them, he gave them right standing with himself. And having given them right standing, he gave them his glory. What shall we say about such wonderful things as these? If God is for us, who can ever be against us?”
Similarly, I will remind us of Ephesians 6:12. “For we are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places.”
I was tasked with writing a BRIEF introduction to the Dnipro Team. But as I continued writing, verse after verse poured into my mind. To our friends and family, I implore you to combat fear and have FAITH. Because faith as small as a mustard seed GROWS. And faith can move mountains. I am reminded again of the words of David and Moses in Psalms 23 and 91, Psalms that have come up over and over in our time together as a team. I couldn’t just choose one verse of Psalms 91 to leave you with.
1 Those who live in the shelter of the Most High
will find rest in the shadow of the Almighty.
2 This I declare about the Lord:
He alone is my refuge, my place of safety;
he is my God, and I trust him.
3 For he will rescue you from every trap
and protect you from deadly disease.
4 He will cover you with his feathers.
He will shelter you with his wings.
His faithful promises are your armor and protection.
5 Do not be afraid of the terrors of the night,
nor the arrow that flies in the day.
6 Do not dread the disease that stalks in darkness,
nor the disaster that strikes at midday.
7 Though a thousand fall at your side,
though ten thousand are dying around you,
these evils will not touch you.
8 Just open your eyes,
and see how the wicked are punished.
9 If you make the Lord your refuge,
if you make the Most High your shelter,
10 no evil will conquer you;
no plague will come near your home.
11 For he will order his angels
to protect you wherever you go.
12 They will hold you up with their hands
so you won’t even hurt your foot on a stone.
13 You will trample upon lions and cobras;
you will crush fierce lions and serpents under your feet!
14 The Lord says, “I will rescue those who love me.
I will protect those who trust in my name.
15 When they call on me, I will answer;
I will be with them in trouble.
I will rescue and honor them.
16 I will reward them with a long life
and give them my salvation.”
The Lord of Heaven’s Armies protects his own, always. Paul gives us perspective in his letter to the Philippians when he says, “To live is Christ, but to die is gain.” You can rest assured that God always has a plan and he works everything for his glory and for the good of those who love him. No matter what, though sorrow may last for the night, joy comes in the morning.
Finally, Timothy encourages us, “For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power, love, and self-control.
If you would pray, please pray for God to mold us into his vessels, to make us into conduits for the Holy Spirit to MOVE, to give us the words to give to his people in Ukraine to comfort and strengthen. As I sit here typing, the hairs are raised on my arms and I KNOW that he is here with me giving me the words to comfort you now. Never fear, but have FAITH. We are in his hands!