This morning, in a small Christian camp in a remote village north of Kyiv a group of volunteer chaplains have gathered to train to be able to provide trauma care on the eastern Ukraine battle field. Jeremiah’s Hope, in partnership with International Faith Initiatives, is hosting almost 30 men from various denominations who have been serving on the front lines to not only save souls, but also lives!
Many of these men have quit their jobs and have created a “loose” battalion of chaplains. Under Soviet times, the Soviet Army did not have chaplains because the Soviets did not believe in God and did not promote Christianity. After the collapse of the Soviet Union, Ukraine did not really do anything to recreate its army, therefore chaplains were never re-introduced to the armed forces. Now, with a nation at war and the hearts of the people turning to God and many responding to the Gospel, churches, across various denominational lines, are raising up and sending out chaplains.
To me, these men are men of GREAT faith! Among our guests this weekend, who have come to be trained in trauma care on the battlefield, is a retired Lt. Col. of the Soviet and then Ukrainian Armed Forces. Each day, his wife cooks a huge pot of soup and he delivers it to soldiers at he Kyiv Central Military Hospital. As he provides soup to the men recovering from injuries of war, he shares his faith openly. Two other men were at the Donetsk Airport and spent weeks among the soldiers ministering to their physical and spiritual needs. In the darkest hours before the final fall of the airport to Russian terrorists, one of these men spent the final hours in the Airport Control Tower before it collapsed after immense shelling. Another young man, received battle wounds from shrapnel to his torso and one of his eyes. Each of these men have a story to tell. Each of these men, some with tears in their eyes, share their stories.
This weekend, our ministry team, along with our partners are training these men in how to care for physical needs of soldiers and civilians who are in harms way on the front lines of the battle field. This is not what we dreamed we would ever be doing on the mission field, nor is it what these men envisioned when they volunteered as chaplains. Many Ukrainian Army medics refuse to go to the front lines. It is too dangerous and they are not paid enough. They are afraid of loosing their lives and leaving widows and children behind. So, these volunteer chaplains, by default, have been left to be the front line medics for many of the soldiers. They see their roles as saving the physical life today, so that they may share the Gospel and save the soldiers soul tomorrow.
These are men of faith! We are humbled to be here. In this moment. With this purpose. For God’s Glory!