How many news headlines do we read in a week without really reading them? How many news topics do we hear announced in a week without really hearing them? Or how many headlines from this week can you remember? It’s like entering a room and being introduced to 5 or 6 people for the first time. Those names, with few exceptions, easily fade away before being stored retrievably in memory. Or remember, before the advent of GPS, when driving directions were commonly given to a specific destination? By the 5th or 6th turn, everything became like a Rorschach blot (or was that just me?) Of course, big news, like a Hurricane (here on the east coast of the US) is hard to miss. Or maybe your sports team wins big over an archrival. Or the price of chocolate goes up suddenly. Unless we are somehow directly impacted, we tend to let it slide.

Sometimes, highly newsworthy, soul-enriching, things take place of which we are not informed. It’s like they are not happening at all. And yet, for those closer, those on the ground where the activity is happening, it is truly big news. For example, these letter snippets from an octogenarian, mission-engaged friend just back from yet another trip to Ukraine (since all airports in Ukraine are closed, he flies into Warsaw, then has a 4-hour drive to the border. Then): ‘[a couple] . . . drove me over an hour . . .to the beautiful Ukrainian city of Lviv. . . Our hotel . . . Best Western . . . I reserved back in the USA . . . much better than I imagined. . . We went on our 650+ miles east to Krivoy Rog. Surprisingly we drove all the way across Ukraine on very excellent highways. In the last few years they have greatly improved their highways. . . The village of Malleevka was occupied by Russian military for 6 months. Half the houses were destroyed. A pastor couple lead a church there. Now a new church building is being built. . . (some) pastors had a two-day retreat at a pleasant resort on a river.’

He goes on at length about the many meetings with the Ukrainian pastors and their churches (called Churches of Praise) and their explosive worship and hunger for the Word. I haven’t heard this being spoken about anywhere else, have you? For a country besieged by war, the Church there seems very active, healthy, and growing, determined, with renewed passion, to continue shining the light of the Gospel in very dark times. Our friend adds this at the end of his letter: ‘The government, who is sometimes unable to help, has said to people who need help – “Go to the Church of Praise. They will help you.”’

I’m challenged by these details, and by the faithfulness of our friend to continue making the arduous trek from his home in the US, into a country at war. Of course, Scripture makes it plain that we are always at war, that the Enemy is always seeking to take us out of the running, one way or another. And since we know the end of the Story, and we have a Hope that does not disappoint, we get to shine some light around us wherever it’s needed most. We’ll add to this tomorrow, 10 AM, 4 PM.  PD

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