Returning to Ukraine after two long years away was a bittersweet journey. The city of Lviv, rich with history and resilience, felt like a mix of both joy and sorrow. As our train pulled away from the station in Przemysl, Poland, and headed to the border, my heart swelled with a mix of anticipation and trepidation.

My husband, Chad, and I, missionaries for the Eurasia North Field, had called Kyiv our home prior to the war and we were anxious to return. Our friends, Svitlana Kleschar (Ukraine district superintendent) and her daughter, Zee Gimon, were among the first to greet us, picking up right where we left off, as close friends and colleagues usually do. Soon after, pastors and leaders from all over Ukraine started to arrive and there were hugs and tears all around!

The gathering in Lviv was a significant one. Reverend Chuck Sunberg, along with other Eurasia North field leaders, had organized a week of prayer, teaching, and encouragement for the pastors of the Ukraine district. It was more than a meeting; it was a lifeline for those of us who had been scattered and scarred by conflict.

Throughout the week, we had morning devotionals led by Rev. Sunberg. His teachings were a challenge to us to follow in the footsteps of the first disciples of Jesus and to “suffer well” for the Kingdom. This will be the testimony of God’s faithfulness to the world.

During the day, we walked the cobblestone streets of Lviv, a bustling city that makes it easy to feel like all is back to normal. Normal until a single trumpet player brings the city to a halt, some to their knees, in complete silence. Trucks bring the bodies of those who died in the war through the streets. It’s a reminder that under the surface of this beautiful city lies the pain and trauma of a country at war.

Evenings were filled with lively conversations and planning for the future. We prayed fervently for the district, the church, the country, and for each other. Leaders shared their journey, their words a testament to the enduring spirit of the church in Ukraine.

As the week came to a close, we gathered one last time. There was a palpable sense of renewal, a commitment to rebuild and support one another, as well as the district and its leaders. We anointed each pastor with oil, taking time to pray and lay hands on each one individually.

Boarding the train on Friday to cross back into Poland, I felt a renewed sense of purpose. These pastors are not just survivors of a war, but bearers of a hope that comes only from the Holy Spirit. They are the light in the darkness of their communities, and they are testaments of Christ followers, determined to suffer well for the glory of God!

-written by Crystal Gibbons