Going back to Ukraine the second time around brought all kinds of different challenges. At that time, AC was pregnant with our son, so the idea of going into these war zones and the thought of leaving her to potentially be a single mother, made the reality of where I was going and what I was doing hit me way harder. In planning this trip, I knew it was no different than what I had done time and time again, but with the baby on the way, it made going so much harder. I was not just waiting for a good moment to bail on the trip, but was praying for the Lord to tell me not to go...He didn't. So, like all the trips before, I hopped on the plane and the 5 of us were off to meet up with Jason in Europe.
Looking back now, I am so thankful I went. There was one town in particular that we went to that made the entire trip a worth-while venture. When I say that this town was on the front lines, I really mean it was on the front. The guide told us we were about 500 meters away from the Russian soldiers. So, about 1500 feet in front of us were the Russians, and about 1500 feet behind us were the Ukrainians about to attack them. And right in the middle, was our team and the city the two forces were fighting over. The city had been in contention for 8 months with no humanitarian efforts coming in. Our arrival was the first time anyone else cared to help them.
After some persuasion with the Ukrainians, we were allowed to deliver food to a couple spots in the city. With the chaos of our movements and need for rapid delivery in order to not become targets, it could have been easy to disengage and disconnect from the reality of where we were and what we were doing. When I look back at our brief time in this area, however, the old woman's face, seeing food brought to her home is stitched into my mind.
She had been hearing explosions and gun shots over her house for the last 8 months, and was without electricity or running water during this time. Tears poured down her weathered face as she expressed all her gratitude. Then there were the countless kids piled into a 500 square foot room, living with a woman in the exact same condition as the older woman, all with shaved heads to avoid lice, showing no emotion. This scene will always be a reality check for the me, and my gratitude that comes with living where I live in a peaceful town with no war.
This trip was hard and conditions were rough. I am constantly reminded of the blessing it is to live a life where I have peace when I go to bed. The blessing I have, knowing my son won't know what it’s like to have jets flying over his head, dropping bombs in the middle of the night, is a feeling beyond gratitude. The blessing it is to be able to drive to work and not have to worry about undetonated mortars on the road, puts things into perspective.
No matter where you are in the world, life has challenges, and sometimes we can make those challenges our only focus. When we do that, they can often times become this huge, heavy thing. The reality of it is, I would take these challenges any day over having to watch my wife and kid live through that kind of life. With that in mind, I am incredibly thankful for where I am, and thankful that I get to live in a small town that is peaceful. I pray that the Father helps us establish His peace on His Earth, because without Him, it's impossible. And to live without peace is not a way to live.
Please pray with us for Ukraine. I know it’s an overwhelming thing to raise all the money and go back to the front lines, but that woman’s tears and those kid’s faces will forever be in my mind, reminding me why we go to those places. Because, sometimes, no one else will go for 8 months straight because of the danger, but those kids still need to eat, and they need the hope of Jesus and the assurance that they’re not alone. This is why we go back.
Will you join us in Ukraine: March for Freedom? Just $80 will provide aid to a family of 4 for a month. We are so grateful to everyone who has given already and helped us to raise enough money to reach 99 families, and we are praying for an even bigger impact to come. So many people are still on the front lines, and we trust the Lord that He will provide the funds as our team prepares to go back.
Thank you for joining us as we journey out!
Answering the Call
Jake never thought he would follow in his father's footsteps, but after stepping in to lead an emergency relief trip to the Nuba Mountains in the fall of 2017, he knew God was leading him into mission work. After graduating from Virginia Tech with a degree in Agricultural Science and a minor in Social Change and Leadership in 2018, Jake accepted a full-time position at ATC. Jake not only manages the financial operations at ATC, but also leads multiple trips into the fields throughout the year. When he's not managing spreadsheets, leading trips or coordinating projects, you can find Jake hanging out with his wife A.C., their beautiful baby boy Theo, and their dog Whit.