I (Rich) heard poignant stories today while sitting at lunch with two staff workers. One was from Ukraine; her dear friends had been IFES staff in Crimea. After the annexation of Crimea by Russia, they would have been forced to exchange their Ukraine passports for Russian passports. They were not prepared to renounce their Ukrainian citizenship, so they moved. But then that city was overtaken by separatists, and they had to leave again, suddenly, this time with nothing but the clothes on their backs. This couple, with their baby, is now living in a shelter and trying to figure out how to reset their lives so that they can return to their ministry to university students in Ukraine. I was grateful that conference participants were given a chance to make an offering toward the needs of this couple.
The other staff person at our table had served in the Armenian Army before coming on staff. He had been stationed on the Armenia-Azerbaijan border for most of his time in the army, and had seen friends killed or injured in the daily exchange of sniper fire.
One of the many signs of God’s work this week is that Ukrainian and Russian students and staff, and Armenian and Azeri students at staff are building friendships here. The worship is being led by a multi-national team that includes participants from countries in conflict, yet working together as a single team, leading a multi-national family in worship together daily. And yet the reality of these conflicts and their impact on the lives of real people is not far from those who are here.
Rich and Lisa Lamb