Vera's Journals: Seeing God on the Frontlines

September 15, 2023 • Ukraine
Samaritan’s Purse continues to supply food and other essentials to people living near the frontlines of the conflict in Ukraine.

Journal excerpts from a Ukrainian translator show how God is using Samaritan’s Purse in some of the most dangerous areas of the conflict.

Responding to the Crisis in Ukraine

As our partners go into Ukraine’s red zone delivering aid on behalf of Samaritan’s Purse, Vera accompanies some of them to translate. Excerpts of her journal entries, which follow, show the horrors of war yet illustrate how God is present and active even where the battles rage.

November 4, 2022
A stream of light breaks through the crowns of the trees. It’s beautiful, but along the road we pass an overturned car. Further, some remains of a tank. A blown-up car again, and the remains of another tank. The car is still on fire. A pile of smoke mixed with the smell of gunpowder makes me want to sneeze. The ground trembles, and my body involuntarily reacts to the explosions. Is it frightening? Yes, but the will to live is greater.

Finally, we reach a village. Grannies gather between the houses. They are so eager to tell someone about their pain. They embrace us, crying with joy and thank us that we have come to them with food.

We are by a wounded man. Just seeing blood could make me faint. Yet, there’s the realization that someone’s life is on the line, and I have to translate to a medic and a patient. Blood is seeping through bandages. No longer do I worry as much about the exploding shells. We just want to help someone survive.

“Do you hear explosions? That’s where we need to go,” the driver announces.

“Lord, lead us,” we pray in the car. “Let us get where we have to go and guide us out of trouble. Close the eyes of the enemy. Shield us, Lord.” We also pray that our car won’t break down or get stuck!

In her work as a translator, Vera has repeatedly traveled into the red zone.

In her work as a translator, Vera has repeatedly traveled into the red zone.

God’s nature is stunningly beautiful, but everything is spoiled by burnt tanks and other damaged vehicles along the roads. Under a car there is a body. Another body and another. We no longer look at broken houses, broken windows, or any other material loss.

We reach some houses. A granny comes out of the gate. She cries. She hugs us. She cries that her son went off to war and hasn’t been in touch for a long time. She’s waiting for him. My heart sinks. Is he alive or dead?

Some blown-up tanks litter the roads again, and each of them became somebody’s grave. How many of them were brought to face God’s judgment without ever knowing the joy of life with Him?

November 13, 2022
A missile lands; the ground shakes. I pray aloud, “Lord, protect the city. Put up your dome. I’m scared. But I go because I know You are leading.”

From that moment on, not a single rocket flew in or out. The whole time we were there, we didn’t hear a single explosion, although we could sometimes smell gunpowder and smoke.

A doctor was in a panic when we arrived. Her apartment had been struck by a rocket, but our calmness surprised her. She said, “I don’t know who you are, but while you were in town, everything got quiet.” This opened the door for me to tell her about God.

While delivering other supplies, our partner teams also provide desperate grandmothers with much-needed hugs.

November 14, 2022
The driver and I went to the Eastern Front to help with medical supplies. The other part of our team went to the Southern Front. At one point my heart was filled with a desire to pray. I immediately informed my close circle of friends.

As it turned out, a gentle voice had urged me to pray during an attack on our teammates. All ended well. God protected and kept everyone alive. At least seven rockets shook the ground, raising mire and smoke, but none came near them.

That’s intercessory prayer. You do not have iron weapons, but the dome—the shield that prayer provides—is stronger than enemy rockets.

Vera and her team delivered food and a wood stove to this woman who had witnessed destruction so close to her home.

November 16, 2022
Long before dawn I read, “The LORD will fight for you, and you have only to be silent.” (Exodus 14:14, ESV).

It is a cloudy day. Every time we head out on a risky mission, we pray about the weather. It’s hard to drive on swampy roads during or after rain, but the low-hanging clouds remind me of God’s protection over Biblical Israel. Overcast skies make it impossible to view the roads from satellites and drones.

The residents are very happy to see us. They begin to invite their neighbors and tell us how they have lived during the occupation. There are tears in the eyes of the people. They cry about how hard it has been over the last months. They also cry with joy that we have come, and that we have brought food.

“The LORD will fight for you, and you have only to be silent.” (Exodus 14:14, ESV)

November 18, 2022
As always, we begin the morning, at the Samaritan’s Purse warehouse. We are welcomed there. We help Samaritan’s Purse with transporting first aid supplies to the most dangerous zones. Today, we are going to a hospital. As we enter the town, we are told, “Don’t linger. The city is under fire.” We pray, as we always do. Consequently, without fear and with peace in our hearts, we arrive at the hospital. The doctor is a lovely woman. Her sons are in the army. Her daughter-in-law and granddaughters have gone to a safer place.

November 23, 2022

Tons of supplies pass through our hands every day, and then there are the long, bumpy, mine-riddled roads. Sometimes we have to hide from view, and we also speed. No one will fine us for accelerating, but slow, careful driving can cost us our lives. At the end of the day, the jolting motion hurts my whole body. I come home, tired but happy, because my day has not passed in vain. We saved someone’s life by bringing life-saving medicine or feeding the hungry. We gave a beam of light, a warm hug, a reassuring smile to a grandmother, to a child who has been sitting in a cellar for months hiding from the blasts.

It is not comfortable to be feeble. But it is joyful to see Christ show His strength through my weakness. It is hard to look into faces that are hardened by life. But there is nothing sweeter than to see the tears of God’s touch.

It’s frightening to drive off-road, where landmines and other explosives may await. But God is
stronger than the metal “asp and viper” of our day.

Charred tanks are strewn across the roads Vera and her team take into the conflict areas.

December 22, 2022
On the road again, delivering needed medical supplies to the hospitals. I am tired. I can’t imagine how tired Mary was the first Christmas. Now we’re on our way to give warmth and love to people. Lord, please give to me the strength to smile.

December 24, 2022
A day before Christmas, we went to a village right on the front. I was in a lead vehicle. At some point, we found out that the front, right tire was ripped. It was so messy to change a tire in deep mud, but that wasn’t the worst of it. In a couple of minutes, we heard many explosions getting closer to us. We were given orders to hide because the way to that village was exposed. After a row of shells and couple of bomb explosions, the military person said that we had about four minutes to unload the humanitarian aid. It takes that long to recharge the machine guns. He was right—in about four minutes we were being targeted again. The missiles hit the black dirt to the right and left of us, but didn’t touch our cars. God was with us right in that valley of the shadow of death.

  • Vera and her team take loads of firewood into the conflict areas to provide much needed warmth when the electrical power has been cut.

January 5, 2023

This town resembles a ghost town. The windows of new high-rise buildings have been torn out, burnt, and shot through. In front of each multistory house, there are sinkholes nearly 10 feet deep and up to 30 feet wide. Every single house bears the imprint of war.

The tops of the trees look like they’ve been chopped, shot through. Tree trunks, too. Nature itself is torn apart by explosions. The air is soaked with gunpowder. It resembles the smell of burnt garlic, which rises in the throat and makes you want to cough. You can’t get enough air and it makes you feel thirsty.

The war is on. This is not a past tense narration. I look around and think about the meaning of life. The day of judgment will come, and all will be tested by fire. All life, motives of actions, everything will be naked. Suddenly my thoughts are interrupted by a powerful explosion. Everything is shaking underfoot, a lot of powerful, loud things fly overhead.

To the sound of explosions, and with complete confidence in God, we continue to do what we came for, we continue to bless people.

Vera’s teammate reads Scripture to Ukrainians who are weary of war.

People cry when they see us. We hug them, they cry even more, as if softening in our arms. “Bring us peace,” they plead. “The only peace that we have,” I say, opening the children’s Bible to the story of Christmas, “is Jesus Christ. He gives us peace and confidence to risk our lives to come to you and share the love that He gives us.”

We end the meeting with hugs and many tears.

January 13, 2023
Life and death were close today. After the first explosion, I realize that I am already crouched, or lying on the ground by some structure. At the second blast, I assess the situation, whether it’s safe to run to the bunker, or to stay by the concrete slab.

I could see explosions over the nearby vegetable garden, and realized that something was approaching. We have mere seconds to hide from the blast. In those two seconds, I don’t know how we ended up in the nearest granny’s cellar. It’s nice and warm and quiet there. It’s a little dark, though. In the midst of all this there is heavenly peace in my soul, a feeling of God’s promise: “A thousand may fall at your side, ten thousand at your right hand, but it will not come near you” (Psalm 91:7).

Shelling claimed the roof of a Ukrainian church.

January 14, 2023
Someone said to me yesterday: “It’s like you’re glowing. You go to dangerous war zones and you yourself radiate peace.” It must be because God’s presence wraps itself around me.

Today as we visited a village, we went under fire. I wasn’t stressed at all. I had some peace and tranquility right in the middle of the storm. With God this is possible.

January 16, 2023

We hear the news every day. Yesterday, we learned that the place where we often visited came under fire, and a man who served with us died. Another, an explosive tore off his arm and there are wounds in his stomach.

We have a week ahead of us. I look at the plans and, humanly speaking, I want to run away. I look at God, and with Him comes courage like Daniel’s. Looking at Jesus, it is possible to walk on water, to walk on minefields, to save lives in His Name.

This Ukrainian man makes soup for himself and others who are hiding out in the red zone.

God’s love is amazing. It melts fear, anger, misunderstanding. Instead of darkness, His love fills and ignites, heals, and gives peace.

Hear more from Vera in the latest podcast episode from On the Ground with Samaritan’s Purse.

View a summary of Samaritan’s Purse work in Ukraine since the war began.

Olena and her children huddle in their cellar next to a stove provided by Samaritan's Purse.
Responding to the Crisis in Ukraine Samaritan's Purse is providing food, water, and non-food items, such as wood stoves, solar lights, and construction materials, to suffering families in Ukraine. In partnership with local churches and ministry partners, we are bringing this urgently needed relief to those in areas deeply affected by the conflict. We are also airlifting medical supplies into the country and providing medical training as fighting rages on. Since the start of the war, we have operated two field hospitals and other medical clinics.

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