“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. For as we share abundantly in Christ’s sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too. If we are afflicted, it is for your comfort and salvation; and if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which you experience when you patiently endure the same sufferings that we suffer. Our hope for you is unshaken; for we know that as you share in our sufferings, you will also share in our comfort.” 2 Cor 1:3-7
One of the last stops we made one day was at a small church in the village of Slobada Kuharska. Not many homes lined the narrow, tarred street. People knew their neighbours, houses were close together and every home had a vegetable garden. It’s amazing how much produce a family can produce in a small space!
As we unloaded the supplies into the pastor’s barn, the smell of mushrooms filled the air. His wife was dehydrating mushrooms for the winter months. The Ukrainians are masters at storing up food for the winter.
As we sat down for a simple meal on tables outside, the ‘pastor’ began sharing (pastor in quotes because as he spoke I realized he was more like a shepherd.) The people in his village were scattered and afraid, and even though he wasn’t a ‘pastor’ he went and sought out the people in the village, knocking on doors and encouraging people to come and join him and his wife in reading the Word of God - like a shepherd who was gathering lost and frightened sheep. To the shepherd’s surprise, everyone came and a church was born: a place of comfort and prayer. “‘Comfort, comfort my people,’ says your God.” Isa 40:1.
He is 75 and his wife is similar in age. He saw a need for comfort and, by reading scripture and praying, comfort was given and received. I wonder what scriptures he shared? Did he read the Psalms? Did he read about the shared hope in Christ? I wanted to ask many questions, but the language barrier was so disheartening. What was going through his mind when tanks rolled down the narrow lane, when his neighbour’s homes were shelled, and when he dug the grave to bury his neighbour?
May the comfort he so generously shared with others be with him. May God bless them and keep them, may the Lord make his face shine upon them and be gracious to them. May the Lord turn his face toward them and give them peace!