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Anna’s strength: a Ukraine story from Tearfund

24 February marks two years of the Russia-Ukraine conflict. Read Anna’s story of strength through the valley of tears.

Edited by Tarryn Pegna | 02 Feb 2024

A brown wooden cross against a wooden background.

Credit: Kelly Sikkema/Unsplash

On 24 February 2022, conflict that had been simmering in eastern Ukraine since 2014 escalated when Russian military forces entered the country from Belarus, Russia and Crimea. Countless families and communities were thrust into chaos and confusion as they faced the loss of lives, livelihoods, loved ones and homes.

The war has raged on and 24 February of this year will mark two years of the conflict – a period of great loss, deep pain and a desperate need for peace and healing.

During this time, Tearfund has been supporting local church partners in Ukraine and Moldova to respond to some of the physical and emotional needs that a conflict of this scale brings with it. Through this network, our emergency support has reached more than 122,000 people with various types of assistance.

This includes providing hot meals, warm clothes and clean water, which send a message of love and encouragement to those who have lost everything. But the toll is heavy and although we can be there in a very practical sense, the pain that people – including our partners – experience can only be reached by the touch of a saviour.

Anna, from one of Tearfund’s church partners in Ukraine, tells us how God is helping her to walk through this time.

Anna’s* strength

My name is Anna. I am from Ukraine, from a city about 15 miles from the war zone. (We call it the zero line.) I live very close to Bakhmut, Siversk and other cities that have been almost destroyed.

My city is now called the city of pain because there are many people who have left the zero points and come here. And I experience this pain too. I'd like to share with you what I feel and how God has been leading me – how, through this pain that we face and that I carry in my heart, he is helping me to move forward.

There's a passage in the Bible that says ‘God holds you by your right hand’**. And there is another that says, ‘Call to me, and I will answer you’***. I hold onto these words.

New blessings

Then, in Psalm 84, it says, ‘Blessed are those whose strength is in you…As they pass through the Valley of Baka, they make it a place of springs; the autumn rains also cover it with pools. They go from strength to strength.’ [Through these difficult experiences], I can now understand clearly that even when we go through the valley of death, God is so good to us that he opens new sources. Through his word, we have this encouragement.

The Bible tells us how, in the times of Moses, God led the people of Israel through wars, worries and struggles. They were a people in pain too, and God used Moses and others to lead them out of it. But, it also tells how Moses struggled with the Israelites because the people continued to complain. God showed me that I could walk the path of pain for 40 years if I continued to murmur – or I can walk and cross the valley [of this trial] in 40 days if I stop crying and repining and instead focus on him – the one who is leading me.

‘I can now understand clearly that even when we go through the valley of death, God is so good to us that he opens new sources. Through his word, we have this encouragement. ’
Anna, Ukraine

All things turned for good: a promise

And God has been showing me that everything can be turned for good. The pain that we live in can also be turned for good. It can help me – and people around me – to reevaluate everything. I think of the things that I used to think of as valuable in my life, and now, instead, I focus on the true treasures that have become my foundation. And my heart asks the question, ‘God, what do you want? Where do you want me to go? How do you see my life now in Ukraine?’

God spoke to me and he showed me that when he took the Israelites out of oppression, he used Moses to be a strong leader. But also, Moses had two helpers by his side – Hur and Aaron. Those two were the people who supported Moses, and there was also Joshua who followed him and carried out the tasks that he was given. I can see that, in our lives too, God sends people who will help us – those who will stand next to us and support us. They help hold up our arms so that they won’t drop down. In this way, through his word and through the people around us, we see how God transforms our pain, and he shows us that he has not gone anywhere, but he is right there walking with us.

In Isaiah 8, the Lord says, ‘Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?’ And God places the same call – the same challenge – in my heart so that I will respond to him and say, ‘Here I am, send me.’

A foundation to stand on

At the start of the full-scale conflict, there was fear. I had panic in my heart. And God highlighted one story to me. It was in an animated film that I watched. There was an old donkey. It was so old that when it fell down a deep well, it couldn’t get out. There was no water in the well and the owner of the donkey did not want to save the animal as it was old and was of no use to him, so the owner decided to fill the well with earth, and in so doing bury the donkey alive. People started to bring sand and throw it into the well, but as it fell, the donkey shook it off and stood on top of it. After some time, there was enough earth inside the well for the donkey to easily stand on top of and climb out. God showed me that the pain, the challenges – they were just like that sand in that story – the earth that falls on me and covers me. At the same time, this becomes a foundation for me to stand on and to push off to take the next step.

I can see God at work, strengthening me, my team and the people I work with. As he reveals  things to us, we can become a helping hand to others who are in difficult situations. As we learn how to overcome the pain, the people around us see and they join us. They see there is escape, there is hope, they know where they go and who leads them! These people have support – they have Hur and Aaron by their side. And they can see that God Himself walks before them.

‘I can see God at work, strengthening me, my team and the people I work with. As he reveals  things to us, we can become a helping hand to others who are in difficult situations.’
Anna, Ukraine

Help in the valley of tears

I want to say how grateful I am to God for how great he is – that he gives power even through pain, reliance and support. Through our pain, God has helped us to see many opportunities and he gives us a clear understanding that these are temporary challenges.

Our lives have different stages, and through each of those stages, he makes us stronger. He teaches us things and gives us understanding. And maybe at some time in the future, other people will find themselves in the same situation as we are now and we will be able to rise up and help them because we know what pain is. We know what it is when children suffer, when houses are destroyed. And we will be able to help them because we have already lived through this. At this stage, this is our valley of Baka, our valley of tears, where God gives us strength to walk through it.

*Name has been changed for protection.

**’For I am the Lord your God who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, Do not fear; I will help you.’ (Isaiah 41:13)

*** ‘Call to me and I will answer you and tell you great and unsearchable things you do not know.’ (Jeremiah 33:3)

Read another story here about how one of our local church partners has been responding to the needs of people affected by the conflict in Ukraine.

Pray for Ukraine

    • Pray for peace and for an end to the Ukraine-Russia conflict.
    • Praise God that we have been able to work with local churches and partners to support more than 122,000 people who have been displaced or impacted by the conflict.  
    • Ask for continued access to resources, psychological support and protection over our local partners who are continuing to respond.

Edited by

Edited by  Tarryn Pegna

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