A Song of Mourning: Stories of Ukrainian Refugees by WEA Global Ambassador Brian Stiller

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Rocking back and forth on his heels, a boy, 4 or 5 years of age, alone, was softly singing a song from his homeland of Ukraine, his body moving slowly to the tune. I saw him just as I was leaving a refugee center in Romania.

All week WEA discipleship leader Ruslan Maliuta – himself from Kyiv – and I met refugees from Ukraine in countries to the west: Poland, Hungary, Slovakia, and Romania. We watched as semi-trucks and vans pulled up to be loaded, then head east to deliver needed food, medicines, and water to those who were cloistered in subway halls, stuck under buildings in rubble, or hiding inside bathrooms of houses, praying all the while that missiles and bombs would not reach them.

We sat with mothers and children waiting in homes and refugee centers, as they wondered if they would ever see their husbands and fathers again. They so wanted to return to their home and friends, even while silently brooding over what they feel is a brutal betrayal by their fellow Slavs (and in many cases extended families) to the east. The cloud of evil hung over the greatest of optimists. The flagrant abuse of territorial integrity and personal well-being has turned this part of the world upside down. 

My young singing friend, dressed in a blue jacket with a hoodie, took hold of my heart and, in one moment, epitomized the wider horror we will forever remember as “2022 – the year of Ukraine.” Just imagine this boy and his mom, days before fleeing Ukraine, leaving behind husband and dad. Friends, the glue to a boy’s world, were now nowhere to be seen. His hometown, a place of safety and well-being, had been bombed. Every notion of security and normalcy shattered. School a memory, books and toys left behind. Even the language is different. Eating other people’s food just isn’t like mom’s. At night he looks into his mom’s eyes, and as much as she will try to even out the bumps and show strength, he can see her fear and uncertainty. Yes, his life will never be the same again. 

Another story from Ukraine captured the enormous emotional as well as physical dislocation that war brings. A family, a mother and two daughters, arrived at a refugee center, and in working out details, the center director noted that the girls were agitated and distressed. He asked the mother if there was something she could explain. 
She said that two days earlier, as they were running for a bus to leave Ukraine, another mother and baby joined them. Amidst the crowding and confusion of soldiers and shouting of orders, a Russian soldier took the baby from its mother, put a bullet through its head, and handed the bloody child back to the mother. The other mother with her two girls watched it all, a searing memory, never to be forgotten. 

Amidst all this horrible suffering, angels of mercy welcome those on the run, offering a home, friendship, food and counsel for the journey. These agents of love walk streets where fear reigns, bringing protection and solace. Strong hands treat wounds. Men and women leave their comforts and, like the Good Samaritan of Jesus’ story, go where wounded people need the loving presence of friendship. Everywhere we went, people were giving and helping, 

But it didn’t take long for supplies to run out, and just when money was needed to replenish supplies, Christians in Canada asked me, “Here is some money, can you make sure it goes to those in need?” Their generosity was instant and without request. They were moved by the desperate need, and their faith and concern launched a special fund. We formed TRUST (The Response-Ukraine Special Taskforce), and with funds from these businesspeople we branched out, now receiving funds from Europe, the United States and Asia as well.  

As you look at my little friend hunched over, singing his song, hear that inner voice: your gift will become your voice speaking to him. Your gift is as if you were there, helping his mother find enough for the evening meal. Or see it another way: your funds will put fuel into a marked church van that a mother and her children can trust, offsetting fears of predatory sex traffickers. 
All week Ruslan and I looked over budgets, examined plans, and watched renovations being made to serve people on the move. We worked alongside marvelous people who are doing exactly what Jesus has called us to do. But nothing captured the tragedy and sorrow of a war with no rationale or purpose better than the young boy singing. In the wake of rumbling tanks and ear-splitting bombs, some 6 million displaced children, their lives uprooted and forever scarred, need us. 
May we help this song of lament, in time, to turn to a song of joy. 
I’ve been asked where you can donate. There are many great organizations. 

For Canadians, click here to donate:
For Americans, click here to donate:

Brian C. Stiller
Global Ambassador
World Evangelical Alliance
May 2022