One evening, my youngest son, Julian, came to my room to talk with me about something serious. He was nervous and a bit embarrassed, but proceeded to tell me that he had fallen in love with a Belarusian girl he had met while attending the European Theological Seminary in Kniebis, Germany. I had met this young lady while on mission at ETS, and found her to be delightful and beautiful, so I was happy to hear his news. But then he said, “…and I really want to marry her.” Wait, what?!? I remember telling him that they were too young before adding that we would have to meet her family to understand her upbringing and what he would be getting involved with. After all, every mom knows that no one is perfect enough for their baby. However, I was willing to go the extra mile because I could tell his heart and his feelings were sincere. So, off we went to Belarus, the last known dictatorship in Europe.
We structured our trip so that the parents could spend some time getting to know each other. Gena is Belarusian, and Larisa is Ukranian. Gena is a pastor who oversees several churches in Belarus and Ukraine in addition to his own church in the city of Minsk. They have two precious daughters — the oldest is my son’s now wife, Anastasiya, and the youngest is Tania. Gena and Larisa Kernazhytski quickly became good friends and eventually, dear family. When we received the wonderful news that our children are pregnant with our first grandchild, Gena and Larisa quickly made arrangements to come and spend some time with the family in America. Little did they know that only two days into their happy vacation, war would break out in Ukraine, with the Belarusian Prime Minister backing the Russian occupation. The vacation mood quickly shifted, and it became imperative to get their daughter, Tania, out of Belarus immediately before things got worse and borders closed. After pulling some strings and making a trip through Poland, she is now here with us, and we couldn’t be happier!
When we hear about war on the news or see posts about current events on social media, its easy for us to feel disconnected. But this one very much hits home. I want to share a video clip from a recent interview Gena and Larisa did in Tennessee with their pastor and friend, Allen Jackson. This interview will give you a better idea of how things are in their part of the world, and perhaps a better understanding of what the Ukrainian people are experiencing today. Gena and Larisa still have many relatives, friends and churches in Ukraine that desperately need our prayers. I’m asking that you join me in prayer for our brothers and sisters who are suffering today in that part of the world, and also for President Zelensky to remain strong while he responds with wisdom and courage against such a strong enemy. I don’t need to remind you that we are not against Russians, or any one group of people for that matter. Instead, we are against the evil that is trying to overpower the weak and the innocent; Leaders who seek absolute power by trampling on the very people who have served them well.
Suffering continues to ring loudly all around us regardless of our culture, status, gender and beliefs. Jesus remains the only answer for a hurting and broken world. Let us fix our eyes on Him only.
Note: To watch the linked video, click on the words “Video clip” in the last paragraph.