World Challenge’s partners in Ukraine are reaching out to offer prayer, comfort and care to widows and those in need of God’s unconditional love.
In her novel Till You Hear from Me, author and activist Pearl Cleage reflects, “You can’t save a person who doesn’t want to be saved. It was like Mr. Eddie always told the new gardeners: Everybody’s got to kill their own snakes.” This truth reflects the great pain of loving those emmeshed in unhealthy relationships or dependent on abusive family members.
It’s a struggle MIR Ministries know all too well. They partner with World Challenge to reach over 300 widows in more than 25 different villages between Ukraine, Russia and Belarus’s troubled and war-torn neighborhoods.
Unlike with an orphaned child who can be taken in, the widows that the team helps are adults with their own lives and decisions that must be honored. Our partners make concerted efforts to treat them with dignity and respect their choices in the process of loving them.
This often leads to a heartbreaking tension as they live out God’s love that does not force his good will on us but rather meets us where we are and gently invites us into a better way.
Clutching the Burden of Shame
Nadiya Krynychna lived next door to another widow who was a long-time member of the MIR widows care group. The team saw Nadiya enough to realize that her situation was probably not a healthy one, and they wanted to help her. However, Nadiya was very reserved and, at times, unwilling to talk to any of the team members.
Bit by bit, the team learned that she drank a great deal, and that her son was very likely an alcoholic as well. He was occasionally around his mother’s house but did not seem dependable.
The team decided to try offering Nadiya a bag of groceries, which she almost certainly needed, to see if the gift would open doors of communication with her.
At first, Nadiya was painfully embarrassed that they were bringing her food, but she gradually began accepting the gifts and becoming more open to talking with them. They shared the good news of salvation and God’s love with her, but she told them she didn’t think that this salvation could happen in her life. She truly didn’t believe that anyone could love her.
The case was a heartbreaking one. As much as the team wanted to be a practical demonstration of God’s love in Nadiya’s life, they couldn’t do this without her permission and opening up.
“She was very grateful that we took care of her,” one team member shared, “but there was always a sense of shame. According to neighbors, her son mocked her a great deal.” Perhaps because of this relationship, Nadiya was hesitant to admit that she was often in physical pain, didn’t have food in her house, or simply needed care and company.
The Perfect Love of Christ
One day, as the team was making their rounds to visit the widows in their care group, they noticed Nadiya leaving a store. They called out to her, but she clearly didn’t want to have them come close. Her behavior was very odd, and then one of the team noticed that her lips were bleeding.
Finally, the story came out. Her son had become upset at her and had struck her as they were traveling to the store.
The team went to visit her later, and her son opened the door, visibly drunk. He told them that his mother was paralyzed and had been bedridden for several days. When Nadiya saw people coming in, she wanted to sit up. Her son stomped over to the bed and grabbed her to wrench her upright. She began crying out that he was hurting her, and he slapped a hand over her mouth.
When he left, the team gathered around Nadiya. She had not eaten anything for a while, so they fixed her food. Meanwhile, they talked with her again about the hope of salvation, and then they prayed with her that the Lord would reveal himself.
Through her physically distress and clear frailty, Nadiya smiled.
“A couple of days later we learned that Nadia was gone,” the team told us. “We know she finished her life hearing about the perfect love of Jesus over her life, and we hope one day to meet her again.”
As they seek to reflect God’s heart for widows, our partners must often walk alongside those in deep pain and meet them in their needs as they will allow. They embrace this truth of sacrificial love in the scriptures, “For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person — though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die — but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:6-8, ESV).