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On the front lines today...

by Pastor Jerry Theckston

 

Today we spent the day just behind the front lines!  We were invited to be a part of the tank battalion that is fighting right by the Russian border in the Kharkiv region!  Russia is only about 2.5 miles away and there was shelling off and on throughout the day!


The battalion commander is next to me on the left side of the picture.  Everybody tries to wear civilian clothes so snipers and drones can’t identify them so easily. 


The commander’s name is Sergei and we had a tremendous time walking through what it is like to live and work in the midst of constant fighting!


This picture was fun because, after we left the base camp, we started to head home, and the Commander ran us down to give us their battalions flag. They had signed it and gifted it to me.


But even while we were enjoying these last few moments being together, the City of Kharkiv was being bombed right in front of us! It is a strange reality!


They asked before we left if we would sign this Ukrainian flag - so we wrote a friendship note and put Scripture on it!


This soldier, Dema, followed us around all day and was a sweet gift!  When we were getting ready to leave he said don’t go anywhere until I get back!  He ran all the way back to his tent to retrieve the most important gift he had to give- his map compass! 


Everyone was so grateful to have us there that they gave sweet gifts for us to remember them by - their military patches, flags and other memorabilia!


In this picture, we are standing on a hill by this village as the Russian army was bombing it!  Why? There is no military presence there, just Ukrainian villagers! It is so destructive and sad!


The battalion commander is directly behind me in the picture below.  The rest of the folks are all his division commanders!  Everything started out very heavy and formal! 

They and their soldiers face death every day and the physical remains of both Russian and Ukrainian casualties! We saw some body parts today and I said this must be very difficult but they said “not any more…”


Something inside of us must have to die to handle things I don’t think we were ever meant to see! 


The sweet thing was after they took us on a tank ride, showed us what they do to fix broken tanks and other military vehicles( their knowledge and creativity were amazing) and we shared a meal together- the whole spirit of this secret camp seemed to change! Some said, “it is like we can breath again with you here!” And, “you bring fresh life!”


Our prayer for this journey was just that - that the Holy Spirit could use us to extend His life, light and healing through us to these dear men and women, who doubt they will ever go home alive! 


As we left there were many hugs, kind words about being brothers, prayers for safety and the hope we would be able to see one another again - without War!


We had a 2 1/2 hour drive back to our home in Novomoscosk and on our way, the General, who has been such a great help, called and asked if we could have ice cream together when I got back to the City!  It was a wonderful time and always full of amazing insight into what’s going on and ways we can care for those in need!  He brought me a gift that was kind of startling - a brand new version of the Ukrainian Bible that is just out, with a sweet note inside! Every day there seems to be this mix of great tragedies and still beautiful moments with beautiful people!


Speaking of beautiful people, I want to thank you faithful prayer warriors! My neck, knees, hips, and back are all great despite all the travel and walking!  Praise God from whom all blessings flow!! And I am so humbled by each of you and how your prayers have impacted not only myself, Rolfe and Lev,  but so many others over here!!



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