“Mykolaiv…Mykolaiv…There, I found it.” One year ago, I was zooming in on Google Maps to locate the city where Karina last told us she lived. It was in southeastern Ukraine. A port city. My shoulders sank. This was an area of contention in the then beginning stages of the war. My wife and I had been unsuccessfully trying to reach Karina. Finally, a message. She and her baby were alive. Her husband and brother, both recently conscripted into the army, were headed to the front lines in the neighboring city across the river. Karina hadn’t slept in days. She could hear bombs falling through the night, her bed shaking with the blasts. Electricity in her building often failed. She had just now gotten online.
Seven summers ago, our family welcomed Karina, a then quiet 16-year-old, into our home as part of a program that arranged for children in orphanages to spend a summer with a host family. At the summer’s end, Karina was like one of our own family members. We saw her off at the airport with more than a few tears.
“Karina, the US is accepting evacuees from Ukraine. You and your baby are welcome to stay with us.”
He’d do everything divinely possible to keep us together. And He died trying.
“Thank you for the offer. I appreciate every action and every kind word! You may think I’m stupid, but I can’t leave my family here. They are all I have. My baby suffers without her father. We must stay.”
These are the calculations of love in a time of war, calculations I’ve never been forced to make. In life’s darkest and most chaotic seasons, love has a way of making what matters most crystal clear. Karina made an appraisal of the heart. Knowing the pain of growing up parentless, she decided to do everything she could to keep her family together. Her daughter would see her dad as often as humanly possible, or Karina would die trying to make that happen. Love “endures all things” (1 Corinthians 13:7).
Isn’t this how God has loved us? Sin drove humanity into the dark chaos of shame and separation. But God made an appraisal of the heart: through Christ, He’d do everything divinely possible to keep us together. And He died trying.
Karina and her baby have moved to a home in the country’s interior. Her brother and husband come as often as possible. As I scroll through the last year’s messages from Karina, I see a timeline of despair, hope, fear, and resolve. But between and through every line, I see what love does. Even, and especially, in a time of war.
Angelo is pastors in Gainsville, Florida and is an adjunct instructor with ARISE. He finds great joy in ministering with his family and would be happy to welcome you the next time you pass through.