April 12, 2014

Five years ago today, a Saturday, I got up early so that I could travel to a city then called Dzerzhinsk (it is now called Toretsk). The pastor of the local church had invited me to attend a puppet show for special needs children in the city.

Even with all that was going on at the regional administration building, I had a full day of ministry planned. So, before I left town, I helped get sound equipment, water and supplies to a spot where our young church plant was hosting a soccer tournament. After the delivery, I continued on to Dzerzhink.

It was a fine morning and meeting some wonderful children. After the puppet show and presentation of awards, I got back in my car and traveled to the place where the soccer tourney was being held. There was absolutely no warning that anything was brewing just north of where I was located at the time.

It was a cool Saturday. Overcast, windy. The soccer tourney was in elimination rounds by the time I arrived. Still, there were lots of people around and I took a lot of pictures.

Later in the afternoon, I first heard and then saw a plane flying above us. From the noise, I could tell it was going super fast and it wasn’t a commercial jet. Eventually, it was below the clouds and I was able to take a pic.

Right away I knew this was not a good sign. However, the plane disappeared and my mind went back to the tasks at hand. There was discussion as to whether it was “ours” or Russia’s.

After the tourney, I spent a couple of hours with a young brother from our group. After he left, I turned on the news to find out armed conflict had broken out in Slavyansk, a city about one hour north of Donetsk. My heart was broken.

I called my supervisors to let them know what was going on. We discussed ideas and after several phone calls, the decision was made that I should leave. The thought was I could leave for a couple of weeks and see what happened.

We decided that I should probably pack up some of my things. And my immediate supervisor asked me when I could leave… I decided I could leave on Monday.

As the old adage says, “If I only knew then, what I know know”… But that is for another day…