Early on April 14, 2014, I went to the garage and got my car. I had packed several suitcases with clothes to take with me for my “two week” journey. I loaded up the car, went back upstairs, turned off all the water and gas in the apartment and walked back down.

It was relatively quiet as I drove down University street in Donetsk. As I passed the back side of the regional administration building, I noticed the protestors had built fires in several places to keep warm.

There wasn’t much traffic at that hour, and still less than usual. The people around my building had already stopped parking their vehicles in our courtyard.

Admittedly, I was anxious. After what I had witnessed in my neighborhood the last 10 days, I needed a break.

As I got to the road leading from Donetsk to Dnipropetrovsk (as it was called in 2014), I began thinking about stopping to take a picture of the Donetsk city sign. Many countries in Eastern Europe have a city marker sign as you enter the city, and as you leave the city boundaries, there is another sign with the city name on it, but with a line through it, showing that you are leaving.

In July 2010, when I moved to Donetsk, I had stopped and had my picture taken.

My heart was telling me to stop, but my mind just wanted to get out of town. Sometime we should listen to our hearts! I didn’t stop, and I haven’t seen that sign since!

I was on edge throughout the journey in the Donetsk region. I don’t think I breathed easy until I got to the border between Donetsk and Dnipropetrovsk regions.

Leaving was a difficult decision. My life, my friends, my church… all in Donetsk. The one “hope” was that I would be gone for two weeks and it would all be over and I could return. Those two weeks are now five years.

Recently, I have been preaching through Ephesians. Today, the text was from 3:7-13. I am amazed that through the most difficult situation, Paul found the right words to share. Even though he was chained to a Roman guard in a Roman prison, he was able to see that God was using him.

There is song, written by Babbie Mason that express these words:

So when you don’t understand
When don’t see His plan
When you can’t trace His hand
Trust His Heart

I have learned much about myself and about God’s love for me during the last 5 years. And while there have been times when I would like for life to go back to what it was like before the war, I wouldn’t want to change my circumstances. I trust the Lord is using it for His good.