Since July 2014 I have traveled to the far Eastern Ukraine region a number of times. I remember that first drive from Kharkov to Slavyansk. There was a feeling of apprehension of the unknown.
As we arrived in the Donetsk region, I noticed a sound coming from the road. It grew so loud that I wondered if there was a problem with one of my tires, even though the car was handling ok. Finally I stopped and checked all the tires.
No problem with the tires, but eventually it was noticed that the asphalt highway showed the signs of heavy tanks that had driven down the road. Ever since then, I recognize that sound immediately whenever I hear it. And I always hear it. I heard it again recently.
This past week, I spent four days in an area where I had never really worked. Even though I had lived in Donetsk for almost 4 years before the conflict started, I never spent any time in this particular area. And on many of the roads in the area that weren’t covered with snow, that familiar sound was ever present.
What a joy it was to meet and spend time with believers living along the conflict zone. One church has experienced tremendous growth since 2014. Attendance has grown from 10-15 people to 60-70. They have baptized 22 people in the last 3 years.
One of the places we visited has a salt mine. The pastor gave me a ceramic boot with a cube of salt as a souvenir. He mentioned to me that the boot represents bringing the “Good News” to the people of Eastern Ukraine and the salt, of course, reminds me to always be the salt of the earth.
I always leave Eastern Ukraine encouraged more than I feel I have helped. It still feels a little like home, even with tank tracks covering the roads.