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Personal From the President: March 17, 2022

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Personal From the President

March 17, 2022

Update from Ukraine—and Deep Personal Thanks

I want to relay to you news that I have received from Ukraine, but first, allow me to express deep personal thanks. Since the announcement of our upcoming transition, Bev and I have been humbly and joyfully overwhelmed by hundreds of cards, letters, emails, texts, phone calls—as well as social media notifications—from all over the world, expressing warm appreciation and good wishes. We have heard from a broad spectrum of people—from individual members and families to UCG national councils and congregations and many more. It is deeply humbling and fills Bev’s and my hearts.

It’s unfortunately beyond our ability to respond to each one, but Bev and I certainly want to tell all how deeply we appreciate your encouraging sentiments of love and support for our service over the past nine years, and also for the time we’ve spent actively serving in the ministry of Jesus Christ.

We must thank all of you for your commitment, faith and service, and for the priceless privilege of serving you, whether here in America, or in Africa, Europe, Asia, South America, Australia, India, or elsewhere. We know of the example of the apostle Paul, who expressed praise and gratitude several times for the changed lives of the people he served, especially as he watched their conversion grow: “First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for you all, that your faith is spoken of throughout the whole world. For God is my witness, whom I serve with my spirit in the gospel of His Son, that without ceasing I make mention of you always in my prayers” (Romans 1:8-9 Romans 1:8-9 [8] First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for you all, that your faith is spoken of throughout the whole world. [9] For God is my witness, whom I serve with my spirit in the gospel of his Son, that without ceasing I make mention of you always in my prayers;
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). And to the Philippians, he wrote: “I thank my God upon every remembrance of you, always in every prayer of mine making request for you all with joy” (Philippians 1:3-5 Philippians 1:3-5 [3] I thank my God on every remembrance of you, [4] Always in every prayer of my for you all making request with joy, [5] For your fellowship in the gospel from the first day until now;
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, emphasis added throughout).

Paul’s thoughts reflect the joy both Bev and I feel when we see what God has done with and through you as faithful disciples of Jesus Christ. This is what we will remember most from our time serving together in the ministry.

We are humbled and give thanks for the many people in the communities where we have served who may not be part of our assembly, but appreciate what we have done (including the broad Church of God community). Over the years, Bev and I have gotten close to many fine people, and I have received kind notes from our Ohio community leaders who have appreciated the United Church of God and what we represent and do, including our Beyond Today television program and magazine.

I was further surprised this past Tuesday morning when I attended my local Rotary Club. Several members told me that they had already seen and heard the Church’s notice about us on social media. I marveled and was pleased to see the positive effect that the United Church of God has made on our local area.

Ukraine

But now I want to again turn to the appalling and frightening events in Ukraine. As many news analysts have increasingly warned, these events could dangerously escalate to an apocalyptic level and potentially come to America’s front door. Not since the 9/11 terrorist attacks has there been such introspective thought about the viability of the human race.

As I have written before, the symbolic “Doomsday Clock” maintained by The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists is figuratively ticking towards midnight, representing the end of civilization. The minute hand has symbolically receded and advanced, but now has been fixed at 100 seconds to midnight for the third year in a row. The clock, which metaphorically counts the time until the end of the world, remains at the closest point it has ever been to midnight—with one of the group’s leaders warning, “Steady is not good news.”

But that’s only one way of looking at the “end of the age” referred to in Matthew 24:3 Matthew 24:3And as he sat on the mount of Olives, the disciples came to him privately, saying, Tell us, when shall these things be? and what shall be the sign of your coming, and of the end of the world?
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. We are most fortunate to understand that after the apocalyptic midnight, we will break into a new world tomorrow—the Kingdom of God—that we have been proclaiming and preparing for all our lives! Jesus also prophesies: “For then there will be great tribulation, such as has not been since the beginning of the world until this time, no, nor ever shall be. And unless those days were shortened, no flesh would be saved; but for the elect’s sake those days will be shortened” (Matthew 24:21-22 Matthew 24:21-22 [21] For then shall be great tribulation, such as was not since the beginning of the world to this time, no, nor ever shall be. [22] And except those days should be shortened, there should no flesh be saved: but for the elect's sake those days shall be shortened.
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). The world will not perish in a nuclear fireball. But great tribulation—as is now happening to the Ukrainian people—will first come upon the whole world.

As Ukrainian refugees increase to three million, I am in daily contact with people in several regions there. The “safest” region is in Transcarpathia in the far west, but Russians have attacked the outskirts of Lviv close to the Polish border.

In Transcarpathia, we are actively providing resources to churches to care for homeless refugees pouring in from the east.

As mentioned last week, one humanitarian leader among them is Vlad Yurishko, who attended one semester of ABC in 2018. The Sabbatarian churches there have transformed their meeting halls into temporary refugee shelters. When one leaves his home with a small suitcase, he or she will never know if and when they will return, and to what they will return. I have been told that only women and children and men over age 60 are allowed to leave as refugees. Men are expected to defend their country. How will the women leaving be treated? Will they be reunited with their husbands? This is so emotionally painful for me personally.

Thanks to all who have contributed to this relief effort through lifenets.org. We are humbled and grateful to see the broad level of support.

I continue to have intermittent contact with people in Chernihiv, 120 miles north of Kyiv, close to the Russian border. This city is where we have worked and helped establish the Revival Center of Rehabilitation for Disabled Children. I would like to share parts of a letter from Dr. Vasyl Pasichnyk who founded and manages the Center.

“Dear friends Victor and Beverly!

“We are writing this letter as explosions are heard all the time outside the window (at a distance of about 1–2 kilometers from us).

“From the first day of this disgraceful invasion of Ukraine, our beautiful city of Chernihiv has suffered from ballistic missile attacks, cruise missiles and the hail of airstrikes.

“On the first day, administrative buildings and military facilities were completely destroyed or damaged. Enemies approached the city but met with formidable resistance from our defenders, so the invaders were determined to change tactics. On the second day, in the city began massive airstrikes on peaceful objects—homes, schools, daycare centers. All this cannot be considered accidental, because there are no military facilities nearby. Our city is on fire with lots of smoke.

“Since yesterday, residential areas—high-rise buildings and private houses—have been shelled with severe brutality. Many civilians were killed but some were rescued. The house of our pediatrician/head of the department was destroyed. Fortunately, she and her two daughters and four grandchildren survived in a shelter.

“We do not understand how such cruelty and lawlessness can take place in the modern civilized world! The hypocrisy, lies and cynicism of Putin and his entourage know no bounds!

“There are 36 employees who work in the Center. One died in an explosion. We provide assistance to 50 children (mostly with psychoneurological disorders) and their mothers. As of yesterday, we have taken in babies with their mothers. Many residential buildings in the city lack electricity, gas and heat.

“People are stressed, but they work to help children and support each other. We remember your help. Thank you and the Lord God for everything.

“We believe that God will give us the opportunity to live on this earth and meet you in a peaceful and rebuilt Chernihiv!

“With love, Vasyl and Natalya”

This is a time for us to sigh and cry, as Ezekiel wrote about the evils of his time (Ezekiel 9:4 Ezekiel 9:4And the LORD said to him, Go through the middle of the city, through the middle of Jerusalem, and set a mark on the foreheads of the men that sigh and that cry for all the abominations that be done in the middle thereof.
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). Jesus Himself wept concerning the future of Jerusalem and the world: “And when he drew near and saw the city [Jerusalem], he wept over it, saying, ‘Would that you, even you, had known on this day the things that make for peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes. For the days will come upon you, when your enemies will set up a barricade around you and surround you and hem you in on every side and tear you down to the ground, you, and your children within you’” (Luke 19:41-44 Luke 19:41-44 [41] And when he was come near, he beheld the city, and wept over it, [42] Saying, If you had known, even you, at least in this your day, the things which belong to your peace! but now they are hid from your eyes. [43] For the days shall come on you, that your enemies shall cast a trench about you, and compass you round, and keep you in on every side, [44] And shall lay you even with the ground, and your children within you; and they shall not leave in you one stone on another; because you knew not the time of your visitation.
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English Standard Version).

Let us pray for the people of Ukraine. Let us pray for our spiritual brothers and sisters. Let us pray earnestly for the Kingdom of God to come!