Artem is from Mariupol, Ukraine, only eight miles from the war front. Every youth in Artem’s town has been affected by the ongoing war in Eastern Ukraine. Some have lost family members, most live with the constant sound of artillery fire. They are so used to the sounds of war that
many young people can tell the caliber of the artillery projectile simply based on the whistling sound
. It is part of life, but life goes on in their city. Four times a week, Artem and some of his friends meet with Coach Sasha, who runs the Youth for Christ Day Centre in Mariupol. Coach trains them in soccer, lifeskills, and introduces them to Jesus through stories from the Bible.
Artem’s eyes lit up when he was telling me about the Day Centre and Coach Sasha
, because it is a place of safety and hope and constancy in the middle of a lot of uncertainty.
This past summer, I was part of a partnership between YFC in Ukraine and YFC in Kentucky, USA, to lead an English camp for Artem and other youth from seven Day Centres near the war zone. It was Artem’s first time at a summer camp, let alone a Christian summer camp, and he thought it was a lot of fun!
In the middle of the week, Artem came up to me with a craft project he had created: an angel made of cloth. He was proud of his project and excited to give it to me. I found out later that
I had been chosen as his “secret angel”
, so he had made the gift for me. There is a passage in Psalm 91, which is called the Soldier’s Psalm, related to angels. Receiving Artem’s craft and finding out I was his secret angel made me think of those verses: “If you say, ‘The LORD is my refuge,’ and you make the Most High your dwelling, no harm will overtake you, no disaster will come near your tent.
For he will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways.
” (Psalm 91:9-11, NIV, emphasis added)