The first weeks of the war in Ukraine have been horrible. From the safety of our homes and media devices, we in North America have watched in stunned disbelief as evil acts are brutally inflicted upon those who simply seek freedom from aggression and peace from constant shelling, shooting, and endless intimidation.
The people of Ukraine have demonstrated a brand of patriotism and love of country that few of us will ever know or truly understand. The few WW2 veterans who remain among us, and those who served in Viet Nam and other horrendous wars are certainly in the same league as the current Ukrainians, but most of us will simply never know the kind of courage they are expressing as they literally put their lives on the line for the survival of their neighbors and their beloved motherland.
Are there things we can do from this distance to actually help our Ukrainian neighbors? As a matter of fact, there are things we can do, both as choral directors and as private citizens and within our communities.
1. Pray that somehow, in God’s providence, the current world’s Goliath will again be overcome by the smaller, not-as-strong David.
2. Pray that God will comfort, support, sustain our Ukrainian friends.
3. Pray that the killing will end.
4. Pray that the Russian people who oppose and protest the war would gain strength and would be taken seriously.
5. Pray for our enemies, just as Jesus said, that they would see the compassion, wisdom, and power of God through new eyes of love (a very tall request!), or a least through the eyes of human decency and basic empathy towards others.
So, yes, we can first pray … and then we can do more than pray.
5. Select anthems for our choirs to sing which contain the timeless, dependable promises of God, regardless of human circumstance.
6. Select an anthem or two which highlights the need for compassion, kindness, gentleness, and love.
7. For advanced choirs, this is a time to reintroduce and sing Craig Courtney’s UKRAINIAN ALLEUIA (Beckenhorst Press). And please be sure your choir sees the inscription above the title on the first page of music. This piece was written a couple of decades ago, but the inscription as well as the music are still spot on and could have been written this morning.
8. Find some way to materially contribute to those in Ukraine. Yes, I believe we can all find a legitimate place to give money, and I encourage us to do that.
9. We can lead our churches to adopt a refugee family and to help them with rent and basic living expenses. Almost all churches have the resources for such a project, and with some budget restructuring and creative consensus building, this can happen quickly and will make an enormous difference for a family in crisis.
10. Never stop looking for ways that we can be instruments of peace in our communities and among the neighbors with whom we live.
The words of St. Francis:
Lord, make me an instrument of Thy peace.
Where there is hatred, let me so love.
Where there is injury, pardon.
Where there is doubt, faith.
Where there is despair, hope.
Where there is darkness, light.
Where there is sadness, joy.
O Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek
To be consoled as to consoled,
To be understood as to understand,
To be loved as to love,
For it is in giving that we receive,
It is in pardoning that we are pardoned,
It is in dying
That we are born to eternal life.