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Student Challenges in the Midst of War

Student Challenges in the Midst of War

Rev. Dr. Larry Michael

“I’m sorry, a number of students have had to disconnect. The sirens are going off, and they must seek shelter!” As Anna (my Russian translator) communicated to me in the midst of my Zoom lecture with students from Ukraine, Poland and other Eastern European countries online, I realized we were in a moment of distress as I sought to carry on with my lecture. I could tell that the demeanor of those engaged had changed, and in the midst of my lecture on grief, I felt it was time to take a timeout from the lecture and deal with the feelings that were felt even across the miles on media. So, I decided to share the 23rd Psalm and, when I came to “Thou dost set before me a table in the presence of my enemies,” I felt my throat tighten. I choked back my personal emotions and then proceeded to continue speaking to the students still online about the many different ways that we navigate grief in a most difficult world.

Screen shot from Larry’s August lecture.

This lecture was the third that I had delivered to these students, most of them women aged 25-50 living in Ukraine whose husbands are serving in the military on the front lines. The course was offered by the Christian Theology and Social Sciences College in Warsaw, Poland. I was invited under the auspices of The Outreach Foundation and found the prospect of dealing with these vital issues most daunting. The first two lectures dealt with trauma, with PTSD, its causes and ways forward in recovery. The third lecture was all about grief, which is the long passageway after dealing with trauma. Over 500 students had participated in the first and second units of the course, and 100 plus were dialed in the day of my grief lecture.

It became apparent to me early on that post trauma wasn’t the biggest issue for these students, but present trauma was the immediate reality. I was told before the lecture began that relatives and pastors were endangered in the eastern part of Ukraine, and there were threats to their lives and continued presence in their communities. As well, I was told that many men in the military had turned to God and were finding that faith was a meaningful way of facing the daily threats to themselves, their compatriots, and their country. One translator told me, “There are no longer any atheists in the war.”

I am planning to go to Warsaw for the college’s annual retreat and graduation ceremonies on November 16-21. Please continue to pray for the students, their studies, the challenges they face, and the engaging of their faith as they pursue careers as Christians in ministry and secular occupations. While the future may seem threatening, we believe that God will go before them and prepare them as His representatives in an ever-darkening world in need of a Savior.

Larry Michael