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A long line of Ukrainians walks toward the Polish border checkpoint, fleeing the war in their homeland.
Video still provided by Marina Noyes

Ukrainians count the days as they pray

Ukrainian-American family detail their difficult journey from the Eastern European nation to the U.S.

OKLAHOMA CITY — Ukrainians no longer measure time with words like Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and so forth, said Marina Noyes.

Now it’s Day 51, Day 52, Day 53 of the war.

Noyes, a Ukrainian, and her husband, Jim, an American, recounted their exodus from Ukraine to the U.S. during a recent missions class at the Memorial Road Church of Christ in Oklahoma City.

Marina Noyes speaks to a Wednesday night Bible class.

Marina Noyes speaks to a Wednesday night Bible class.

They spent Days 1 through 10 of the conflict with Russia in Kyiv, Ukraine’s capital, where they helped plant the Vinograder Church of Christ about 20 years ago. For the past eight years, the church has served refugees from Ukraine’s Donbas region, parts of which pro-Russian separatists seized in 2014, and the Crimean Peninsula, which Russia annexed the same year.

Despite the daily explosions, they were hesitant to leave the members of their church who had decided to stay. They also were concerned for one of their two grandchildren who has special needs. Finally, their son and daughter-in-law decided that they must risk the dangerous, heartbreaking journey to the Polish border.

As they prepared to leave, Marina Noyes overheard her granddaughter, who uses a walker, talking to her baby doll. In Ukrainian, she said, “Do not worry. Don’t panic, sweetie. All will be well. Mommy is with you.” She had heard those words from her own mother countless times, Marina said.

The family of six endured traffic jams, freezing cold and confusion as they moved westward, achingly slow. Along the way, they received providential hospitality from Christians including Dennis Sopelnik, a minister who works with the Bear Valley Bible Institute of Ukraine. The school met in the eastern Ukrainian city of Gorlovka until separatists seized its facility, which also was the meeting place of a Church of Christ, in 2014. The school relocated to the central Ukrainian city of Bila Tserkva.

As the fighting intensified, Sopelnik moved westward again. He and other Ukrainian Christians used the meeting place of the Ternopil Church of Christ in Ternopil as a base from which to serve those fleeing the conflict. Sopelnik helped the Noyes family find temporary shelter there.

Related: A frantic trip to the grocery store — and a baptism

In Poland the family received a warm welcome and warm beverages. They traveled to a refugee camp in the city of Lublin. Marina’s son and daughter-in-law worked at the camp and helped their fellow refugees. Eventually, they found temporary housing in Belgium. Marina and Jim headed to the U.S.

Now they spend their days crisscrossing the country, sharing their story and asking Christians to pray for their brothers and sisters — not only in Ukraine but in Russia and Belarus. They also pray, “May the enemy’s jets get broken, their hands be weakened.”

“My people are very strange. When there is peace, we argue. When the trouble comes, we cry. When it gets bad, we pray. When it becomes unbearable, we sing.”

“This is a new ministry for us right now,” Jim Noyes said. “We want to make ourselves available.”

His wife said, “My people are very strange. When there is peace, we argue. When the trouble comes, we cry. When it gets bad, we pray. When it becomes unbearable, we sing.”

Ukrainians have written thousands of songs since Day 1 of the war, she said.

“Ukraine has always been religious,” she added, “But now Ukraine is really turning to God.”

FIND MINISTRIES collecting aid for Ukraine at christianchronicle.org/ukraine-crisis-how-to-help or call (405) 425-5070.

Filed under: Bear Valley Bible Institute Crisis in Ukraine International Memorial Road Church of Christ News Russia Ukraine conflict Top Stories Ukraine

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