On February 24, Vova woke up at 5:00 AM to the sound of bombs exploding around his city in Ukraine. He had fifteen minutes to gather whatever he could and get his wife and three children into their car. They drove for hours to western Ukraine, where they stayed with his parents.
Vova scrambled to find out how his fellow FCA Ukraine staff fared, where they were. As the Ukraine lacrosse director, he also sought communication with his coaches and athletes, finding that some had fled the areas of fighting, some were serving in the military and others were scattered in other countries.
As the war raged, Vova and his family would head down to the basement multiple times throughout the day when sirens wailed. He was torn; his heart yearned to stay and help his country, church and coaches, but the tears on his children’s faces as they huddled in the basement told him it was time to go.
They made their way into Poland. In Ukraine, men between the ages of 18-60 must stay in the country, but Vova was able to cross the border because of his small children, one with special needs. Friends in the Warsaw area arranged for an apartment, extra clothes and other amenities his family needed.
Within the area were arenas and conference centers set up as makeshift relief stations, mattresses stack one next to the other for Ukrainian refugees, most of them women and children. There are 5,000 people living in the center closest to him.
Vova’s heart broke for his country, the people with nowhere to go, and his lacrosse community still at home. How could this be part of God’s good plan?
“It’s hard to focus on God’s Word [at the moment],” he admitted. “My mind and heart desire it, but they are filled by all the activity and needs, like in Mariupol—300,000 people can’t drink water. They are cut off. You want to focus on God’s Word but are hit with bad news.”
But the Good News of Jesus is greater, and Vova’s heart to serve propelled him forward.
He immediately went to work, asking his lacrosse community and their families about their needs and helping coordinate food, clothes and finances. He continued a virtual coaches Huddle and weekly leader calls with staff still in Ukraine and met with ministry partners to see what doors God may be opening during this time.
“It’s a horrible situation for us, but I’m here so I speak the Gospel here,” he said. “We pray to see God, not the problem.”
Vova, who is also the president of the Ukraine Lacrosse Federation, hosted his first sports practice for the children staying at the conference center on March 26. He and volunteers collected nets, soccer balls, lacrosse goals and sticks and invited kids to the grass space around the center for a time of play, coaching and a devotion time.
“Our desire is to take the kids outside and have them play,” said Vova. “We want to serve coaches, athletes and refugees, and want to use sports to spread the Gospel.”
During devastation, grief and uncertainty, God is making a way for His Gospel to move.
“We had a meeting with our church the other day and found out people have spread in 12 countries. And FCA brothers and sisters are in other countries now, too. God has spread us to Europe.”
As Vova and his family settle into Poland for the foreseeable future, his heart and mind, while distressed and longing to return to his homeland, sees the shift in circumstances as providential.
“We don’t think as if we are refugees, but God’s warriors,” said Vova. “We’re here because God gives us these opportunities. We were in our own beds, and in one day we lost everything. It reminds us that we are on this earth for a short time. We have nothing, but we are where God has us.”
He likened the situation to the call of Abraham in Genesis 12, when God tells him to leave his homeland and everything familiar and simply go to a place to be revealed.
“It’s a heaven mindset,” he added. “We are just wanderers on this earth. I believe God will use this situation to spread His Gospel.”
Through servants like Vova, God is already at work bringing His hope to weary hearts.
To support Vova and the rest of FCA Ukraine’s service efforts, donate to the Crisis Relief Fund and sign up for daily prayer prompts.
Please pray for Vova and all FCA Eurasia staff to see themselves as God’s servants in the places where they are currently residing. Pray for Vova and his volunteers’ eyes to be opened to where they can serve coaches, athletes and refugees, and for God’s Word to penetrate through the distractions and stay in their hearts and minds.
Vova also asks for prayer for Russia as a nation, and for hearts to turn to God.