From Foes to Fellow Saints
When I was stationed in Germany from 1988 through 1993, I made numerous reconnaissance trips out to the eastern border between West Germany and Czechoslovakia. I would get right up on the border across from the Czechoslovakian town of Cheb to gather information on the terrain, the town itself and the units stationed there. There were points along that border where the only things separating us from the enemy troops were a little stream and border pole markers identifying the actual border that was not to be crossed. I could get up to within 70 feet of the outposts across the stream where enemy soldiers would sit with cameras equiped with telephoto lenses to take photos as we came up to the stream; also gathering information for their military.
I remember on one occasion as I was looking at a soldier across the stream, that certain thoughts and questions came to my mind. I wondered if he had a family, a wife, children. Did he have hobbies, etc. As we looked at each other, I thought to myself, I really don’t have anything personal against that man. He was born in a time and place that put him where he was, and I too, was born in a time and place that brought me to where I was. He was there to serve and do what he was charged and trained to do just as I was there to perform my duties. If war developed, he was trained to take my life and I, the same. I continued on with my reconnaissance mission and didn’t really give it much more thought.
Fast forward to 2005, I am retired from the Army, serving as a pastor here, and taking a trip to Dubno, Ukraine to visit a church that we have partnered with. Throughout our stay there, I got to know pastor Slavic Karpyuk and some of the other leaders in their church. During one of our conversations, we learned that we both served in the military when we were younger and we talked about our assignments and duty stations. We determined that when I was stationed in Germany, he was stationed in, of all places, the town of Cheb in Czechoslovakia. He shared how he patrolled and guarded the same section of the border that I would do my reconnaissance trips at. We both sat there with jaws dropped in disbelief. I don’t know if I actually came in viewing distance of him or actually saw him across the border. After a moment of shock we broke out in laughter and gave each other a big hug. Neither of us would ever have imagined that we would not only meet someone from behind enemy lines, but would have the same heart and passion for serving Christ.
Encounters like this make me realize how small and insignificant I am in the big scheme of things. God was orchestrating both of our lives and future, knowing that we were going to meet one day. We were both doing what we were trained to do, admittingly, focused more on ourselves and our lives than those around us or even our opponent in arms. Somehow, we lose sight of eternal things when we’re so focused on the task or events right before us. We have no idea how the things we are doing today will impact others in the future and often times don’t realize how things will turn out.
While you were not present to experience what I did in Germany and in Ukraine, I hope you will understand and make an effort to know who Slavic Karpyuk and his wife Vita is. They are much more than names on our prayer list and photos on our missions wall. I hope this will cause each one of us to be more intentional about praying for them, finding ways to reach out to them, and getting to know them in a more personal way. They would love to get a note or letter from anyone at Westhill Church. Take the time to read the newsletters we get from them and imagine meeting them personally. Slavic has been to our church a couple of times and loved everyone here. He and Vita have a huge task of ministering to many people in Ukraine, not only in their church, but around the western part of that country. There are many widows in his congregation who lost loved ones in previous wars and battles. At the same time, they are also ministering to many children, orphans, and young couples.
The Karpyuks have taken on a huge and important responsibility in serving Christ and bringing people to the knowledge of Him who saved them. They are reaching those who we cannot reach personally, therefore, let’s do what we’re instructed in Luke 10:1-2. “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few. Therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.”
May we continually and earnestly pray for Slavic and Vita Karpyuk as they serve Christ in Ukraine and may we put the same effort into corresponding with them.