Prayer, Perseverance and Purpose: Learnings from PF Ukraine’s Prayer Breakfast
I have recently returned from a wonderful visit to Ukraine. The invitation came because PF Ukraine, in the face of real adversity, has shown itself to be a partner of great value to the justice ministry there. As a result, PFU Executive Director Vyacheslav Kogut and his team were co-sponsors of a prayer breakfast comprised of prison governors, military personnel, faith leaders, and many others besides.
All persons attending gathered around the person of Jesus and were committed to prayer in the midst of their current circumstances. I had the privilege of reminding them that the greatest power in our universe is God’s love for those he has created.
The indefatigable spirit of the PFU leaders, supporters and volunteers was inspiring and challenging in equal measure. Their commitment to service and impact was undefeated by external circumstances which they were not in control of. The things they offered in response were hard work, perseverance and a hope for the future. Their work is astounding.
Many of the national ministries in our PFI family face challenges, yet our teams around the world continue to give of their best. We continue to see God surprise us and, in every way, move through the work we are doing, as we serve the prisoners of our world, doing justice, loving mercy and walking humbly with our God who is a Father to us all.
We are inspired and empowered by the greatest power that our world can encounter: the unconditional love of our creator, a God who affirms to every human being that they are His image bearers, who revealed Himself, 2,000 years ago, in the person of Jesus of Nazareth.
The lengths he went to prove His love and commitment to us were extraordinary. He faced an unjust, cruel death alongside two known criminals, one of whom He assured with His dying breath, would be with Him in paradise that very day. He then descended into Hell, the place of death and imprisonment, and spectacularly emerged in victory.
Prisons and tombs are everywhere around us and within us: physical, psychological, emotional, spiritual. They are all places of death. But no matter how far we fall from displaying His image (living in tombs and prisons, either of our own making or not), God makes it clear that we are loved unconditionally and that His offer to all is freedom and resurrection life.
Psalm 68:6 tells us that “He leads out the prisoner to prosperity,” maybe better puts as “He leads out the prisoner to fullness of every kind”. It is the kind of work that God is expert in. In my work, I am privileged to see His transformation in lives all over the world. From prison to freedom, fullness and wholeness.
The Ukrainian people represent something that is deep within those that God has created. Galatians 5:1 says, “It was for freedom that Christ has set us free.” You could say it is in the DNA of all of us, that a God who is love, desires for us to be free and is in charge of our universe is worth remembering when circumstances arise against us in this life.
I do not believe history and eternity will be on the side of those who seek to usurp the kingdom He launched on resurrection Sunday, 2,000 years ago. Our world changed on that resurrection day, for good. Nothing is the same from now on. At the name of Jesus every knee must bow.
We have the privilege in this life and today of embracing this God of love and author of life, while praying and embodying, “Your kingdom come and your will be done be done on earth as in heaven.” Our scripture tells us He listens and moves in response.
In the dark physical prisons of the world, the institutional prisons of injustice and oppression, and in the fearful dark prisons of my heart, Jesus Christ is present and brings His Words of life
I was reminded of this fact in the chapel inside Boroslav prison with its large iconic artwork of Christ Pantokrator. There he was, His right hand raised in blessing, His left holding the Good News of who He is, why he came and what that means for us.
This is why I believe our work is holy. We remind those in the prison of the world, and simultaneously ourselves, of these truths in practice and words. That we are image- bearing, affirmed, forgiven; That we can be and are continuously being restored and transformed by Him.
It is why I am fond of saying, “We don’t take Jesus into prison. We follow Him in and meet Him there.”
And lastly, from my heart I say and to the all-powerful God whose name is Jesus: May the Lord bless you and protect you. May He make His face shine upon you and be gracious to you. May He lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace.