Last fall at work I read a news report titled “Russian separatists use child soldiers in front-line combat.” The article stated that pro-Russian-separatist forces “have been using children as young as 14 as front-line troops in their war against Ukraine in the Donbas.”[i]
My heart sank yet again into the place it goes when the problems in Ukraine seem to be pilling up into a mountain too high to see any glimmer of hope on the other side. Children, whom Jesus called to his side, fighting in a bloody conflict whose end is not yet in sight. This is not how things were meant to be.
In war, a child’s life transforms from carefree innocence to suffering, confusion, and insecurity. In Ukraine there are an estimated 1.5 million Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) – of which an estimated 189,000 are children. The most recent information from 2014 shows that 150 schools in the conflict regions have shut down, affecting an around 50,000 children.[ii] Mike Wessells, Ph.D., a Randolph-Macon College psychology professor says, “One of the greatest effects I see on a day-to-day basis is a loss of hope…Once young people feel hopeless, they really do give up. They don’t take the steps that might build a constructive future.”[iii]
Ukraine is less in the news these days, but the damage is largely done to children who have experienced the horrors of war. This is one of the problems we are trying to address at my current job as a research consultant for a firm that wants to invest in the economic development of Ukraine. – How do we provide a better situation for these children to live in? How do we provide the aid they need to recover and the conditions they need to flourish?
When reading chapter 2 of Ruth, I see a picture of how God wants us to work in the world. I see how Boaz provides for Ruth – not just through giving her aid, but also by giving her proper working conditions for her to glean in the fields. Boaz says, “Now, listen, my daughter, do not go to glean in another field or leave this one, but keep close to my young women…Have I not charged the young men not to touch you? And when you are thirsty, go to the vessels and drink what the young men have drawn” (Ruth 2, ESV). Boaz sees that all he has is from the Lord, and he also sees the depth of Ruth’s need for redemption.
One way international organizations are currently trying to aid Ukraine in providing better situations for children of war is by providing temporary shelter, school supplies needed to access education, support to reduce heightened level of stress, and safe water and hygiene supplies. My bosses and I are also trying to decide the best ways to provide humanitarian aid to IDPs and those affected by the war in Ukraine. We want to be able to provide displaced persons in the short-term with stability, education, and work.
In the long-term, outside of humanitarian provisions, we are also looking into how to help Ukraine’s economy by providing more jobs for more people. Not just any job – but quality jobs that care for individual workers. It is my hope that the short-term provisions will provide children affected by war with greater hope and a better option than being a refugee or a child solider; and that the long-term provisions will create a transformation throughout Ukraine’s economy and people.
As Christians, we are not called to work in this world as the world would work in it. Instead we are called to be a part of Christ’s redemptive process. I see the work I am doing as an opportunity to contribute to that redemptive process. Redeeming children affected by war-torn lands and providing for their future hopes.
Where can I use my vocation to redeem children?
Baylee Molloy works in international development and is a participant in the 2015-2016 Capital Fellows Program. She has a Master’s from the Batten School of Leadership and Public Policy at the University of Virginia.
Images: FreeImages.com/Katherine Evans