Bibles in Bomb Shelters

Nearly two years ago, the nightmare for Ukraine began. The journey from bombed-out cities in eastern Ukraine to the west of the country involved a desperate, high-risk trek—first on foot, then in the back of trucks swerving to avoid constant bombardment, and finally being packed like animals in trains headed towards the Polish border. Today, this war is still relevant. Amid the swirling global news, ever-changing and ever-troubling, the innocent people of Ukraine are still experiencing panic, chaos, family separation, and staggering daily death tolls. 

But, even looking back on the initial aid efforts, there was hope—and a source of peace. 

By God’s grace, some of the famished, exhausted refugees found their way to shelters run by Christian ministry workers who had been busy setting up make-shift bomb shelters in the basements of churches in and near the western city of Rivne. Each shelter provided much-needed humanitarian aid, and open, welcoming arms, asking, “What do you need? What do you want?”  

Interestingly, one after another asked this: “Do you have a Bible?”   

As it happens, each shelter contained a table full of Bibles — in Ukrainian — and Children’s Bibles and Bible coloring books telling about personal peace and an eternal hope beyond whatever the future holds for these precious little innocents and their beleaguered families.  

Having Bibles available at this crucial time was no coincidence. When the prospect of war began to loom larger, EEM, a ministry that has been providing Bibles for Eastern Europe free of charge since 1961, began rushing shipments of Bibles to the region. As the invasion began, all was ready: food for the body, nourishment for the soul.  

While they previously had to be smuggled behind the Iron Curtain, since the fall of communism, these materials have been given freely and openly to individuals, families, children in youth camps, refugees, mission churches, public libraries, prisons, hospitals, orphanages, and…wait for it…public universities and public schools! In fact, governments are asking for Bibles to be handed out in their public schools!  

Isn’t this ironic? What “can’t” happen in a “Christian” nation like the United States is happening in Eastern Europe! What’s wrong with this picture? 

When military conflict breaks out, as it did in Ukraine, we rush to spend billions on weapons for use against totalitarian regimes. But what if we could spend a fraction of the cost so that war never again broke out? One doesn’t have to be a Pollyanna to believe that Bibles rather than bombs could actually have that effect. Bombs destroy people; Bibles transform people — and nations. 

There is much debate over whether we ought to engage in “nation-building.”  While that is a political issue, “nation-building” in another sense has nothing to do with politics…and, then again, everything to do with politics. “Righteousness exalts a nation. Sin is a reproach to any people.”   Show me a truly righteous nation, and I’ll show you a nation that has compassion, not aggression. Show me a nation that faithfully follows the Bible, and I’ll show you a nation that pursues peace and freedom, not war and devastation. Like nothing else can, Bibles build better! 

Why were unbelievers, in particular, asking for Bibles? Could it be that, in the crush to escape fear, terror, and a humanitarian crisis, they had seen in the faces of believers a peace that passes understanding? Or perhaps they had heard from their fellow refugees the good news of Jesus being proclaimed in the midst of unimaginable bad news.  

Despite current harrowing news around the rest of the world, the devastating attacks on lives (and war on souls) in Ukraine are very much relevant today, two years later — even if most of the media isn’t emphasizing this fact. If you are wondering what you can do for peace, both in Ukraine and in nations everywhere, the answer is simple: Help unleash the healing, freeing power of God’s Word through the Bible! 

Photo Courtesy: ©Getty Images/Alexey Furman / Stringer

The views expressed in this commentary do not necessarily reflect those of Christian Headlines. 

F. LaGard Smith is a retired law school professor (principally at Pepperdine University), and is the author of some 35 books, touching on law, faith, and social issues.   He is the compiler and narrator of The Daily Bible (the NIV and NLT arranged in chronological order), which EEM has translated into Ukrainian, Russian, Romanian, Hungarian, and Serbian for the people it serves in Eastern Europe. 

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