I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink,
I was a stranger and you welcomed me.
Matthew 25:35 (ESV)
I served as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Ukraine from 2006–2008. During that time, I formed and developed relationships I still carry with me to this day. My time in Ukraine developed my call to service and care for other people. Since this most recent invasion of Ukraine began, my family and friends have been displaced, struggling to survive. Some made it out. Some are still moving as internal refugees. On March 15, my host father, Vova, was killed by Russian artillery.
This war rages on and I still struggle to keep in contact. The week of May 7, my host mother and my youngest host brother joined other family members in a city of relative refuge. Yet we do not know how long they will be safe. We do not know how long this war will last.
Like any other conflict, we are often left wondering what good we can do. How can we save more lives like Vova’s? Why could we not save them before? As a church that holds Matthew 25 as a central tenant, we are called to welcome the stranger. Sometimes that looks like donations. Sometimes that looks like hosting foreigners. Sometimes, it is a prayer such as the one below.
Action: Aside from praying and donating to our Presbyterian funds for refugees, here are other organizations that continue to help people in conflict zones and displaced persons in Ukraine: United Help Ukraine: unitedhelpukraine.org. If you are interested in sponsoring Ukrainian refugees: uscis.gov/humanitarian/uniting-for-ukraine. You can also learn more about what the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) is doing and donate through Presbyterian Disaster Assistance at pda.pcusa.org/situation/ukraine.
Or, if you want to be of direct aid to a Ukrainian family who sheltered a stranger in their own land, you can reach out to me at email@example.com, or through my Twitter account @ReformedCam.
Prayer: Holy God, War rages and people are dying. It is hard to see all of your creation suffer from these injustices. In this continuing time of confusion and uncertainty, guide our hearts that we may make a difference. Guide us in your justice, love and mercy so we may care for your people. Help us to be vulnerable and strong for those who are relying on us. Amen.
The Rev. Cameron Highsmith is a lifelong Arkansan and Presbyterian. After graduating college, Cameron joined the Peace Corps where he served as a youth development volunteer in Ukraine from 2006 to 2008. After working at a Presbyterian Camp, dabbling in the fine art of customer service, Cameron gave into God’s calling and earned his M.Div. at San Francisco Theological Seminary and then discerned a call to chaplaincy. He currently serves in that capacity at Saline Memorial Hospice in Benton, Arkansas. In his free time, you can find Cameron spending time with his girlfriend, Lauren, enjoying all Razorbacks sports, brewing beer, reading and on the fields during the Little Rock Kickball Association seasons.
This year’s Path of Peace reflections are designed to help participants explore peacemaking efforts addressing some of the major issues of our time. The theme for the 29 days of the 2022 A Season of Peace is Led Forth in Peace: Critical Areas of Engagement for Peacemakers. With these daily reflections, we are invited to reflect upon ways to practice peace by engaging the following critical areas:
- Climate change
- The intersection of poverty and racism