The United Nations’ very conservative estimate is that well over 2,000 people have died in the Donetsk region of Eastern Ukraine in fighting between that nation’s government have clashed with separatists. So many of the towns and cities in the region have congregations of God’s people, many of their preachers trained in our foreign extension school that for years was in Kramatorsk and of late has been in Gorlovka. One of our graduates reports that two gospel preachers have been kidnapped this month, though one of them has since been released. Our brethren in Ukraine have been facing the terror of daily bombing and shooting as well as fear for their safety when they assemble.
The ebola outbreak is an ongoing health concern and it is not yet contained. Nations affected include Liberia, Guinea, Sierra Leone, and even Nigeria. One of two Americans on medical missions in Liberia, Dr. Kent Brantly, is a member of the church. While its not clear whether any of our native brethren in these African nations have gotten sick or died, they certainly feel the threat and concern of a disease that claims between 50 and 90 percent of those who contract it.
Around the world at any given time, we have brothers and sisters who face health scares, hunger, harm, and hatred. Persecution, natural disaster, famine, and war are no respecter of persons, and “our people” are often affected. How they need our constant prayers as well as whatever assistance we can prudently provide.
On our pews in the local church, though without the drama and press coverage, there are always those who are struggling with hurts, heartaches, health, home, and hardship. They may not trumpet their complaints or even publicly ask for encouragement, silently suffering. As we interact with each other, let us keep in mind the potential hidden concerns and burdens being borne.
Paul encourages us, in the spirit of unity, to “have the same care for one another” (1 Co. 12:25). He tells Colosse, “Put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience” (Col. 3:12). He tells Philippi to to look out “for the interests of others” (Phi. 2:4). Are we busy and bothered by our own concerns? Certainly! But may we ever cultivate greater sensitivity toward the silent suffering of our spiritual family, both near and far.