I met Vlad Makhovsky in the fall of 2014. I was part of a learning tour to MCC’s work in Ukraine and Eastern Europe when the violence in eastern Ukraine had already begun. In a temporary distribution centre of the Zaporizhzhia Baptist Union, Vlad, soft-spoken and unassuming, told us of trips he’d been making to the Eastern front, taking food and material assistance to vulnerable Ukrainians and helping women, children and the elderly escape the conflict by bringing them to Zaporizhzhia, 200 kilometres further west. He was regarded with suspicion by both the separatists and Ukrainian security. To both, he declared, “I believe in Christ. I am helping people leave the war zone.” He told us that he’d been imprisoned, mistreated and threatened with death.

On hearing his story, a Ukrainian member of our group said, “The Ukrainians thought he was a separatist. The separatists thought he was of the special Ukrainian forces. But he’s just a Christian.”

Just a Christian being the hands and feet of Christ in a broken world that is often forgotten by the West. This issue of A Common Place takes us to that forgotten place and introduces us to other MCC partners who are living out their faith in very trying circumstances. We meet very ordinary people whose gracious and courageous activities seem extraordinary only to others.

In a world of increasing suspicion and fear of the other, people like Vlad welcome the stranger. They live out day-to-day what Paul encourages Christ-followers to do: “Let love be genuine; hate what is evil, hold fast to what is good; . . . extend hospitality to strangers”(Romans12:9–13).

Don Peters
MCC Canada Executive Director