One last family photo on U.S. soil as we prepare to depart DFW airport bound for L’viv

Home Sweet Ukraine 🇺🇦

Kelsie Steele · January 24, 2022

NOTE FROM JOSHUA: Kelsie wrote this article a few days ago, and we’re a bit late publishing it. Since that time, there have been some new developments in the current standoff between Ukraine and Russia. I’ve included more information about these developments, including our family’s position, at the end of the article.

Over time I’ve become convinced that every circumstance in my life is in God’s hand, a planned part of His story for me. There are no accidents for his children! Turns out I would need the comfort of that conviction as we traveled back to Ukraine this week.

A “normal” trip across the ocean to Ukraine runs about 22 hours, spanning 3 flights. The longest is about 8-9 hours. We disembarked from that ocean flight on Monday, (or was it Sunday? 🤔) and after a 5-hour layover in Vienna, wearily climbed aboard our third and last flight with hopeful anticipation. We were almost home! It had been a long four and a half months away.

Just as we were due to land, we learned that the weather was severe in L’viv, perhaps too severe for landing. After circling for 20-30 minutes, the decision was made to return to Vienna and not risk the landing. You can imagine our disappointment. We spent the rest of the flight wondering what was next. How would we get home? Would we need to spend the night in the airport? Though exhausted, it was clear God was watching over us and allowing us a crash course in patience and endurance. So we tried to keep our courage and trust Him.

Back in Vienna, we were soon rerouted. It would be two more airport waits, two harried trips through security, and two more flights (with windy, bumpy descents) before we finally landed in L’viv at 1:00 am local time! Our total travel time clocked in at around 36 hours, with roughly 17 of that in the air.

Our kids were troopers! Despite a few expected meltdowns, they all did really well and were in ecstasies when we finally walked through our front door on Pancha 5! We’re so thankful for God’s goodness in bringing us home again!

Speaking of thankful, you know you’ve got true friends when they pick you up at the airport in the middle of the night, stock your fridge with meals for days, and deck out your house with welcome banners and clean sheets. This is love at its finest. We are so thankful to Serhii, Natallia, Nathan, Katelin, Vira, Bohdana and Margarita for making our homecoming smooth!

Recovery and jet lag have been fairly smooth, as things go. The Littles are mostly adjusted to the new time; being exhausted from travel helped with that. It hasn’t been quite as simple for mom and dad and the older kids, but we’re getting there. Eighteen of our 20! (Yes, 20!) suitcases are now unloaded, though we still have a ways to go to get everything organized and settled. We hope to be ready for homeschooling and “real life” before long.

Thank you to all who prayed for us!

‘Mid pleasures and palaces though we may roam,
Be it ever so humble, there’s no place like home.

Next, Joshua offers some thoughts about the current standoff with Russia…

The Russian Threat

As you are likely aware by now, Russia has positioned tens of thousands of troops and other military assets along Ukraine’s border. These positions are not only in the east, where Ukraine borders Russia, but also in Belarus to the north, in occupied Crimea to the south, and even some in Transnistria to the southwest.

If you’d like a thorough and informative overview of what is happening, I encourage you to read this security brief: Russia’s Possible Invasion of Ukraine

So what does it all mean? What does Putin really want, and will he invade? If war comes, what does that mean for families like ours who serve in Ukraine as missionaries? The short answer, of course, is that we don’t know. Yes, there are plenty of warning signs and reasons for concern. But there are also reasons to be hopeful. Right now, we are watching and praying like so many others. For the time being, our family has chosen to remain in L’viv.

Here are some things we do know as of this writing, Monday, January 24, 2022:

  • While Russian forces have taken up very ominous positions, there have not yet been any new military incursions.
  • Diplomatic talks between Russia, the United States, and some NATO countries are ongoing.
  • The U.S. State Department has issued a Level 4 “Do Not Travel” advisory for Ukraine. Read the advisory here.
  • The U.S. has ordered family members of embassy staff in Kyiv to depart the country. The Ukrainian government called this move “premature”.
  • Yesterday, the embassy sent an email to U.S. citizens in Ukraine, advising them to “consider departing”.
  • The E.U. has said it will not be evacuating its embassy personnel from Ukraine.
  • The mood here in L’viv is somber but calm. People are ready to resist any invasion and to fight for their independence.
  • Most Ukrainians I’ve talked to do not believe the conflict will reach L’viv.
  • We know many missionary families in Ukraine, most of them in L’viv. I’ve heard from several, and so far all have chosen to stay in Ukraine for the time being.

In summary, we are concerned, we are making reasonable preparations, and we are praying for peace and liberty as we have since the last Russian invasion back in 2014. Ukraine is our home, and many Ukrainians are our dear friends, brothers and sisters in Christ. The time may come when, for the safety of our children, we are forced to evacuate. But that will be an absolute last resort. As long as God grants us liberty to stay, we will stay and we will stand with Ukrainians.

❤️ 🇺🇦 ❤️

To God be the Glory

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