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David vs Goliath

Have you been watching March Madness- the college basketball championships?  The tournament starts at the beginning of March with the 64 best teams in the country… each weekend paring down the group by a single elimination play-off.  This weekend we moved from the Sweet Sixteen to the Elite Eight, with four games played across the country to determine the final teams in the play-off.  The David and Goliath game of the Elite Eight was hosted in Philadelphia at the Wells Fargo Center.  The North Carolina Tar Heels, one of the long-standing powerhouse teams in college basketball, faced off against the Cinderella team- the St. Peter’s Peacocks.  I found myself naturally cheering for the Peacocks because I love the underdog.

The Peacocks are scrappy, shorter than most, but doggedly determined to make the play.  Unlike their rivals, they have no fancy training facilities or rich recruiting budget to find the best ball talent in the country.  No one expected the Peacocks to make it past round one… in fact, no one expected them in the tournament at all.  But they not only made the first cut, they won against #2 Kentucky, #7 Murray State, and #3 Purdue.  Each win was a shock for their rivals and a great joy for those of us who love to cheer on the underdog!  Sunday night the Peacock’s run came to an end… a noble end.  They lost to North Carolina, outplayed in every aspect of the game except heart.  Those Peacocks scrambled around the court until the final buzzer, trying to find their way to the basket for another underdog win.  Even in defeat, they go home proud of an amazing accomplishment.  Never before has a #15 team made it that far in the tournament.  Usually, #15 is just the warm-up game for the powerhouse teams on their way to the Final Four.   But this year, #15 was the team to watch!

Right now, there is a more serious David and Goliath game being played out on the European courts- Russia bringing all her might against her neighbor to the south.  On paper, Ukraine should be no match for Putin’s forces.  But Putin did not factor in the heart of the Ukrainian people.  They are fighting for their homes and their children, while the Russian forces are fighting for… I am not sure what Putin has told his troops.  Imagine being ordered to destroy homes and schools, hospitals, and shelters housing children.  Imagine being ordered to gun down people waiting in a food line.  One has to wonder if the Russian troops ever question their invasion of their southern neighbor.  Putin did not expect the resolve of the Ukrainians.  He did not anticipate how the invasion of a sovereign nation would galvanize the alliance of NATO.  He thought that his Goliath forces would easily overwhelm the Ukrainians as they did in Crimea.  But even as the Ukrainians suffer… even as many of their cities have been destroyed by Russian bombs… even as over half of their children are now refugees in foreign lands… this David-like people stand firm.

This weekend, President Biden visited Poland, one of our NATO allies and now temporary home to over 2.2 million Ukrainian refugees.  Poland is just slightly smaller than the state of New Mexico.  Imagine the strain of housing and caring for the influx of refugees, that has yet to slow.  In many ways, Poland is another David in the face of a humanitarian crisis the size of Goliath.  And yet, the Poles are standing firm in their commitment to their neighbors.  Watching the refugee crisis unfold in Poland, I am reminded of John Paul II’s visit to Poland just after becoming pope in 1979.  Poland was locked behind the Iron Curtain.  Europe was divided- the democracies in the west and the communist bloc in the east.  A literal wall divided Europe, denying freedom to those in the east.  John Paul’s visit on Pentecost stirred the Polish people to reclaim their faith.  From one worship service to the next, the people responded to John Paul’s sermons with the chant, “We want God!”  Millions gathered to declare their faith resolve.  It would be another 10 years before the Iron Curtain would fall, but the first step of the victory of David in Poland against the Goliath of the Soviet Union was a faith step.

On Sunday, I asked our children what they would do if they were scared in the dark.  Little Johnny Medendorp answered without hesitation, “Pray to Jesus.”  I love his childlike instinct!  As I watch the destruction of Ukraine, one horrific story after the next, I want the big guns of NATO to fight for those people.  My instinct is to bring power against power.  But perhaps what Ukraine needs more is every believer on their knees.  Imagine if Putin’s aggression united believers around the world in prayer, trusting the One who is able to conquer Goliath.  Imagine how God can work through His people bowed in prayer.  Join me in praying for our leaders as they seek a path toward peace- for God’s wisdom and courage.  Join me in praying for the people of Poland, Hungary, Slovakia, and Moldova that they will continue to open their hearts and homes to the refugees.  Join me in praying for our people, that we would be God’s instruments of grace however God would use us.  I hope we are not just spectators on the sidelines of this David and Goliath battle.  May God allow us the privilege of standing with our Ukrainian brothers and sisters in faith.

With you, on my knees waiting for God’s call,  
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