Choosing to Stay- Hope in the Midst of War
By Heather Kohnen
As a Minnesota educator and leader with Christian Educators, I had the recent privilege of being part of a delegation of American educators to meet and grow together with our counterparts in Europe. While there, I met Tatiana Tevtul.
Tatiana is a teacher from the Ukraine who has been working with children for 29 years. Like all of us, she had to navigate a pandemic and all of the hardships that have gone along with educating students in ways that we have never imagined. And now, this educator is currently teaching students during a war.
We have seen the throngs of people fleeing this war-torn country with heavy hearts. To see the destruction, death, and heartache has created more empathy than we have seen in quite awhile. I have always put myself in the position of someone leaving the chaos, but never really thought about those who have made the choice to stay.
Tatiana is one of many educators who have made the decision to stay and engage in a very dark place where fear and desperation are all around them. Tatiana shared how the Lord revealed to her the call to stay. She really needed to take time to remember who she was in Christ and who God truly is. The more time she spent with the Lord, the more He gave her the confidence and resolve to engage with the work He had for her. She was able to consider how she could represent Christ during this challenging time. These were the questions that she began to ask herself each day. How can I help? How can we serve? How can I be useful for God’s Kingdom? When we take time to ask these questions and listen, God reveals ways that we can partner with Him as an ambassador of hope and life.
As we sat and talked, descriptions of ways that God has used Tatiana and others like her to spread hope captivated my heart and attention. She said that hope is visible. She shared how God has united her nation through the beauty of people serving together for a common purpose. At the beginning of the war, people were stranded in cars for 2-3 days as they waited to leave. Tatiana and her fellow believers cooked food, brewed coffee, provided gas and met other needs. Most of all, they gave words of hope and encouragement. They prayed for and listened to those who were suffering so much. Her school building became a sanctuary for refugees trying to flee across the border into Romania.
Through all the challenges, there are open conversations about faith and prayer and sweet moments of appreciation among families. You discover the beauty of living each day to the fullest and the importance of taking one day at a time.
Tatiana has loved her students well. She engages them in writing letters of hope to soldiers and gathering supplies for the troops in other parts of the country. She meets with her students in person as well as those who have fled to other countries online. She knows the importance of maintaining a loving community and the relationships that students have with each other. She has seen the impact on her students as they realize that they play an important role in the success of their nation. This is a nation driven by hope.
So, where is the hope while staying in the battle? Tatiana shared:
When you stay where God has you, you get the joy of the victories, both big and small. These victories come while coworking with God where He has settled you. If you run away and do things that you want, you may think it will bring you joy, but it won’t because it is not the place that God meant you to be. You can find joy and peace in a war zone. Until God releases me, that is where I will be.
At Christian Educators, we understand that the work we do is difficult. Even though we are not facing a physical war, many would agree that there is a spiritual battle taking place. We believe that God has placed countless Christian educators on public school campuses across the country for “such a time as this.” We are making a difference!
In order to come alongside these educators, Christian Educators is bringing the AWAKE Experience to communities across the country. At AWAKE (Ambassadors Working as Kingdom Educators), teachers, administrators, counselors, and other school staff are reminded of their calling, grounded in truth about who they are and who God is, equipped to navigate challenges in a way that glorifies God, and inspired to take steps of faith that enable God to work through them to bring hope in the places that He has called them to.
At one of our recent AWAKE Experiences, a teacher shared what God had done in her life during that day. Stephanie came to the event tired, discouraged and ready to quit. She shared that the only reason she had come was because her friend was organizing the event. However, throughout the day, she discovered lies that she had believed about herself as an educator. She was refreshed during a quiet time with the Lord where she soaked up the truth about how God saw her as a daughter and teacher. She was reminded of her call and equipped with ways to walk in it as Christ’s ambassador. At the end of the day, she had been delivered from a heavy weight she had been carrying and was resolved to stay in her school to be used by God to impact the lives of her students and colleagues.
I look forward to seeing you at an AWAKE Experience in the future!
To learn more about the AWAKE Experience go to…
Heather Kohnen is a wife, mother, and educator. She has enjoyed teaching elementary students for 27 year and has a heart for ministering to educators. Along with teaching, Heather is the Director of the Ambassador Project with CEAI.