Dear Friends,

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to His great mercy, He has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead… 
– 1 Peter 1:3

Resurrection by Ivanka Demchuk

Easter Sunday brings bright colors, spring flowers, candy-filled baskets, and jubilant worship celebrating the empty tomb. Yet, all this cheer comes only after a season of darkness. According to the Church calendar, the previous 40 days have focused on the grave realities of a fallen world.
 
On Ash Wednesday, we proclaim, “Ashes to ashes, dust to dust,” a stark reminder that “the wages of sin is death.” But Easter turns the page to the good news of hope that “the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

On this side of the empty tomb, we sometimes rush through Lent to get on to Easter. On the other hand, dark realities persist for many around the world, in places like Ukraine, Lebanon, Ethiopia, Nigeria, Myanmar, and Hong Kong, to name only a few.

Descent into Hell (2011) by Lyuba Yatskiv

In the face of immense suffering and overwhelming loss, believers continue to turn to Jesus. Sin, pain, and death are swallowed up in victory because of the resurrection. Even when not fully complete, redemption is near, and we have hope.

As the Russia-Ukraine War enters its eighth week, I’ve asked friends in Ukraine what brings them hope this Easter. Their answers, shared below, reflect the deep pain of abandonment, loss, and longing for an end to the war and its horrors. And yet, in each case, they reveal a deeper hope in the resurrected Christ.
 
In Ukraine, most churches celebrate Easter according to the Orthodox calendar, often a week after the Western observation. The Orthodox Divine Liturgy frequently repeats two Old Slavonic words: “Gospodi pomilui.” In Latin, this is “Kyrie eléison,” in English, “Lord, have mercy.”
 
This Easter, join us in this cry of lament and confession of hope: “Lord, have mercy.” This we pray with our sisters and brothers because of the hope we have in the resurrected Christ.
 
Evan, for the ScholarLeaders Team

Crucifix (2020) by Ulyana Tomkevych

From Taras in Rivne:

Everyone has their own Gethsemane, where you are left alone with the silence of the Father and face-to-face with your worst fears. You can still run away, or sleep, or pray and wait for a crowd with torches. 

Everyone has their own Via Dolorosa, which you need to go through on your own. Someone may help you carry your cross, but only for a part of the way, only toward Calvary, and not back from there. 

Everyone has their own surrounding crowd bearing mocking or sympathetic looks, in hatred or silence. 

During such periods of life, we are tested in who we are in our essence, in our honest attitude toward the Father, and in our fulfillment of His calling. After you pass a point of no return, the countdown brings you closer to the eternal joy of fellowship with each other and the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. 

There is no other way. There is only the way of the cross. “He who does not take up his cross and follow Me is not worthy of Me. He who saves his life will lose it; but he who loses his life for My sake will save it.”  

From a seminary faculty member in Russian-occupied Kherson:

I am ready to die. I don’t know whether I will survive to celebrate Easter. The date when we celebrate Easter doesn’t really matter. What matters is Jesus’ resurrection itself.

Resurrection (2018) by Hrystyna Kvyk

From Roman in Lviv:

Hope is especially needed when there is no reason for it, at least in our human view, in times of utter helplessness. Jews in Egyptian captivity had little chance of regaining their freedom. After the crucifixion of Christ, His disciples had no reason to hope that their Master would be with them again. Until the day of Pentecost, Jesus’ followers were unable to fulfill His commission to proclaim the Gospel to the world. 

And each time, in response to our helplessness, God responded in His utterly unexpected way. He freed the Jews from slavery, resurrected Jesus, and sent the Holy Spirit to the Church. So even today, I hope that His light and life will destroy the darkness and death that enemies have brought to our country.

From a seminary faculty member in Kherson:

Easter to me is peace in my heart. We are ready to experience the worst, but we hope for the best.

Appearance of Jesus Christ to Maria Magdalena (2020) by Kateryna Kuziv

From Helga in Rivne:
 
As I finished reading the first book of Chronicles this morning, I thought of how badly we are impacted by the social culture of fast results. We expect everything right now and right here. 
 
Miriam, Moses, and Aaron led the Jews out of Egypt, but they didn’t get to enjoy milk and honey in Canaan. King David fought for peace and gathered gold and jewels for the Holy Temple, but he didn’t get to pray in that Temple, which was built by his son Solomon years later in a time of peace. 
 
Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego were faithful to the Lord, but they didn’t know they would continue to live their mortal lives after being thrown into the fire. Mary Magdalene followed Jesus, but she didn’t know that she would be the first person to see Him resurrected. 
 
So, these days when my spirit is down, I remind myself that our Lord is faithful. We need to endure patiently in our daily tasks, and He will provide all that we need for today: a piece of hope, a piece of bread, and a piece of blanket. Come, Lord Jesus!