On the afternoon of December 2nd a fire broke out in an apartment here in Odessa, Ukraine. The apartment belonged to the Chekhovskiy family, beloved church members of “Dom Mira” here in our end of town. Anna and Victor had five children: Maria -11, Elijah -9, Mark -7, Jacob -4, Matthew -2.
As a result of smoke inhalation the mother Anna and 2 children died at the scene, the others were raced to the hospital. On the way to the hospital two more children passed away and the fifth child later died at the hospital.
The father Victor is the only family member who remains alive, he is in the hospital and breathing with the help of a machine.
What can I tell you about this family?
I knew Anna because she was the accountant for our Bible institute here in Odessa. She was always pleasant to work with and talk with. Whenever I asked for her help she would go out of her way to get it done no questions asked! I knew her as a very humble woman who was always ready to serve in her home and outside of her home.
I talked with her about her growing family on several occasions and it was clear to me that she had a deep love for her children and that she enjoyed being a mother. She gave her family a godly example and a Biblical upbringing, it was obvious that she worked hard to give her children all they needed to flourish, spiritually and physically.
As a father of 5 children I found it difficult accept that something like this could happen to a family that was in so many ways like mine. We found out about this tragic fire on Friday night right in the middle of our prayer meeting. Our church holds a prayer meeting once a month the Friday before communion Sunday. Often I go on my own or Christina and I go together, but we rarely take the whole family. However, this past Friday for some reason I felt like I should take the whole family. So the 7 of us all headed off to prayer meeting together.
It was there that we heard the news and as I turned around to look at my wife and children I knew why God had me bring my whole family that evening. He wanted us to be together when we heard the news, he wanted us to be in prayer with the church, and that’s exactly what we did! I think if I had been there without my family and received such news I probably would have run home to check on the family.
Yesterday we attended the funeral for Anna and her 5 children. The sun was shinning but it didn’t relieve the bitter cold. As Christina and I stood in the mid-day chill we tried to warm ourselves by moving to the side of the yard where there was more sun. It didn’t seem to help. I looked up and noticed that there was not a single cloud in the blue expanse of the heavens. It reminded me of the faithfulness of God’s promises, in our pain and in our bitterness his goodness remains, his rays of grace shine through. Some days may be so cold that we don’t feel warmth of God’s goodness on our skin, yet we must look and if we do our eyes will find his goodness again.
After the funeral yesterday I gathered our children in the family room before bed and we talked about the events. I read to them from Ecclesiastes. We talked about the shortness of life and the significance of fearing God, we held hands and prayed for Victor and for the family.
I don’t have answers for why this happened and I’m not sure it’s wise at this point to try to guess. These are the times we must grieve with those who grieve. These are the times we must allow our hearts to sorrow. These are also times we must lift our eyes to God and say, “In my pain and sorrow, I will trust you.”
The father Victor needs your prayers and your help. There is a “go fund me” page set up for him here.