Doctor Laura Douglas-Beveridge felt called to go and serve in Ukraine where war is bulldozing through communities and many are in need of medical attention. Here she explains what her three weeks in Lviv on the west coast were like.
When the call came to go and work in the war zone of Ukraine, it seemed like a risky and perhaps surprising choice. I have a husband and two young children, my career as a doctor is at a key stage as I progress through my specialty training and I was watching reports every day on TV of the bombings and atrocities being inflicted on innocent civilians.
Then I prayed… and the decision seemed much clearer. How could I not go? Within days I was on a plane to Ukraine and ready to serve at the Samaritan’s Purse field hospital in an underground bunker near Lviv.
As I landed in Ukraine I was apprehensive. Who wouldn’t be walking into a war zone? But I knew that I’d prayed about it and felt a peace that this was a calling from God. We knew as a family that we were in God’s hands and we also knew that Samaritan’s Purse had worked in so many dangerous places over the years and had an incredible experienced team.
I work at Guy’s and St Thomas’ Hospital in London and specialise in Emergency Medicine and Intensive Care, but I knew that no training or experience could fully prepare me for what I was about to step into. And I was right… the stories and lives that I came across during my three weeks in Ukraine will stay with me for the rest of my life.
I knew that no training or experience could fully prepare me for what I was about to step into.
One man lived just outside of Kyiv and his neighbourhood had been targeted by a Russian rocket. He went to his home to try and recover possessions but it was on fire and he received horrendous facial injuries and burns. A local first aid team tried to help but they couldn’t give him the attention he required. He travelled for four days with these nasty burns and eventually we were able to assist him. He came to our hospital and I was the doctor who assessed him. What a privilege it was to see him transferred to surgery and hopefully on the road to recovery.
Another incident that hit me hard was when a mother came in with her children. She was so overwhelmed with the situation and didn’t know what she was going to do. Her little boy, who couldn’t have been older than eight, went up to her, gently took her face in his hands and said: “It’s OK Mum, I’m here.” How sad that at eight years old, this boy’s childhood ended and he had to become the man of his family. It made me think of my own children and I just cried at the trauma these people were having to face.
How sad that at eight years old, this boy’s childhood ended and he had to become the man of his family.
My trip with Samaritan’s Purse was just three weeks, and before I knew it I was back at home with my own precious children, dropping them off at nursery and spending important time with them and my husband. It was a surreal yet amazing experience to have been able to show God’s love in the most horrendous of situations.
I see God at work every day in situations where there shouldn’t be any positive outcome but there is; where it looks on paper like everything is lost and yet there is joy and hope. Many of the people we met were absolutely reliant on the faith that God was going to bring good days ahead and a good future, like it says in scripture, and they were absolutely focused on what is to come. And that was so beautiful to see in them.
If you’re wondering about accepting a call from God or if you’re scared about a potentially challenging situation, I want to encourage you to pray and take a leap of faith. Jesus would get in amongst the difficulty and get his hands dirty. He would be taking the infected dressing off a wound and cleaning the person who’s not been able to change their socks for a week or whatever need it was. He would be in there, comforting the people in distress and we had the privilege of being that person too - like Jesus with skin on. You can do the same.