It was just another Sunday. Ten-year-old Valeria and her family attended church as usual, but then the unexpected happened. A Bible verse sparked something in Valeria and wouldn’t let her go.

For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.

Ephesians 2:10 (NIV)

When they came home, she said, “Mom, I have to do something. I have to do some good work for the soldiers that are fighting for our country.” She knows the danger they face. Valeria and her family had to flee from their home in Kyiv when Russian soldiers first tried to capture the city. They have since moved back as the war rages on in Ukraine.

Do Best

Her Mom asked, “What do you do best?”

“I’m good at checkers,” she said.

To be fair, “good” is an understatement. Valeria Yezhova is the reigning European and World Champion for her age.

But how could this talent help the military? Valeria decided to set up a little folding table outside a Kyiv shopping center and invite anyone passing by to play a game. Her sign explains, “We are helping the Ukrainian army.”

The terms are simple. If she loses, she will give her opponent one of her homemade cupcakes. If she wins, the person will give a donation to support the Ukrainian troops.  

Raising Hope

In three weeks, this 5th grader has beaten challengers of all ages and raised the equivalent of $2,000. She is donating it to an in-country non-profit that purchases humanitarian aid and equipment for the Ukrainian military.

As word has spread, other checker players her age have followed her example in their communities. News has even reached the frontlines. A woman who saw Valeria showed her a photo of her husband’s unit thanking Valeria for all she’s doing for them.

In ever widening circles, this story is touching the soul of Ukraine and beyond, all because a 10-year-old girl went to church and heard a Scripture that would not let her go. Her heartfelt response is changing the world.  

Our Second Response

What good works has God prepared for us?

Last week, I shared William Holman Hunt’s painting of Jesus standing at the door of our hearts. Our first and best response is to open that door from the inside and invite Jesus in.

What Valeria has shown us is our second response. How will our newly changed hearts change the world?

It seems if we will put ourselves in places where we can hear, we’ll find out. At some point, the Holy Spirit will whisper something that will not let us go.

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Roger Ross

A native of Cambridge, Illinois, Roger has served as a pastor in Texas, the British Channel Island of Guernsey, and Illinois. While in Illinois, he led teams that planted two new churches and served for 10 years as senior pastor of First United Methodist Church of Springfield. It was his privilege to serve as the Director of Congregational Excellence in the Missouri Conference before coming into his current role as an executive coach and specialist with Spiritual Leadership, Inc. (SLI). For reasons unknown, he’s also allowed to teach as an adjunct professor at Perkins School of Theology, SMU. Roger is the author of three books, “Meet The Goodpeople: Wesley’s 7 Ways to Share Faith,” “Come Back: Returning to the Life You Were Made For,” and “Come Back Participant Guide,” all through Abingdon Press. Roger is married to Leanne Klein Ross, and they have two adult children, Zach and Jane (who’s married to Sam). He loves spending time with family, reading, SCUBA diving, and traveling in different cultures. He also has a weakness for golf.