Russia has invaded Ukraine, but pastors remain to serve, pray and resist the enemy.
We learned from local sources that churches and other Christian buildings have not yet been attacked ( article published and constantly updated since February 24 -note).
President Vladimir Putin has said his army is only attacking military objects. In addition, he said that in fact there is no country called Ukraine.
Igor Bandura, vice-president of the Union of Evangelical Baptist Christians in Ukraine’s largest evangelical denomination, said in a video conference with 25 regional elders that he had been told about the accidental damage to a Christian Baptist religious home in Donetsk.
Minus one. The leader of the Evangelical Christian Baptists, who lives in the territory of the occupied Lugansk region, where there is now a front line, could not join the video conference.
But Igor Bandura said he had local information about Chashov Jar, a government-controlled suburb of the neighboring Donetsk region.
According to Bandura’s interlocutor, “People do not want to live under Russian control. But they are helpless. What can ordinary people do? ”
Pray. And stay calm.
Such a message was conveyed by the Council of Supreme Churches and Religious Organizations of Ukraine (AUCCRO) the day after the organization addressed Putin, which remained unanswered.
Ukraine’s chief rabbi called on Christian leaders to pray together using the words of Psalm 31.
“We desire that you remain in peace. Do not panic but follow the instructions of the Ukrainian state and military authorities,” AUCCRO said in a statement. “The truth and the international community are on Ukraine’s side. We believe that with God’s help, the good wins. ”
Thousands of Ukrainians moved west after Russian missiles began to explode across the country. Ukraine’s interior minister announced hundreds of missiles.
President Volodymyr Zelensky said in a video address made shortly after midnight that 137 Ukrainians had been killed on the first day of the invasion. “They are killing people and turning peaceful cities into military targets,” the New York Times quoted the president as saying. “It’s monstrous and we’ll never forgive it.”
Valentin Siny, president of the Taurian Christian Institute (TKI) in Kherson, about 100 kilometers from Crimea, had to evacuate a seminary with a group of Bible translators after Russian helicopters attacked local targets.
“Most of the older pastors stayed in the cities. Youth leaders have been busy evacuating young people,” he told Christianity Today. – “In order to evacuate people, we managed to buy a 20-seat minibus. There are now about 30 people safely in western Ukraine. There are still about 40 people on the road today, but their cars often break down. ”
Meanwhile, his church has opened its basement to neighbors living in higher buildings nearby so they can take shelter from the bombshells.
“I and all the ministers are in Kyiv,” said Yuri Kolakevich, director of foreign affairs at the Evangelical Christian Church in Ukraine. “We will continue to pray to God, communicate with people to reduce panic and help those in need.”
Vadim Kulinchenko, who represents Our Heritage NGO in Kamenka, 230 kilometers south of Kiev, said his church was already receiving refugees from the east. The church provides them with temporary shelter and now the basic necessities are food, medicine, fuel, toiletries, and air mattresses.
Bombs hit three infrastructure facilities in Kamenka.
“Pray for evangelism in the country, for the security of our people and for people to show generosity in hostilities,” Vadim Kulichenko said. “And also because of caution, because there’s a lot of false news around.”
The Kiev Theological Seminary (KBS) previously issued a general address.
“Inciting panic through the dissemination of manipulative misinformation is exactly what the enemy is trying to achieve,” KBS’s head of communications said in a statement. “This is a war not so much for our territory as for our soul and spirit.”
A quote from Isaiah was published on KBS’s website on Thursday. 41:10 with a call for the people not to panic, but to remember how many times God says in His Word, “Do not be afraid.” The seminary says that fear paralyzes, but prayer, trust in God and love for one’s neighbor give strength.
Taras Dyatlyk, Regional Director for Eastern Europe and Central Asia at the Overseas Council, addressed the people who are interested in theological education with a heavy heart and told about the many prayer needs that his Ukrainian church and seminary leadership is currently facing. These needs relate to the accommodation of refugees in seminar dormitories.
“Many of them are thinking of evacuating their staff, teachers and students to other parts of Ukraine and some have no possibility to get evacuated,” he wrote.
He asks to pray for families, including his family, because of the general mobilization announced in Ukraine “states that many students, graduates and teachers are called up for military service.” Therefore, Taras asks to pray for male clergy. As none of the men between the ages of 18 and 60 can now leave the country, their wives will remain as well.
“Today I talked to [my wife] about evacuating Ukraine,” Dyalik wrote. “She immediately refused and said, ‘I’ll stay with you until the end.'”
According to Josh Tokar, director of the English-language ministry of the Ukrainian Evangelical Theological Seminary (UETS), students outside Kiev were ordered to go to a bomb shelter immediately after fighting at a nearby airport began. The students living on campus were frightened, but did not panic. The president of the seminary sent a message with a quote from Psalm 27: “The LORD is my light and my salvation: whom shall I fear?”
However, Igor Bandura cannot accept the call for peace.
“Who are you to say that our people do not exist?” he says of Putin’s rhetoric. “The truth is with us and God is with us. We want to live in peace, but if Russia wants it, we will fight. ”
And although he says some Ukrainians are pro-Russian, half of Ukraine’s population is ready to defend the country personally.
You can even see photos of grandmothers carrying guns online. A recent CNN poll found that 13 percent of Ukrainians support the use of Russian military force to unite the two countries. In Russia, 36% support such a scenario. 73% and 43% voted against, respectively.
The Russian Evangelical Alliance (REA) has supported the call for AUCCRO peace initiatives.
“All evangelical Christians pray every day and ask Almighty God to give wisdom to all,” said Vladimir Vlasenko, Secretary General of REA, “in order to maintain a fragile peace and not to drown our countries in a fratricidal conflict.”
“We find no justification for their actions, and we are very saddened by the death, destruction, chaos and suffering that these actions will bring,” Thomas Bacher, Secretary General of the European Evangelical Alliance, told Evangelical Focus. – “The invasion of Ukraine is in no way justified and nothing provokes it. The attack is said to be necessary to protect ethnic Russians in Ukraine and to prevent Ukraine from threatening Russia. These statements are simply not true. The disaster was planned by President Putin to advance his broader geopolitical goals. “
In Rovno, western Ukraine, local authorities have called on all churches to remain open. They also asked church leaders to keep in touch with the residents to coordinate assistance to victims and, if necessary, military equipment and vehicles.
Many Ukrainians today set an example with their resilience.
“Our prayer is that God’s will be done on earth as it is in heaven,” says Valentin Siniy. “I tell my staff and other Christian leaders that our mission will survive even if our geography changes.”
Employees of the radio station “Novaya Zhizn” in Odessa on the Black Sea coast saw rockets flying from their homes. They told to the Evangelical Focus that they would take steps to hide the equipment and continue transition if the station’s premises were attacked in the near future.
Vasily Ostroy, pastor of the Irpin Bible Church, 30 km northeast of Kiev, also decided to stay.
“When it’s all over, the people of Kiev will remember how Christians helped them when they were having a hard time,” he wrote in The Gospel Coalition. “We hide the weak, serve the suffering and help people with broken destinies to recover. And in doing so, we offer people unwavering hope in Christ and His gospel. ”
On the Internet you can see photos of Ukrainians kneeling in prayer right on the street. According to YouVersion, over the past three weeks, they’ve noticed an increase in Ukrainian and Russian interest in the popular Bible app: the search for “fear” increased by 11% in search queries; search for the word “peace” – by 44%.
“We printed the Bibles for the whole of 2022 and now it’s February and warehouses are almost gone,” said Anatoly Rachinets. Deputy Secretary General of the Ukrainian Bible Society, gave an interview to Eternity News just before the invasion.
“There are more people in our churches, Orthodox, Catholic, Protestant, Evangelical. Not only on Sundays or Saturdays, but also on other days of the week,” he told the Australian Bible Society News Service. – “In the evenings, when we have a Bible study and new people come. They want to pray and to hear something that will bring them hope and comfort. ”
KBS P.G. director Rick Pergay says several pastors in Kiev’s international churches whom he is consulting are encouraging their congregations to come to church next Sunday. Some members of these churches left, while others remained and joined the struggle.
He complains that the enemy wants to destroy Ukraine at a time when Christianity is spreading more widely here and is more than ready to take the gospel to the surrounding nations. Nevertheless, he prays for the Russians, asking God to repent.
But his prayer needs also have a certain curse notes as well.
“Pray that the Russian people will finally get tired of the tyrant at home and abroad,” Pergay said. “And for them to leave it behind.”
Dyatlik also asks to pray for the “truth” by publishing it in the media from different “angles”.
“We did not call for a war here. The Kremlin and Vladimir Putin brought it to Ukraine. And such acts of aggression have a moral value,” the theologian writes. “These acts have a biblical definition and are given a biblical assessment. Pray for spiritual discernment in this context. ”
Dyatlik concluded his petition with a request to pray for believers on both sides of the conflict.
Pray that Russian Christians will raise their prayers and ask the Russian government to stop this aggression so that they do not remain silent. Pray for Western governments – in the US and in the EU.
And finally, pray for the Christians of Ukraine that we will serve and live in a way that brings hope in the full sense of the word so that we can invite more and more people to fellowship with God and His children in these terrible times. Into a relationship full of love, hope, encouragement, and support, that our minds and character may become more and more like the character of Jesus Christ.
Western countries unanimously condemned Putin and prepared sanctions. There are already reports of Russians standing at ATMs to withdraw their money for fear that the country will be cut off from the international banking system.
At the same time, in the Donetsk region, where 25 mission teams are working on founding churches, there is an hourly queue to buy 20 liters of gasoline. Grocery stores have empty shelves as Ukrainians supply themselves with food and water.
Bandura also communicates the prayer needs of its leaders.
“First, for God to stop the aggressor,” he says. “And also for a peace of mind, to respond to events according to our Christian nature and not according to a human hatred.”
Editor’s note. This article is being updated. The article contains parts of Rachel Pfeiffer’s report.