As horrible as the news has been in Ukraine, the church there and abroad is rallying in prayers for the Lord’s mercy and praise to God’s power and providence over even current events.
“This verse has been on my mind the last few days,” one of our partners in Ukraine named Nina said in the wake of Russia’s first attacks.
She read Luke 23:27, “There followed him [Christ] a great multitude of the people and of women who were mourning and lamenting for him. But turning to them Jesus said, ‘Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for me, but weep for yourselves and for your children.’”
“I can’t say don’t weep for Ukraine because at this moment we really need a lot of prayers,” she added. “At the same time…I want to ask all of you to keep praying for Ukraine but also keep praying for your country, for yourself, for your children that God may draw us closer to him.”
Their town was not one of those initially hit by Russian strike forces. While terrible news poured in from other parts of Ukraine, their community was eerily quiet.
That night, the team decided to hold their usual church service. They gathered all of the children and Roma families whom they serve in the community for a worship and prayer service. They wanted to encourage everyone in the middle of so much fear and uncertainty about what the next few days would hold. They shared Bible stories and sang together, then the children went up and sang a special praise song for everyone. A few of the littlest ones started to clap their hands and jump up and down as they sang.
The service went for three hours.
The team gathered again for another service the next morning where people from the community could come and be fortified by scripture and prayer.
The Senior Bishop of the Ukrainian Evangelical Church, Mykhailo Panochko, who is a friend of World Challenge, sent out a message of encouragement to the Slavic community.
“Fear and panic might settle into our hearts,” Bishop Panochko said, “and it’s not easy to hear this, but this historic moment has been allowed by God. His ways are not our ways. We cannot change the situation in Ukraine, but we can change the situation in our hearts. What things do we need to keep peace? There are two things needed. First, trust in God that not a hair will fall from your head without him knowing. Second, he has given us a weapon of warfare: the right to come to him in prayer. Then we can have a different worldview on what’s happening.
“We are believers. We have someone to put our hope in. We have someone to turn to. We fully believe that everything — the future of the church — is in God’s hands. Our refuge is in God. The most important thing is to trust in him. Do not let fear dwell in your hearts.”
He added this verse, “It is the Lord who goes before you. He will be with you; he will not leave you or forsake you. Do not fear or be dismayed” (Deuteronomy 31:8, ESV).
This faith and dependance on God are what has caused hundreds of believers to sing songs of worship in Kiev’s subways that are serving as impromptu bomb-shelters, switching between hymns and prayer sometimes for hours.
While the focus of the news is now on the people in Ukraine, it’s worthwhile to remember that many Ukrainians live abroad who remember the previous Russian occupation, many who were persecuted for belonging to the evangelical church.
“Please pray for unity in the Slavic church,” Anna Grot asked, World Challenge’s leader for development in Eastern Europe and Central Asia. Anna is not only a leader for development, but she is also Ukrainian American, raised in the Slavic community of upstate New York. For her and many Ukrainians in the United States, the shock of what is currently happening abroad is impacting their communities here.
“Normally, the Slavic community is very unified between people from the Eastern Bloc nations. Many people have family members and friends living in various countries, including Russia and Ukraine. Pray that right now the unity in the Slavic churches would not be swayed by propaganda and misinformation. Pray that the unity of the Slavic believers would stay strong and influence the people around them, that their love for one another would spill over to the rest of the people who are in the Eastern Bloc. As believers, we are all one in Christ. We are members of the same body, and the world will know us by our love for one another.”
Meanwhile, Anna is working to try to reach our partners on the ground in both Ukraine and Russia with encouragement and resources. World Challenge was able to send several thousand dollars to our partners in Ukraine.
Our partner Nina added in another message, “We really appreciate your donations and prayers. They are not in vain. We love you very much. Keep praying for us!”
Please join us in prayer that God will show his great mercy to the people of Ukraine. Also, we are praying for our nation’s leaders and the choices they must make over the coming days and weeks. Throughout this all, we are praying that God would magnify himself and that many people will come to a saving knowledge of him, that many eyes would turn to the Lord in Ukraine, in Russia, here in the United States and around the world.
A special note of thanks to Anna Grot for translating some of the messages from Ukrainian to English so that we could be encouraged by the faith of our brothers and sisters in Ukraine.