World Challenge’s partners in Ukraine are supporting a widow with an incredible history of fighting to keep the church alive.
Ukraine was historically a vibrant heart of Christianity in Eastern Europe.
According to Catherine Wanner’s research, this nation once had “the second largest Baptist community in the world, after the United States…. With good reason, Ukraine was called the ‘Bible Belt’ of the former Soviet Union.”
The evangelical church has had a long, uneasy relationship with the government in this part of the world. After World War II, however, the tension reached a breaking point. The Soviet Union was determined to exterminate the church’s cultural influence and brutally persecuted Christians. The Ukrainian Pentecostal church went underground, and pastors were routinely arrested and some even executed for their faith.
It’s a history that Vera knows all too well because she grew up in the center of that maelstrom.
A Woman on a Mission
Vera was the first Christian woman in the Ukrainian city of Skadovsk. In 1973, she and her family arrived in the town and began to evangelize and then gather with other Christians in someone’s house. The gathering quickly grew, so they removed the kitchen and tore down several interior walls so that they could have a larger meeting room.
The church’s growth did not go unnoticed, however. A neighbor was spying on them, watching through binoculars as people came and went. They alerted the KGB who descended upon the house church and drove everyone away.
Not to be deterred, Vera approached the local authorities and asked for her church to be officially registered. Soviet overseers tended to be slightly more lenient with the Orthodox church because of its traditional cultural presence, but in this case, it was of no help to Vera. Her request was denied.
She steeled herself and traveled to Kyiv, Ukraine’s capital, to lobby for permission to legally meet. The authorities there also denied her.
Undaunted, this brave woman of faith traveled all the way to Moscow to demand that her church be allowed to meet and minister to her city. Her prayers and tears of petition did not go unheard in heaven. By the grace of God, she was granted official registration for the church so it could survive.
Praying for Our Elders
Today, Vera is still a formidable believer and force in her local church. She is also a widow with health issues that make it difficult for her to walk. Her sister has recently moved to be closer to her and help her.
Mir Ministries, World Challenge’s partners in Ukraine, reached out to Vera and began supporting her with food packages and visits to make sure that she wasn’t isolated, particularly in this recent season of COVID-19. When they heard her story, they were delighted to have the honor of serving such a woman of God.
When they reached out to us, they wrote, “Please pray for this faithful servant of Christ and for the church in Skadovsk to honor this dear saint!”
Many of those who are elderly or have lost a spouse may feel forgotten as the world rushes into a new technological age and frets over current events. Our partners and those who work in widows ministries firmly believe that God passionately loves these elders in our communities and that he still moves mightily in their lives and through their testimonies.
Join us in praying for God’s peace and blessing on Vera and other elders like her in Ukraine whom God is using to set an example of zeal and sacrifice for the next generation of the church.