Evangelicals in the war-torn nation of Ukraine have asked for our prayers and support as Russian forces continue their invasion.
The situation in Ukraine changes from day to day, but these reports are the most up to date at the time this edition of ET went to print.
The European Mission Fellowship said, ‘Our hearts go out to the Ukrainian people as the horrific events in the country unfold.
‘Many hundreds of thousands of refugees are fleeing to neighbouring countries, often women and children, leaving their husbands behind.
‘The most important thing for God’s people here is to pray for the people of Ukraine and in particular for the Christians there.
‘But we can also help practically, and many of the evangelical churches we work with, both in Ukraine and in neighbouring Moldova, Poland and Romania are actively helping refugees. They would deeply appreciate any support we can give them.’
Dr Oleksandr Geychenko (pictured), President of the Odessa Theological Seminary in Ukraine, said, ‘Please, keep praying for Ukraine.
‘We want this war to stop, the wholeness of our country to be restored and stable peace re-established.’
Speaking to the Slavic Gospel Association (SGA), he said, ‘I am very grateful to all who have stepped in to share the pain of our people. It is due to your generosity and sensitivity that we can help others. Thank you.’
A faithful SGA-sponsored missionary pastor who ministers in Ukraine said the Russian forces are shelling residential homes near him.
‘Yet,’ he says, ‘our prayer is for the opportunity to preach the gospel and for the open hearts of people.’
Elsewhere, the city of Mariupol has been besieged. According to a report from SGA, around 300 people were hiding in the basement of a church near the city centre. A similar number are sheltering in another Mariupol church.
A Kyiv church has also become a shelter for many people. There people are fed and accommodated, while the church continues to hold services and pray.
One refugee who spent time there said, ‘Prayers and fellowship at the church united and calmed us in a powerful way.
‘Of those hiding in the church with me, three people accepted Christ into their hearts. God is at work. I believe it’s only the beginning.’
Volodymyr (Volodia) Kostyshyn is married to Oksana, and the couple has two sons: Zechariah, who has severe health problems, and Oleksii.
Volodia pastors the Grace Church (Baptist) in Ternopil, Western Ukraine, and he also teaches in the Ternopil Biblical Seminary.
The couple has an important ministry with disabled children in the area. Refugees have been arriving at their church (and others in the town) for shelter, and Volodia and the rest of the congregation are trying to provide what they can for them.
This burden falls mainly on Volodia, who already has to share the 24/7 care of his son Zechariah (who had a bad seizure the very day the invasion began).
He asks us to pray that his family may be kept strong in the face of added pressures in their already stressful life, and for his church as they seek to meet the needs of refugees.
In neighbouring Poland, Daniel Kryston has been on the sponsorship programme of the Slavic Gospel Association for many years.
He said, ‘As you may imagine, we have been overwhelmed by what’s going on over here with so many war refugees flooding into our country, including [our] town of Piotrkow Trybunalski.’
He says his church has responded to the crisis by providing accommodation in their church building, homes, and hostels around the town. Sunday services been packed with Polish and Ukrainian worshippers.
He added, ‘There is still so much enthusiasm among our people to help our neighbours from Ukraine. However, I have been wondering for how much longer we will maintain this enthusiasm, as taking care of all these refugees seems to be far beyond our ability, either financial or material or both.’
Meanwhile, in Russia, 300 evangelicals have denounced the ‘senseless bloodshed’ of ‘innocent people’. In an open letter the pastors write, ‘We need to repent for what we have done, first to God and then to the people of Ukraine.
But the Russian authorities have imposed new restrictions on freedom of speech, clamping down on those who object to the war.’
Mike Judge, Editor