Christian leaders in Ukraine have called for prayer as they remain to serve in the war-stricken nation.
Thousands have fled their homes to escape the advancing Russian forces, but many pastors and ministers from across the country are staying to help others physically, emotionally and spiritually.
They have encouraged Christians not to be afraid, but to continue to trust in God and to provide help for their neighbours.
Vasyl Ostryi, a church pastor and lecturer at Kyiv Theological Seminary, explained that his church has decided to remain to serve amid the crisis, learning emergency first aid in preparation for an escalation of the conflict.
“If necessary, the church premises can be turned into a shelter. We have a good basement. We’re ready to deploy a heating station, as well as provide a place for a military hospital.
“To make this a reality, we’re creating response teams. If martial law is declared, they’re ready with a strategic supply of fuel, food, and material for dressing wounds. We’ve even gathered information on who in the church are doctors, mechanics, plumbers—even who has wells in case of a water shortage.”
Pastor Ostryi continued: “We have decided to stay, both as a family and as a church. When this is over, the citizens of Kyiv will remember how Christians have responded in their time of need.
“And while the church may not fight like the nation, we still believe we have a role to play in this struggle. We will shelter the weak, serve the suffering, and mend the broken. And as we do, we offer the unshakable hope of Christ and his gospel.
we offer the unshakable hope of Christ and his gospel
“While we may feel helpless in the face of such a crisis, we can pray like Esther. Ukraine is not God’s covenant people, but like Israel, our hope is that the Lord will remove the danger as he did for his ancient people. And as we stay, we pray the church in Ukraine will faithfully trust the Lord and serve our neighbors.”
Taras Dyatlik of Overseas Council International asked the international community to pray for believers on both sides of the conflict.
He said: “Please pray about Russian Christians that they would raise their prayers and voice toward Russian government to stop the aggression;” and added “please pray for the Western governments, of the US and European Union”.
“Finally, please pray about Ukrainian Christians, that we will serve and live as the community of hope in a full sense of this term; that during these terrible times we would invite more and more people to the relationships with God and His children, to the relationships of love, hope, encouragement, support; that our minds and characters would continue to transform into the character of Jesus Christ.”
Valentin Siniy, President of Tavriski Christian Institute (TCI) in Kherson in southern Ukraine near Crimea, had no option but to evacuate his seminary, sending young people and a number of Bible translators west as Russian helicopters attacked local targets.
“The majority of old pastors of the churches stayed in the cities. Youth leaders started evacuating young people. We managed to purchase a van with 20 seats in order to evacuate people. About 30 people are in a safe place now, in western Ukraine. There are about 40 more people driving west [in] vehicles that are in bad condition.”
He remained resolute in face of the conflict, saying: “Our prayer today is that God’s will spreads on Earth as it is in Heaven. I encourage my staff and other Christian leaders that the mission stays the same even if we have to change geography.”
While the invasion has brought with it suffering and death, there has also been an increase in the number of people turning to God and the church for help.
YouVersion reported that there had been a spike in users of its Bible App in Ukraine and Russia, with searches for ‘fear’ and ‘peace’ growing dramatically. The Ukrainian Bible Society also said shortly before the invasion that there had been a surge in people asking for Bibles.
Deputy General Secretary Anatoliy Raychynets said: “We printed Bibles for 2022 and we are now in [the] second month of the year and the stock in our warehouse is almost gone.”
He also revealed that there are more people attending church. “Not only on Sundays or Saturdays, but also during the week. On evenings when we have a Bible study, new people are coming. They want to pray, to hear something that brings hope or comfort.”