Updated: Sep 14
Greetings, Brethren - from your Ukrainian brothers and sisters. We give honor and glory to our Lord Jesus Christ that the Church in Ukraine is thriving despite persecution and war. Many have become familiar with our flag as a symbol of this war, but most do not understand the true heart of the matter. Information is convoluted by agenda, propaganda, confusion, and emotional trauma that contains many layers of unraveling. Peeling those layers feels like ripping off bandages on freshly scabbed wounds that have not had time to properly heal. The trauma is too deep and vulnerable to expose. Ukrainians and Russians have a hard time putting it all into words. We certainly don’t expect the rest of the world to understand. What is said can only be filtered through layers of misinformation and political gag orders.
American missionary agencies are not allowed to call this a war or an invasion. In order to raise money, it must be called “the situation.” What we need you to understand most is that this is not a civil war. Ukrainians are not fighting themselves. We are fighting for our identity and truth to be told. Our shared history with our Russian kinsmen further complicates the matter. It is only a civil war in the sense that this war is controversial enough to break families apart and cause division within the church and its people.
With so many of us having ties to both sides, we are a nation hurting and desperate for unity. Americans don’t have a category for us who have left everything behind. Not because some of us chose to start over and pursue a “better” life, but because all of us were forced to evacuate our way of life. Many leave behind personal items and memories that are now replaced by rubble and death. Our sense of home is now abandoned to the destruction of war. Those who choose to stay, still have to hide out among the rubble and rebuild home only within the refuge of their hearts and minds.
It is also difficult for most of the world to understand what goes into the meaning behind our Slavic heritage. It’s hard to explain this concept of having shared memory through shared history. It’s perhaps similar to the contempt written on the pages of our Bible between the Jews and the Samaritans and their shared heritage and history together. The collective “us” gets diluted by decades of anger, judgment, and betrayal. The Christian faith doesn’t exactly love our culture, yet keeping our culture is the key to evangelizing our people. Many here may want to be Christ followers, but they don’t want to be American or Russian. They want to remain Ukrainian and we must allow the Good News of the gospel to be enough and strip away everything else. Only when Christ returns will evil be gone, and then the nations will celebrate together in perfect unity. In the meantime, we do our best to co-labor with our faithful Lord.
Why does this war hurt so much? Because we long to love well the people God puts in our lives. It’s the anchor we keep coming back to. We refuse to accept that there is no hope because love covers a multitude of sins. Sin always intends to hurt, divide, and destroy. I pray brothers and sisters, that you will not judge what you see on television too harshly simply because you have the benefit of watching from afar. The proper response is not found within a political party but is rooted in Jesus who modeled unconditional love within a divided and broken system. Too many of our own brothers and sisters get stuck in the trenches of the political bunkers that don't advance the Gospel. Reconciliation found through the gospel of Jesus is the only way to move forward.
The Ukrainian Church has suffered much loss in property, money, death, and migration under this persecution. Pastors are traumatized and the church is severely hurt. The Lord is doing great miracles, but that doesn’t take away the suffering. There is some humanitarian aid, but it seems like there are always strings attached. There isn’t much prerogative or autonomy from aid resources and the Ukrainian Church knows best what Ukrainians need. We are an Orthodox country with an overwhelming majority that are nominal believers or unreligious. That portion of people have become hungry and patriotism has not filled that void. Churches are opening their doors and filling up with a harvest of unbelievers.
As part of the global body of believers, we understand ultimately that this is a spiritual battle within the war for Ukraine. We are at a theological crossroads and leadership understands that the church is in a time of trauma, not just crisis. Finding the balance between declaring the gospel and leading ethically from a place of trauma needs to be handled delicately. We can not make radical changes or draw hefty conclusions from a place of hurt. Pray for the victory of the Ukrainian Church through this war. Pray for our nation as a whole and the restoration of our homeland. Pray for the gospel to flourish in our mother tongue. Pray for the violence to end and that we can respond with love and kindness. Pray!
To be continued…