Many Western Christians may not realize that prior to this war, the Ukrainian Church was a missionary-sending country for about the last decade and remained relatively under the radar. We were having great missionary conferences, developing missions departments, and experiencing missions revival. The Lord was using Ukrainians to reach people in places that Americans could not go. Spiritual victories in a time of peace. Sadly, the war has put the brakes on all of that. Without tithing and financial support, our church is barely making it. Many are out of work and the increase in expenses has tanked our economy. Humanitarian aid doesn’t support missionaries in the field, so missionaries have to come home or relocate as refugees in Europe or North America.
The great news is that our believing diaspora is having many cross-cultural experiences and our worldview is being enriched. Our hope is that one day, the next generation of missionaries will return home better prepared for the mission field. Only God can turn something so evil and do so much good. So many Ukrainians who would’ve never stepped foot into a church, are now hearing the gospel in our country and throughout the world. This war has changed the landscape of the Ukrainian Church for the first time. We are coming out of our shy Orthodox shell to interact with a broken society.
We had an important choice to make - either hunker down and hide in basements, or step up and meet the needs of our community. The churches that have stepped up have rapidly multiplied. There is no money for rent, yet we see supernatural provisions met every single month. Food and basic supplies are provided in radical ways. Children’s ministry programs are starting again and recovery programs are sprouting. The Ukrainian Church is flourishing on a thin budget as we move from a traditional cultural mindset to a network of actively engaged churches within our communities. We encourage your church to do the same while your resources are still strong.
We have taken in the displaced to show them the gospel in tangible ways. Though many unbelievers remain suspicious of Evangelicals as cultish, the war has brought down many barriers. For example, Crossroads Church in Odessa, began in 2014 and is located in a troubled neighborhood. We are a Baptist church that is part of an alliance of churches that are missional and autonomous. Before the war, missionary trips to Russia and Central Asia were financially supported and bathed in prayer for the unreached. The Kairos course was facilitated regularly to mobilize our church and our people.
Then the war hit, and out of our original congregation, only 10 of 50 people remained consistently involved. Many evacuated immediately and our increase since has come from the unengaged community. The pandemic has already given us the experience of interacting with our community in crisis. We had provided grocery packages for the most vulnerable, elders and single mothers, on a limited scale during the pandemic. But when the war started, this ministry restarted on a whole new scale. Soon, our church outgrew our facility. Praise God! Within a few days of the start of the war, one woman was so traumatized that she couldn’t eat, and she needed a pharmacy. Our church is located in a strip mall next to a pharmacy. So she walked into the church "by mistake"! God touched her heart powerfully and she is now a baptized believer.
Curfew was enforced due to the war. We planned to meet and pray with our usual evening small group one afternoon, but instead God filled the church with curious seekers wanting to come to prayer as soon as the doors opened. With limited space, half of the church members gave up their spots to make room and welcome strangers. Now we have an hour dedicated every day solely to prayer and our storefront location is always at capacity during that time. These are prayer services full of singing, hopeful tears, and genuine joy. People are learning to pray in their own words, from their hearts, for the very first time.
We have learned that the more we give away, the more God faithfully provides.
We began helping by giving one grocery package per family monthly. People would still come the next day despite not receiving more aid. They became regulars who filled the meeting room not only physically, but also spiritually. We prayed in faith to find a bigger meeting place and God revealed his strategy. In April of last year, we rented a second location with only a supernatural budget. That second location quickly became a full house. Now we have two campuses that run at the same time with Sunday services. In the first month of the war, four people were baptized. With prayer heavy on grace and repentance, 13 more were baptized in July, and the numbers keep surprising us. This year, 2 parents of three children were baptized in March before the father was mobilized into the military. Since then,10 more people have been baptized. We hear that this kind of thing is happening in churches all over the nation, not just our own. Many are being discipled and many more are on the verge of converting. We are praying for God to continue to increase our favor and give us a third location.
We pray this testimony of God’s faithfulness to His Bride in the midst of chaos encourages you. We celebrate these spiritual victories in war with great joy. Sharing our story of what our gracious Father is doing, helps to bring healing to our souls and encouragement to you. We can only hope this testimony will encourage you to pray for us and better connect with the Ukrainian diaspora among you. Pray for them and the re-establishment of our missionaries as a strategic intersection to reach Europe and Asia once again.
On behalf of our people, we bless you in the Name of our mighty and powerful Lord Jesus.
The Church in Ukraine