UKRAINE (BNc) by David Deffenbaugh — Ukraine endures continued unrest and tension. Political protests have led to the ouster of her previous president and now to the very real threat of war with Russia. Naturally, caring Christians around the world are concerned for the impact of these events on the Lord’s church in this former Soviet-block nation.
Some of the earliest impact of the events on the work of the church in Ukraine likely originated in the US. As plans were being made by numerous congregations for short-term mission trips—dozens of these take place each year, especially in the summer—reports of the violent and frequently bloody clashes between protestors and police/troops in Kiev dominated international news stories. Many of these planned trips were put on hold, postponed, and then cancelled.
The positive impact of these annual trips on Ukrainian congregations, orphanages, youth camps, VBS programs, etc., is impossible to measure. Each cancelled trip represents unfulfilled potential for great good.
Further, Ukrainian unrest will also likely leave a financial impact. Early talk of sanctions against Ukraine (when the previous national leaders were still in power) from the US and several European nations threatened to potentially to interrupt the flow of financial support from the States to supported works in that nation. Many congregations, preachers and benevolent organizations receive varying levels of support from stateside congregations. Interruption of this support could prove devastating to a number of these works. With the uncertain future of Russia’s intervention and the response of Ukraine and other nations, including the United States, financial support could become a significant issue.
Reports from native preachers in several cities speak of peace within the congregations in general. However, where varying political positions are taken by members of a congregation, the potential for politics to spill over into congregational life is almost a certain reality. The challenge for church leaders is to maintain the unity, peace, and love among the brethren. As reported from one congregation in Ukraine, the sermon delivered March 2 was about “God’s will and that we shouldn’t participate in the things that can divide us.” We can only pray that the priority of God’s kingdom over those of men will remain.
Of course military conflict appears to be an ever-growing possibility.
“If Russia begins intervention UA people will be mobilizated [sic] to the army,” one Ukrainian preacher said. “We also afraid that many people including Christians will be in damage.”
The work of the church, both from the local, native congregations’ perspective as well as the work of stateside churches with the Ukrainian brethren, has already been negatively impacted. The potential for greater damage is quite real.
A word of gratitude goes out to the hundreds, if not thousands, of American Christians who have given of themselves for the spread of the gospel in Ukraine since the early 90s. As one brother stated, “Now a lot of them [Ukrainians] do have their faith to help them survive!”
As we pray for our brethren in Ukraine during the struggle for the future of their nation, our prayers are also—and more importantly—for the preservation of the church amidst the conflict.
David works with the Southwest congregation in Oklahoma City. He has made over 30 trips to the Ukraine.