War in Ukraine: Links to The Christian Chronicle’s coverage
Since the first bombs fell on Ukraine on Feb. 24,…
Christians from around the world gathered online today to pray for Ukraine — just hours before the grim anniversary of the Russian invasion.
“This has been a rough year; that’s an understatement,” said Andrew Kelly, director of Jeremiah’s Hope, an orphan ministry in the besieged Eastern European nation.
It’s also been a year of growth and opportunity, said representatives of Churches of Christ and ministries associated with the fellowship during the prayer session, hosted by Mission Resource Network. Displaced Ukrainians have strengthened the congregations that have hosted them in Poland, Romania, France and beyond.
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Baptisms have abounded, and demand for Bibles is on the rise — reflecting the words of Joseph in Genesis 50 to his brothers who sold him into slavery: “You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.”
Five themes emerged during the hour-long prayer session:
From Ukraine’s capital, Kyiv, Dima Grischuk reported on the work of Volunteer Brothers, an effort he launched as the first bombs fell on his homeland on Feb. 24, 2022. Grischuk, a longtime minister for Churches of Christ and director of relief ministry Let’s Love, rounded up Ukrainian Christians to serve as drivers.
For the past year, the band of brothers has transported relief supplies to Ukrainians living and serving on the conflict’s front lines. The drivers also ferry women and children back to the relative safety of cities in western Ukraine or to the country’s border with other European nations, including Romania.
“This is a Ukrainian-made ministry directed by Ukrainians,” Grischuk said. As the war enters its second year, Volunteer Brothers is searching for psychologists to do online counseling for Ukraine’s soldiers and civilians.
“I would say that 99 percent of Ukrainians (will) have post-trauma syndromes,” he said. “We need these ministries on the front lines and in refugee spots.”
Kevin Wasner also joined the prayer session from Kyiv. The executive director for Christian Relief Fund was surveying needs in the capital.
The child-sponsorship nonprofit is one of numerous ministries providing aid for Ukrainian refugees. In neighboring Romania, Eugen and Kathryn Ana have served the displaced at border checkpoints and have helped them find temporary homes. Recently a Romanian fire department helped them deliver relief supplies to a refugee center, Wasner said.
In Kyiv, Ukrainians struggle with freezing temperatures and frequent power outages due to Russian missile attacks during the country’s unforgiving winter months. Christian Relief Fund has worked with congregations including the Vinograder Church of Christ, providing backup heaters, power equipment and fuel.
The ministry also has worked with a partner organization to provide Ukrainians with thermal underwear and wood-burning stoves.
Dasha Novikova joined the session from Vienna, Austria, where she serves as Ukrainian coordinator for Eastern European Mission.
It’s the second relocation for Novikova, a native of the eastern Ukrainian city of Donetsk. In 2014 pro-Russian militants seized control of the city, and she fled westward to Kyiv. Just before the current conflict, she headed west again with her mother and her daughter, Masha. They stopped in Bulgaria before moving to Vienna.
“We packed our home shoes and our cups,” she said, “and, of course, some photos.”
In the first months, Ukrainians found temporary housing and waited patiently for the war to end.
“Now, while still we are looking to return back to Ukraine, we realize that life goes on,” Novikova said. “Life continues. … We are getting older. Our children are growing. They need education.” Masha, 12, is enrolled in an Austrian school and learning German.
Jana Owen asked for prayers for the refugees — especially the mothers and children separated from their husbands and fathers who remained in Ukraine to serve in the military.
“Having to do that for a year, that would take a toll on a mama’s heart and children’s hearts,” said Owen, vice president of Healing Hands International, who visited Ukrainian refugees housed by Churches of Christ in Sopot, Poland, and Cluj-Napoca, Romania, last year.
The Nashville, Tenn.-based nonprofit has shipped relief supplies — including generators, water filters, family buckets and cold weather supplies — into Ukraine to be distributed through its church and ministry partners.
“We’re honored,” Owen said, “to get to walk this walk with the people who are really doing this work.”
Ten orphans served by Jeremiah’s Hope spent 45 days in a root cellar as Russian troops pounded northern Ukraine, Andrew Kelly said. Getting them to safety was a harrowing experience, but now the children are living in Croatia’s capital, Zagreb. A Church of Christ there is supporting them.
The conflict has drastically impacted “those who live and move but have no being,” Kelly said, referencing a poem that modifies the words of Acts 17:28 to highlight the plight of the orphans and at-risk children served by Jeremiah’s Hope.
“We’ve lost several of our kids that we’ve ministered to over the years,” Kelly said, “who are now in their early 20s and gone off to fight for their country and lost their lives. You know, there’s going to be a lot to put back together one day.”
Jeremiah’s Hope has sent containers of aid to help in Ukraine — including medical supplies that will be used to set up a hospital in a devastated city recently reclaimed from the Russians.
In providing relief and services for the displaced, Kelly said he’s thankful for the coordination he’s witnessed.
“In Churches of Christ, we often stand alone. It’s been amazing this year to watch churches and ministries and individuals partner together and create this massive … spider web of greatness.”
“In Churches of Christ, we often stand alone,” he said. “It’s been amazing this year to watch churches and ministries and individuals partner together and create this massive … spider web of greatness.”
Steve Taliaferro, who co-founded Jeremiah’s Hope with Kelly and Grischuk, said a prayer from Zagreb, where he serves as a missionary.
“Thank you for what you began so many years ago,” Taliaferro told God as he prayed, “that has positioned different people in different places to be your hands and your feet.”
Brandon Price joined the prayer session from Slovakia. The former missionary to eastern Ukrainian cities, including Kharkiv and Mariupol, is director of the Ukrainian Bible Institute, which is associated with Lubbock, Texas-based Sunset International Bible Institute.
The institute moved from Donetsk to Kyiv after the militant takeover in 2014. The current conflict scattered its staff across Europe.
After months of disruption, classes began last fall — entirely online, Price said. While that’s not ideal, he added, the arrangement allows the institute to connect with Ukrainians spread across the continent. Ukrainians from outside Churches of Christ in locales including Belgium have contacted Price about classes, he said.
“For the past year our online ‘residency’ program has been in a state of survival, but we are ready to thrive,” Price said. “We are updating our website, we are expanding our reach beyond our normal student pool. We’re not just going to do what we can to survive online until the end of the war. This is going to be the best school now.”
Eastern European Mission is experiencing increased demand for its Ukrainian-language Bibles and literature, Novikova said from Vienna. The nonprofit has doubled its distribution of such materials during the war.
“Please pray for those people who are receiving God’s Word in these days,” she said, “that it is not only a temporary interest … that this desire will bring them closer to God and change their lives eternally.”
To serve the growing numbers of believers in Ukraine, Grischuk and his Volunteer Brothers are considering locales for new congregations in the country’s northern cities — places where Churches of Christ have disappeared or never existed.
Despite the war, or perhaps because of it, “it’s the right time to start planting churches,” he said.
As the international prayer service concluded, Missions Resource Network president Dan Bouchelle asked God to continue to “use the diaspora of Ukrainians to spread your word throughout Europe.
“We pray that you would redeem what the evil one meant for death,” he prayed, “and turn it into life.”
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