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Church members take shelter in the basement of the Ukrainian Bible Institute in Kyiv, Ukraine, as planes fly overhead.
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‘We stay, pray and try to bring hope’

Churches of Christ across Ukraine take shelter as Russia attacks.

Christians across Ukraine woke to the sounds of explosions as their Russian neighbors began a bombardment of the Eastern European nation.

Alexander Rodichev

Alexander Rodichev

“Our safest places are under attack,” said Alexander Rodichev, a church member from Dnipro, a city on the Dnieper River that separates eastern and western Ukraine.

Expecting attacks from the east, where pro-Russian separatists control the regions of Donetsk and Luhansk, Rodichev and fellow Christians had made plans to house refugees making their way west.

But the Feb. 24 attacks were reported in cities east and west, said Rodichev, who was preparing to teach at a Bible institute in the capital, Kyiv, when the first explosions sounded.

“I’m on the way to my family,” he told The Christian Chronicle. “(We are) expecting all the people who will be moving from the north part of Donetsk region to stay at our home and church building for the night.”

Rodichev said he and his fellow church members are working to find routes to get refugees to churches in the west.

“They are safer,” he said, “but not safe.”

To stay or go?

When the explosions began, Brandon Price made the painful decision to leave.

Price, an American, works with the Ukrainian Bible Institute in Kyiv. The school, which is associated with Churches of Christ, trains men and women for ministry. He and his family loaded their car and headed west toward the Polish border. They joined a long line at the border crossing.

Ukrainians wait to cross the border into Poland.

Ukrainians wait to cross the border into Poland.

After about seven hours, they were headed toward Poland’s capital, Warsaw.

“It’s been a very long day,” Price said from the home of church members in Warsaw, “but it went much smoother than we anticipated. For that we are grateful. Still, our hearts and minds are with our Christian brothers and sisters at all times.

“It hurts to be apart.”

A view through the mirror of Brandon Price's car shows a long line of vehicles waiting to leave Ukraine (plus his son's feet).

A view through the mirror of Brandon Price’s car shows a long line of vehicles waiting to leave Ukraine (plus his son’s feet).

Michael Soto and his family are among the American Christians still in Ukraine. They planted a church in a city in the southern part of the country “and have students who are interested in Jesus,” he told the Chronicle.

“We are not in fear for our lives,” Soto said, “but as a father I would like for my kids to not experience the chaos that may take place.

“We couldn’t get out — no buses or train. So we stay, pray and try to bring hope.”

Prayers from the U.S. — and Russia

Hundreds of members of Churches of Christ in the U.S. have participated in mission trips to Ukraine. Some have lived there as missionaries. Some, including Jeff Abrams, make regular trips to preach there.

Related: Why Ukraine matters to Churches of Christ

Abrams, minister for the Tuscumbia Church of Christ in Alabama, formed an online community to solicit prayers and to keep Christians interested in Ukraine updated.

“Church, we have members of Christ’s body in Ukraine under siege,” Abrams posted. “Some are crowded in underground subways, some are stuck in traffic jams, some are on trains, some are sheltered in basements. Some are unsure of the next step — or even the next breath.”

Church members take shelter in the basement of the Ukrainian Bible Institute in Kyiv, Ukraine, as planes fly overhead.

Church members take shelter in the basement of the Ukrainian Bible Institute in Kyiv, Ukraine, as planes fly overhead.

Despite the conflict and political differences, Christians in Russia are praying and fasting for their brothers and sisters in Ukraine.

On the evening after the attacks, members of the Neva Church of Christ in St. Petersburg, Russia, prayed for the protection of lives, for the situation to deescalate and for God to “give wisdom to the rulers,” said Igor Egirev, a minister and director of the Institute of Theology and Christian Ministry.

They also prayed “for Ukrainian and Russian brothers and sisters in Christ to keep their focus on what makes us one (Ephesians 4:4-6) and to maintain love regardless of the ever-changing political situation.”

The verses he cites from Ephesians read: “There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope when you were called; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.”

“And we do love our brethren in Ukraine,” Egirev said, “and Ukrainians in general. May our Lord keep them safe.”

Churches accepting funds for Ukraine include the Tuscumbia Church of Christ, 102 East Fourth Street, Tuscumbia, AL 35674. Mark donations for “Ukraine relief.” Call (256) 381-0651 for more information. 

This is a developing story. Check back for updates and additional ministries collecting funds for Ukraine. 

Filed under: Christianity in Ukraine Churches of Christ in Ukraine Conflict in Ukraine Crimea International Russia Russian separatist Top Stories Ukraine conflict Ukrainian Christianity

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