by Dale Reeves
Just yesterday, Russia launched a large-scale invasion of neighboring Ukraine, marking a major escalation of the ongoing Russo-Ukranian War. The “special military operation,” as Russian President Vladimir Putin called it, consisted of Russian troops and tanks entering the country on three fronts, assaulting them by land, sea, and air. Dozens of Ukrainians and more than forty soldiers have already died in the conflict, with many more wounded. Putin’s attempt to redraw the map of Europe could cost thousands of civilian lives and create hundreds of thousands of refugees fleeing the violence in Ukraine. Lines are growing at the country’s border with Poland, and the highway heading out of Kyiv was choked with traffic across five lanes as residents fled, fearful of bombardments while stuck in their cars.
While we are praying for this grave situation, it is even more difficult if you have invested in the personal lives of Christian brothers and sisters in Ukraine and Russia. Tim Dunn, lead pastor of LifeSpring Christian Church in Cincinnati, has shared some information they received from their church’s partnership with some believers in Kherson (a city in southern Ukraine). Tim shares, “Over the last nine years I have been with LifeSpring I have grown to not just love, but admire, the people I have met in Kherson. . . . Many of our friends are trying to evacuate the Kherson area. Please pray for them to get to safety and for God’s hand to protect them. Pray that world leaders step up and protect these people and that the action is swift.”
Several years ago, I led a short-term mission team to serve alongside one of our partners, TCM, located in the beautiful surroundings in Heiligenkreuz, Austria. While serving the male and female students who were there for learning more discipleship methods to take back to their respective countries, I met remarkable believers in Jesus from Russia, Ukraine, Belarus, and many other countries. I discovered that there are people of God seeking his will in each of those countries, just as there are those who are hell-bent on bringing about destruction. When you have met real people with real personalities, real spiritual gifts, and real needs, the situation that is unfolding before us is much more than the hottest news item of this year. It is much more than viewing a map of Ukraine, and discussing the politics of why the Russian army has invaded this country. It becomes something every follower of Jesus should be praying for, interceding for those who will be impacted in a horrible way.
This crisis has hit very close to home for one of our families at Christ’s Church. Matt James is on our church staff and he faithfully serves every week on our production team. You’ve seen him lead in worship and have enjoyed many of the videos he has edited and produced for our weekly messages for adults, teens, and our children’s ministry. In 2016, Matt and Haylee James hosted Olesya Pustovalova in their home for a year as an international student. During that year she essentially became their firstborn child, and they have continued their close relationship with her, traveling to her home country, and her visiting here multiple times. Olesya was baptized in our church in 2019. She is currently visiting with them here during her school break, and was supposed to go home earlier this month, but providentially, God delayed her flight. With the recent developments in Ukraine, her status for returning is unknown.
Needless to say, Olesya has been in contact with her family this past week and they are very concerned with what’s going on. Yesterday evening several regions in Ukraine, including very near to her city of Kharkiv, were hit with air strikes from the Russian army. This whole nightmare seems very surreal to her.
Our Trust Is in the Lord
Matt comments, “Every Ukrainian I have ever met just desires peace, and no conflict in their country. We need to be praying earnestly for the situation, that the leaders in Russia would change their mind, and that God would intervene. We have been praying for Olesya’s family’s safety.”
Matt knows a missionary (a military chaplain) who lives in Ukraine and she is posting on social media daily. Just this week she has been praising God in the midst of the storm. She testifies to his goodness, “Thank you for your prayers and support. God has mercy and he is fighting for us. Praise God for his grace. Our trust is in the Lord.”
In an article recently posted by Christian Standard, Doug Lucas, founder and president of Team Expansion, shares some helpful action steps for all believers as we seek to respond to this crisis:
“Today, Ukraine needs another miracle. . . . One pastor told me, ‘We pray for peace in our country, but ultimately we know this is all temporary; our eternal home is in heaven.’ One of my colleagues shared with me, ‘If the light truly shines brightest when the darkness is darkest, this is the time for the proclamation of the gospel in Ukraine and beyond.’”
Here are Doug Lucas’s recommended action steps:
- First, get informed. Pick a dependable news source and invest some time in learning the background of this conflict. By learning about the situation, dangers, and challenges, it’s like you are saying to the people of Ukraine, “We see you.”
- Pray. If you really believe prayer changes things, would your church be willing to dedicate five minutes to pray for peace in Ukraine during your worship service this weekend? Ask for peace. Pray for help for those who are without food, water, or power today because of this conflict.
- Give. Would you and your church consider giving to help innocent Ukrainians who might suffer greatly should a prolonged conflict produce a surge of refugees fleeing across the border into Europe? Among the many giving options is Mulberry International, based in Louisville, KY. Mulberry has been helping those in Eastern Ukraine troubled by the ongoing conflict during the past eight years.
To read the full article, click here.
God, we are asking for your favor and your presence to be upon the people of Ukraine today!