Updates from Baptists in Ukraine
As we have shared over the past seven months, Ukrainian Baptists have been living in the middle space between deep grief and thanksgiving during these challenging times.
They grieve the loss of 46 damaged or destroyed church buildings and the 200 scattered congregations that are no longer meeting with no certainty that they will ever meet again. They grieve the fact that 120 pastors and deacons have been called into military service, leaving churches without leaders. These men are some of the 250 total pastors and leaders who have had to leave their churches. They grieve the pain that the 400 churches in occupied territories or recently liberated areas feel on a daily basis.
They grieve the recent loss of a pastor killed in the Kharkiv region. They grieve the church in the Zaporizhzhya region that was shut down as Russian soldiers stormed into an evening service and collected all of the congregation’s information. They worry for the lives of a pastor and his wife who were kidnapped on September 21 in Mariupol; sadly representing a pattern of suppression of religious freedom that Baptists have been regularly facing since the annexation of Crimea in 2014. They grieve the loss of stability and certainty that their country is safe.
Yet, by God’s grace, Ukrainian Baptists express deep gratitude for God’s continued work in Ukraine.
They celebrate the four new recently ordained pastors in Chernivtsi and Polyvanivka. They celebrate the retreats that were able to occur over the summer– over 300 camps for children from occupied or liberated territories occurred with up to 39,000 children, teenagers, and young people participating. Numerous retreats for missionaries, pastors, and couples occurred including one with over 100 volunteers who have been serving constantly since the war began.
They are grateful for the ways they have been able to serve thousands of people with food, water, energy, transportation to safety, and pastoral care, but they are most grateful for the opportunities that the aid brought.
Thousands of people have come to Christ through the witness of Ukrainian Baptists. 2,300 baptisms have happened over the last three months with 15,000 starting to visit churches. Hundreds of youth made professions to Christ over the summer at camps and one church in Nikopol had to hold an evangelistic event three times on a single Sunday in September because 600 people showed up to the church that could only hold 200.
In the midst of suffering, God is at work.
Across the country and in the neighbouring countries, the looming question is how to heat homes and churches to continue caring for displaced peoples. As winter approaches, Baptists in the west of Ukraine are preparing to welcome an expected wave of up to 500,000 people from the east who have no way to heat their homes during the winter time or whose homes have been damaged. Many may spill out into the neighbouring countries as well where Baptists are preparing to welcome new displaced peoples.
In total, Baptists in Ukraine and the neighbouring countries have served an estimated 500,000 people over the past seven months in comparison with the roughly 250,000 Baptists in the whole area. Though fewer refugees are coming across the border now, increasingly the ones staying in Baptist care have higher needs and have no other long-term solution of where to go. Many Baptists did not expect to be so involved for so long, but as leaders in Moldova commented recently, “we learn to trust in God, to depend on Him, to be perseverant, to love Him and the people in spite of all the challenges and threats.”
On-going Prayer needs:
Praising God’s continued provision for those faithfully serving on the front lines of the war.
Praising God for those who have encountered Jesus in the past months through the witness of Baptists in and around Ukraine.
Pray for those who continue to try and live their lives despite the constant uncertainty of where and when missiles will strike.
Pray for continued sacrificial giving and service from around the world so there are enough resources for those in Ukraine and the neighbouring countries to serve through the difficult winter.
Pray that a just peace will come soon and Ukraine can continue to rebuild.
Pray for those around the world who will feel the strain of supply chain interruptions and energy shortages during the cold months.