Open Book
Light Bulb

stay & serve in ukraine

~ adapted from an article by pastor Vasyl Ostryi of Irpin Bible Church in Ukraine ~

To us in Ukraine, the book of Esther has become real. The decree is signed, a 21stCentury Haman has the power to destroy a nation. The gallows are ready. Ukraine is the target.

Missionaries have left as have Western embassies and citizens. Oligarchs, businessmen, and those who can afford it have left, saving their families from war.

My wife and I decided to remain in our city near Kyiv, to stay and serve the people of Ukraine. Irpin Bible Church, where I joined the pastoral team in 2016, has bought a supply of food, medicine, and fuel so that we’ll be able to help those in need rather than burden them.

Ours is a family of six, we’re raising four daughters. What I worry about the most is my 16-year-old. We told our children, “Pack your backpacks. Pack enough things for three days.” Our younger children asked, “Dad, where are we going?” I told them we are not going anywhere.

How should the church respond to war and fear in society? If the church is not relevant at a time of crisis, then it is not relevant in a time of peace.

The church in Ukraine went through crisis in 2014, many churches actively supported political protests against the corrupt regime of Viktor Yanukovych. A prayer tent went up in Independence Square. Christians distributed hot meals. Churches opened their doors to protesters.

There were churches that supported the dictator’s regime and criticized the protests. Other churches tried to ignore the elephant in the room, avoiding politics. In the end, churches that distanced themselves from social issues and those that supported corrupt rulers have suffered reputational loss in Ukraine. Conversely, churches that stood with the people during testing times have the highest trust from society.

We believe the church is in a spiritual struggle. As tensions rose, our church had a week of fasting and prayer, gathering every night to bring our requests to God. Three days in a row the lights went out. We were forced to meet in the dark, adding a solemn atmosphere to our prayers for peace.

Prayer produced in us an inner strength to persevere, we’ve gained confidence and peace. We believe God is with us; that is the most important thing.

In this war our church is also a place of service. We’ve conducted first-aid trainings. People are learning how to apply a tourniquet, stop bleeding, apply bandages, and manage airways; giving them confidence to care for their neighbors if necessary. One brother told me he had planned to leave—he was no soldier. But he stayed to help the wounded, and to save lives.

The church premises can become a shelter. We’ve stocked a strategic supply of fuel, food, and material for dressing wounds; we’ve identified believers who are doctors, mechanics, plumbers—even those who have water wells.

We decided to stay, both as a family and as a church. When this is over, the citizens of Kyiv will remember how Christians responded. The church may not fight like the nation, we still believe we have a role to fulfill. We will shelter the weak, serve the suffering, and mend the broken. And as we do, we offer the unshakable hope of Christ and His gospel.

We might feel helpless but like Esther we will fast and pray. Ukraine is not God’s covenant people, but like Israel our hope is in the Lord. As we stay, we pray the church in Ukraine will faithfully trust the Lord and serve our neighbors. ~

Pray for Ukraine, and for Russia—
Dan Nygaard