Baptists from 50 nations joined together via Zoom today for a unified season of prayer for the people of Ukraine as they face Russian troops sent to their country by Vladimir Putin.
The event included Baptist participants from other highly oppressed places, including Cuba, Lebanon and Myanmar.
“We gather as one to seek the power, provision and peace of the Lord,” said Merritt Johnston of the Baptist World Alliance staff. BWA sponsored the international prayer event, which included prayers offered by officers of all six BWA regions.
Igor Bandura, vice president of the Ukrainian Baptist Union, joined the call and offered a firsthand update on what is happening in the besieged country and among the 100,000 members in the 1,110 Baptist churches there.
“It is the fifth day of a terrible war against Ukraine,” Bandura said. “Ukraine became a battlefield now. Russian troops are trying to reach Kyiv from different directions.”
Bandura reported that he and other pastors have relocated out of danger zones to the best of their ability in order to continue coordinating the work of the churches. They have sent wives and families to other places while they join the nation’s men and boys in holding forth.
“We are trying to build international relations and unite all the people who are working to provide humanitarian aid,” he explained.
The reality on the ground is that “millions of people left their homes and moved to the west of Ukraine,” he said. And more people are trying to cross the borders with Hungary, Poland, Romania and Slovakia, “and there are 20- to 30-kilometer lines of cars waiting to cross the border and find safety. It takes sometimes two or three days.”
Yet in a further sign of Baptist witness, he added: “Many of the volunteers on the other side are Baptists who welcome people on the other side of the border. We never expected the international community finally would stand against Russian aggressions. … We have been asking for such unified support since 2014. We said Putin would move forward but no one wanted to listen.”
The Ukrainian Baptist pastor praised his fellow citizens for their strong resistance to the Russian invaders. Putin had planned to take Ukraine in two days, he asserted. “He thought it would be finished. … They thought they would manage everything for 48 hours. … And Ukraine is still alive.”
“What the Holy Spirit was doing, we started to get our confidence that Ukraine will be saved.”
On the first Sunday of the war, “we worshiped God in very unique ways,” Bandura said. While in the western part of the country churches could go on as usual, in the rest of the country Christians gathered in church cellars, online or outdoors.
“What the Holy Spirit was doing, we started to get our confidence that Ukraine will be saved, that Ukraine will overcome this evil sin” he declared. Then he added: “God will judge Putin. We believe these are his last days. We do not know what God will do, but God will reveal his glory because no one can do such evil sins against another nation and bring such suffering to the lives of people.”
And what Putin has intended for evil, God is turning to good in some ways, Bandura said. “The first two days were really terrible. It was like we lost everything. … After these terrible days, God is making us stronger. … And we continue to work and support our people. We believe God will reveal his glory.”
Elijah Brown, general secretary of BWA, thanked Bandura for his leadership among Ukrainian pastors.
“The world is praying with you in resurrection hope that God will turn these tombs into life,” he said. And, “to all our brothers and sisters in Ukraine, you are the church who is reaching out, and we will be your hands and feet.”
Meditation on Russia’s invasion of Ukraine | Opinion by Ken Sehested