Baptist churches in Russian-occupied areas of Ukraine face increasingly desperate humanitarian conditions while responding with increasingly creative physical and spiritual outreach efforts, the European Baptist Federation said in its most recent warzone communique.
The situation report was released just days after the United Nations reported more than 7.5 million people have left Ukraine since Russia invaded the country in February. The figure does not include an additional 7 million who are displaced within Ukraine.
For those left behind in the eastern zones now occupied by Russia, the situation is becoming desperate, EBF said.
“The civilian population is terrorized and often deprived of the opportunity to leave for the Ukrainian-controlled territories. As water supply lines have been cut off in numerous towns across occupied and besieged areas, churches are stepping in and drawing from church wells to distribute water to their communities. In Mykolayiv, the local church is beginning to drill a new well to provide for the community.”
Even the destruction of at least two churches by shelling in the past month has not stopped ministers from risking their lives to assist those in need, according to the EBF report.
“Lysychansk, a small town in the Luhansk Oblast of Ukraine, is one example of the many communities isolated by the war where there is no electricity, water, communications, medicines or food. Regional pastors are trying to keep in contact with churches in such communities and visit when possible to ensure they are not forgotten and feel abandoned.”
As a result, some congregations are reporting increased opportunities for evangelism, EBF reported.
“Dozens of churches have held baptism services over the past weeks, and the war has not quelled the evangelical fervor of Baptists in Ukraine,” EBF reported. “Many are beginning to see their communities shift their view of local churches, especially as churches tirelessly provide aid and practical support. A church hosted a first aid training course and noted, ‘People are beginning to see more and more that Christians are not freaks united by a certain fanatical idea, but it is truly people who practice the things they teach.’”
The Ukrainian Baptist Union coordination center has continued to channel aid across the country “despite missiles falling in the areas surrounding Lviv,” EBF reported.
The Union relayed to EBF that “the nature of the multi-faceted ministry of our churches today resembles the work of emergency service. The Baptist Union is trying to respond to challenges that are constantly changing. We are focused on the practical manifestation of Christ’s love and the effectiveness of the gospel.”
Baptists in neighboring countries are continuing to meet the needs of Ukrainian refugees as their stays lengthen due to the ongoing war.
“Polish Baptists are adjusting to the challenges and joys that come with so many guests still remaining. Three new Ukrainian churches have been planted, and the largest Baptist church in Poland is now a Ukrainian congregation in Warsaw. Baptists continue to host hundreds, serve thousands and send aid back to Ukraine,” EBF reported.
“The largest Baptist church in Poland is now a Ukrainian congregation in Warsaw.”
“Churches across Romania continue to provide practical and spiritual support to refugees, as well as send humanitarian supplies into Ukraine. Dozens are now running their normal services with dual translation into Ukrainian. Churches are incorporating refugees and their children into normal life … and using leisure activities, like afternoons at a local pool, as an opportunity to connect with families and let them rest. Many refugees are looking to move onward from Romania to other countries.”
Baptist churches in Moldova continue to operate a refugee shelter but are struggling to obtain a reliable vehicle and bedding and other supplies.
Congregations in Slovakia are caring for about 75,000 Ukrainians remaining in that country. “Baptists are looking at the ways to best care for the traumatized and meet the psychological needs of single parents with kids who are displaced from their homes.”
EBF added that Baptists across the rest of Europe are continuing to provide help. “Spain, Portugal, the UK, Germany, Austria, Czechia, Bulgaria, Italy and many other contexts have given generously and are housing refugees with church families.”