Reading through Facebook posts and updates from the Ukrainian Baptists, the two words most commonly used are “prayers” and “gratitude.” There are abundant reasons for our brothers and sisters to cry out in need to God and to give thanks.
The past weeks have brought continual sporadic shelling across the country, with Russian troops increasingly targeting civilian areas and critical infrastructure. Baptists across the country are trying to adjust and live through this new normal, which includes frequent visits to bomb shelters and limited or restricted access to power.
As areas have been liberated, aid organizations, including the Baptists, have rushed in desperately needed supplies for those neglected and reeling from Russian occupation. The atrocities reported in these areas are unbelievable. Winter in these regions will be particularly difficult.
“Churches that used to stand as centers of refuge and ministry in their towns have been destroyed, left hollow by fire or missiles.”
There have been reports of multiple churches that have been seized by the Russian authorities in past weeks for use as barracks. Numerous pastors have gone missing. Churches that used to stand as centers of refuge and ministry in their towns have been destroyed, left hollow by fire or missiles.
Ukrainian Baptist Union leaders shared this about the church in Mykolaiv in the south: “Every morning we hear more and more tragic news from Mykolaiv. People are pulled out from under the rubble, industrial and civilian objects are attacked, and the lives and livelihoods of our citizens are destroyed. Permanent damage to civil infrastructure, hundreds of broken human lives, uncertainty about the future — this is the reality of the residents of the city and its surroundings. Many people at this time found themselves in an extreme crisis. Those who had to fight for survival even before the war suffered the most. These are people with disabilities, families in difficult life circumstances, and elderly people. Members of the Church of the Grace of God see and respond to their needs.”
Through God’s provision, our brothers and sisters in Ukraine continue to see and to serve. And to express gratitude in the midst of it all.
In another update, leaders wrote: “It is undeniable that our appreciation and understanding of God’s care has taken on a new meaning and depth. Many Ukrainians have lost what they valued — feelings of security, home, health, work. And more: family and friends. Despite the pain experienced and present trials, we continue to see God’s hand and care. We shall continue to see countless miracles and heavenly protection. We continue to give thanks.”
They give thanks for more who have been baptized in the past weeks. For new pastors ordained. For new churches that have been planted. For the thousands who have been baptized and more than 20,000 new people attending church regularly.
And thousands give thanks for Baptists in and around Ukraine for the care they’ve been shown. Leaders write: “Since February, our churches have turned from meeting halls into dorms, canteens, train stations, heating points and places of spiritual renewal. Often Christians responded to challenges faster than local administration and local governments. Now hundreds of new people respect, love, and join the church.”
In the neighboring countries and further afield, Baptists faithfully support Ukrainians. Aid transports arrive in Ukraine from Baptists in Germany, Romania, Hungary and Poland. Centers continue to operate in Moldova, Romania and Poland where refugees with no other place to go can stay and wait out the brutal winter months. Refugees who fled into Russia find safe transit through Ukraine via care of the Belarusian Baptists who help transport them to safety in Poland.
Baptist partners in the region will continue to be crucial in delivering aid as resources within Ukraine continue to diminish.
Will Cumbia writes for the European Baptist Federation, the lead agency from the Baptist Forum for Aid and Development responding to the war in Ukraine. For more information about EBF and the ways Baptists in and around Ukraine are serving go to ebf.org.
Report from Ukraine: ‘In the midst of the suffering, God is at work’ | Opinion by Will Cumbia