Ukrainian evangelicals on Russian border: “Most churches keep hope and faith to continue preaching”
As tensions grow in the area, evangelicals continue to “trust in God, who is always with us. And we believe that our people will not give up”, says a pastor in Kharkiv.
Protestante Digital · KHARKIV · 14 FEBRUARY 2022 · 17:20 CET
Rather than easing tensions, the future of the Ukraine-Russia border continues to be fraught with uncertainty.
While Belarus has joined Moscow in deploying new military manoeuvres, the United States has announced that its troops in Poland will prepare temporary refuges to provide shelter for US citizens in Ukraine in case they need to flee the country urgently.
In addition to diplomatic issues, the situation on the border also affects the economy. A spokesman for the German Ministry of Economy and Climate has warned that “the level of gas reserves is really worrisome” and that they are at 35%, below the critical level of 40%.
Ukrainian pastor Andrey Tyschchenko spoke to Spanish news website Protestante Digital saying, “nobody knows if the situation will get worse”.
His church, New Generation Church, is located in the city of Kharkiv, less than an hour's drive from the Russian border. “We will return to normal life when the Russians withdraw their troops and all their weapons from the Donetsk and Luhansk region and return Crimea to Ukraine”, pointed out the pastor.
Question. How are the evangelical churches in Ukraine, special the closest to the frontier, living the tension with Russia?
Answer. Most of the churches, located close to the Ukraine-Russia border in the east part of Ukraine, continue preaching the Gospel. They do not care about all the breaking news. They keep on encouraging people to believe, to stay calm.
I think many of them do not pay attention to all this news, all these problems. They aren’t looking for a plan to escape from this part of Ukraine. Most keep hope and faith to stay here.
As for us, we are building a new church building. We do not want to stop even now. We are buying all the materials to continue our buildings process, so that we hope everything is going to be alright!
Q. Is there a real risk of a Russian invasion of Ukraine? What do Ukrainian evangelicals think about it?
A. I assume nobody knows, but as pastors and leaders, we have to encourage people to believe, pray, protect our land and families. We should keep on believing that God will keep us safe, and we will avoid all the escalation and invasion into Ukraine.
Russia has strong power and strong soldiers. In comparison to their army, our army is much smaller and unequipped, but we trust God, who is always with us.
We believe that our people will not surrender. They will not allow our country to be conquered. We hope it will not happen.
Q. How is this tension affecting the relationship with the Russian churches? Is there any relation right now?
A. I suppose Russian churches are quite divided when it comes to this issue. Some churches support the Russian government, and some do not.
We have good relationships with those churches that are not supporters of the Russian government. They might not be able to publicly say that they do not support Putin and his regime, but they are good friends who always remember us in their prayers, support us and keep in touch with us.
Q. What does it take to de-escalate the tension and get back to normal life?
A. To get back to a normal life, first of all, something should change in the minds of Russian politicians. Their views should be altered.
Secondly, it is crucial for us in Ukraine, that the USA, all Europe and NATO will support our country and tell the Russian Federation that they are not going to let Russia invade and conquer Ukraine.
Furthermore, we will get back to a normal life when the Russians withdraw their troops and all their weapons from the Donetsk and Luhansk region and return Crimea to Ukraine.
Q. How has the pandemic affected the Ukrainian population in general?
A. People have different responses to this situation of pandemic, but most of them are used to all the restrictions that we currently have. People have found a way to survive in those circumstances.
It has hit our economy hard. But we Ukrainians are used to the difficulties and problems. I think we will survive in this difficult situation.
Q. What about evangelical churches?
A. Many had problems at the beginning of the pandemic because many people could not come to the services, but now the situation is much better and has become much more stable.
I know that for many churches it has brought new opportunities to develop and improve their online services and digital ministry. Many have opened new Facebook pages or YouTube channels, drawing more people to Christ.
Our church has grown during these two years of the pandemic. Before the pandemic, we used to have 1,000 people, now almost 1,900 people attend church. This fantastic growth has become real because of people’s hunger and thirst for Christ, true Gospel, and hope, so that our church has become the answer for many people.
However, we still have a problem with the pandemic in Ukraine. The situation has become worse, and so many people have got sick. Nevertheless, people are not so afraid of the pandemic now because many have already been vaccinated.
They have given up fear and, against all odds, they come to services, go to work, they do their normal daily activities.
We have grown as a church. We have our daily services, we do everything that we did before.
Last year we had a big service in a stadium. Nothing could stop us from gathering almost 27.000 people in Kharkiv, where approximately 10,000 came to the front to receive Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior. Our churches, keep growing, we keep preaching the Gospel.
Ukrainian Christians have been joining fasting and prayer calls from many churches. / Photo via Facebook Espoir Wallonie
Q. What are the main goals of the evangelical churches in Ukraine for the next few years?
A. The biggest challenge is to stay as a gospel-oriented church, a real church, to reveal the power of the Holy Spirit, the mercy and anointing of God, so that people who come to our churches will experience the glory of God in their lives.
That is the best way to bring people to the Lord. We should not give up, should not stop preaching the Gospel. We have to do more evangelical campaigns and preach the Gospel more because people are afraid and stressed out.
We need to bring them hope and the answers to their questions. I believe and I know that Jesus Christ is certainly the answer. He is a whole answer for Ukraine.
Q. What is the relationship between the churches in the west and the east of the country?
A. There are some differences between the east and west part of Ukraine. This has to do with the mindset of the people, because most of those who live in the western part of Ukraine have never been under communism.
However, those problems we faced before and what we are going through now, has made us one. it has united us.
We believe all these things will work together to change our country and fight together for one goal: to save our country and make it prosperous. Preaching the gospel in churches is the key point to achieve that goal.
Q. How can European Christians pray for you?
A. They may have in mind the prayer that the early church prayed when Peter and the disciples of Jesus Christ were in the court. The judge said it was prohibited for them to preach the Gospel.
The Bible says when they left the court, they started to pray asking God to give them strength and boldness to preach the Gospel without fear.
We believe that nothing will deter us from preaching the Gospel, and we will continue to share the Gospel without any fear.