The conflict in Eastern Ukraine erupted early in 2014, when Russian-supported separatists took control of parts of the Donetsk and Luhansk regions, known as the Donbass. It has claimed an estimated 13,000 lives, and displaced over one million people as refugees and internally displaced people. Although this war rumbles on it is now largely forgotten by our mainstream media. Yet the Lord’s people have found that gospel opportunities abound in this troubled area, as reports from two contacts show.
Andy, a Christian worker serving in the region, writes, ‘We have seen Christians here sharing the gospel with a winsome compassion that values every person, without judging or condemning, showing grace that exemplifies how God has treated us. When we drive down to the region near the war zone, we overtake tanks, military supply vehicles and troop deployment trucks heading to the war. Yet on the three-hour journey, most of what we see coming the other way are ambulances with their lights flashing – carrying the wounded, the maimed and the dying to the hospitals in our city. It’s a sobering, distressing sight. Christians visit every bed in these hospitals every week, to share Jesus with those with no hope besides.’
Gennadiy is the pastor of a small Baptist church in the region, and a chaplain to the Ukrainian soldiers in the ‘red zone’ at the frontline. He writes,
‘Every month we make two trips to the war zone (although the coronavirus stopped us going there for some time). First we visit our soldiers and police officers who serve there. At each of four checkpoints we have a short worship service, with instruction in the Christian faith and prayers for the soldiers and their families.
‘The next day we serve our soldiers and civilians in nearby areas, bringing them the gospel message and showing our Christian faith in practical ways. With the help of local volunteers, we gather fifty needy people and hold a worship service in the street, preaching the gospel and calling people to receive Jesus Christ as their Lord and Saviour. Then we give out food packages, which help to feed a family for a week. We give diapers for children and disabled adults. Each family receives a copy of the Bible, Christian magazines and Christian books.
‘We often hear the testimonies of these people, that our ministry has supported them morally and physically. People continue to pray, and read the Bibles and other Christian literature that we provided. Many became members of local churches.
‘The afternoon is dedicated to serving our soldiers at the frontline. We give them good words of encouragement in the Christian faith, then pray with them. At each place we leave a bag with useful things that soldiers cannot get at the front: coffee, tea, toilet paper, cookies, etc. These gifts, bought with donations from churches in Ukraine and abroad, open their hearts for conversation with us and to the gospel of Jesus Christ.
‘On the final day we distribute bread and Christian literature, and pray for people in the area. They have been subjected to severe shelling during six years of the war in Donbass. It’s not only food that helps these people survive, but also the moral support which reminds them that they are not abandoned in their troubles. That is God’s love in practice.
‘We testify that the Lord has a special compassion for these people who live in an incredibly difficult situation. The Lord encourages us to go to them with our mission again and again.’ Jesus tells us, ‘Let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven’ (Matthew 5:16). These stories show how this can work out through clear gospel ministry, supported by deeds of Christian compassion. Pray for the protection of Christians who bravely serve in the Donbass; pray that our heavenly Father would bring peace to Ukraine; pray for the many soldiers who have come to know Christ at the frontline; and pray that many more war-weary people would find God’s all-surpassing peace in Christ.