As the war in Ukraine continues, and deep marks are left in the spiritual lives of the people, Christian lawyers, law students and young professionals are gathering together to grow in the knowledge of God’s Word and stand together as they shine like stars for Jesus in their communities. Please pray for this group who came together for their first meeting in September to discuss theology of work. As they deepen their roots in Christ, pray that the message of hope through Him will pour out into the lives of people around them. (Lawyers Christian Fellowship)
Alison Giblett leads the Genesis ministry, which helps people receive God’s healing in areas where they have been wounded, freeing them to rely on him rather than on destructive habits. She also helps facilitate cross-cultural outreach for the Ukrainian Missionary Church union. She says from Kiev: “Please continue to pray for peace and reconciliation in all areas of society and an end to the war, which is continuing after more than three years. In particular, pray that Christians will effectively demonstrate Christ’s love and care to those in need. Already many families are suffering from post-traumatic stress syndrome.”
Polina is a student at a university in Kyiv (Kiev) where she leads a Bible study group. She writes: “In Ukraine some people are very religious and for them Christianity is all about rules and traditions. They think that if a church is not Orthodox, it is probably a sect. Our Ukrainian group of nine students (called CCX) only started in September 2016, so now we have become closer as friends and as a team. Pray for courage to share the gospel and for the university administration to be open to our group so we can get official permission. Pray for more non-Christians to come to our meetings, and that we can do a mission week in our university in the next academic year.
When bands of balaclava-wearing gunmen seized government administration buildings in eastern Ukraine, many local Christians prepared for the worst. It became evident that religious freedom was not valued by the self-proclaimed leaders of the new so-called ‘people’s republics’. When abuses started, thousands of Christians began to flee separatist-controlled regions, and churches from around the country began taking in suffering believers from the occupied territories. It has been a wonderful expression of brotherly love on a significant scale. Please pray that through the abuses, persecutions and suffering, the work of Lord will happen. Pray that thousands of Ukrainians will come to know Jesus and put their trust in Him, and that in time, Ukraine will send forth many missionaries to lands still in need of Him.
Separatists seized an evangelical church in eastern Ukraine in November amid reports of increasingly frequent attacks on Christians in the region. Armed separatists broke into a newly constructed church in Donetsk, driving out the Christians inside and forbidding them from holding any further services there. They threatened to kill anyone who disobeyed this order. The Donetsk and Luhansk regions of Ukraine are under the control of pro-Russian separatists. The Council of Evangelical Protestant Churches of Ukraine issued a statement reporting intense persecution of Christians citing 'abductions, beatings, torture, threats of execution, pogroms at the places of prayer meetings'. Please pray for protection.
Due to the ongoing crisis in Ukraine, many refugees have entered Russia and are spread out around the country. In Novosibirsk, Siberia, where OM Russia is located, several summer camp bases are now used temporarily to house refugees forced to leave their homes with nothing. Several OM Russia members, in partnership with a local church, have visited a few of these bases to offer practical help and run a programme for the children. Relationships have been established, and together with local churches, they continue to help refugees rebuild their lives.
A Ukrainian military chief’s life was spared, thanks to a well-timed gift of a pocket New Testament. The soldier received the New Testament on 20th February, at a prayer tent on the Maidan square in Kiev, which was set up by the Genesis ministry. "That day 77 people died," said Valery, who was working in the prayer tent. "Many who were with this soldier were killed, but he had put the small New Testament we gave him a few hours earlier in his left top pocket… During the fighting he was shot in the heart, but the sniper bullet got stuck in the New Testament, so the New Testament literally saved his life! He came back to us to give thanks and share his story." Pray for Christians throughout the country to bring light, peace and hope to Ukraine.
Recent events in the Crimea have caused a great sense of anxiety in people throughout the country. Alarming phrases are being used like "Europe's worst crisis since the Cold War". However, there are reports of a new unity of heart and action being demonstrated by Christian denominations. The defence minister has written to church leaders that "The voice of the Church is more important now than ever before." Believers from all denominations kneel in public squares to pray for the nation. And the Muslim Tatars have offered to open their mosques to Christians to host prayer gatherings. Pray for this new hunger for God and for His Word to produce a refined church, and many new believers.
OM EAST has produced a new booklet that brings a message of hope to women working in prostitution. The booklet, Carrie, shares the true story of a young woman who ended up as a strip dancer and how she found freedom from this damaging existence. A Christian organisation helped Carrie leave this form of slavery and rebuild her life; while receiving practical support and counselling, she was told about Jesus for the first time. Carrie discovered His power to heal, restore and renew. Through faith in Christ she found new hope. As Carrie’s story is a powerful means of speaking into the lives of women who can identify with her past, pray that the new booklet, also being printed in a number of other Central and Eastern European languages, will be widely used for women enslaved in this exploitation.
Reports of violence, discussions of amnesty and government resignations have passed through international news sources since protests were sparked by the November announcement that Ukraine would not be strengthening ties with the EU. The international community and the church are worried that the country will descend into civil war if common ground cannot be found between the opposition parties and the current government. As protests continue, please pray for the work of BMS World Mission partner organisation, Russian Ministries, as they seek to spread the gospel and messages of peace and compromise in the hearts and minds of both sides.
Perhaps more than anywhere in the rest of Europe, God is reaping a tremendous harvest in Ukraine. Churches are growing fast and church planting is clearly on the agenda. Since independence, evangelical churches have nearly doubled, although there are restrictions, and the environment is not always easy. All forms of religion have experienced growth including the cults. However with increasing prosperity, exposure to European markets and improved work levels, the fascination of things spiritual is on the wane. Still, Christians have a passion to reach their own people and a determination seen in few European countries.
Population: 42,541,633 (2016)
Official languages: Ukrainian
GDP (PPP) per capita: $8,305 (2016 est.)
Life expectancy: 71 years
Religions: 84% Ukrainian Orthodox, 10% Catholic, 2% Protestant, 1% Muslim, 3% other religions