KIEV, Ukraine – One year after the Euromaidan Revolution on Kiev’s Independence Square thousands came this weekend to memorialize “The Heavenly Hundred” – those who lost their lives during last February’s bloody protests.
Much has changed in Ukraine over the past year. A new president is in office. War continues in the east between pro-Russian separatists and the Ukrainian Army despite a recently negotiated cease-fire agreement.
But not all news coming out of Ukraine is bad. At the same time prayer services were being held for the fallen at Maidan, a new church was being birthed across town as 16 people gathered for worship in a former beauty salon.
Pastor Oleg, who leads the new congregation, is a church planter from the Luhansk region who has been forced to flee his home, and his church, due to the war.
“This was not in my plan,” Oleg said. “I had no desire to come to the big city. I was content to pastor my church and plant new churches in the Luhansk region. But, God had different plans.”
Leaders of the church-planting program at the Kiev Theological Seminary say Baptist leaders in Ukraine recently began an emphasis to plant new churches in Kiev and other areas of the west. However, they were short on church planters and did not know who would start and lead these new church plants.
International Mission Board worker Dan Upchurch, who teaches church planting at the seminary, explained that many of their students came from Ukraine’s east, which has seen the fastest percentage of church growth over the past 25 years.
Upchurch said that in recent months they have seen several of the church planting students move from their homes in the east so they could continue to plant churches in the central and western parts of the country.
When asked if he would ever return to his home church, a teary-eyed Oleg said that he longed for the day he could return.
“But, in the meantime, I will plant churches,” he said. “That is what God designed me to do.”
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(EDITOR’S NOTE – Marc Ira Hooks is a media producer for IMB based in Europe.)
PRAY – Pray for pastors like Oleg who are planting churches away from their homes. Pray for IMB workers like Dan Upchurch who are investing their lives in reaching Ukrainians. Pray that lives will be changed and that people will repent and be saved as a result of Christian witness during this time of war.
CONNECT – For more information on how you can be involved, like the Rebirth: Eastern Ukraine Facebook page or send an email to: [email protected].
GIVE – Thousands of homes in Mariupol need immediate repairs after numerous missiles hit the city on Saturday, Jan. 24. Youth and adults from several churches are already assisting their neighbors with plastic sheeting to cover windows and doors to keep out the cold. To help, go to netcommunity.imb.org/StrategicOpportunities. In the “Find projects by keywords” search box, type “Ukraine,” and you can find more information on how to give.