In Ukraine, Southern Baptist missionary Russell Woodbridge often encounters people who fled their homes in the eastern part of the country when war broke out a few years ago.
Greear, center, says his church's partnership with the IMB allows them to have a 'front-row seat in what was formerly one of the most closed places in the world.' That happens through the work of Russell Woodbridge, right, an IMB missionary who equips church planters like Elisey Pronin, left, in Ukraine.
And in the midst of that heartbreak, the International Mission Board (IMB) worker and Ukrainian believers – along with help from his home pastor J.D. Greear and The Summit Church – want to help locals find a hope that transcends the uncertainty of war.
“A year and a half ago, with the help of Ukrainians, we started a new church plant that specifically tries to reach these people who have been displaced and lost everything,” Woodbridge said. “We’ve seen people come to Christ and be baptized.”
Through the seminary where Woodbridge teaches, he’s been able to mobilize displaced believers to plant churches among other displaced Ukrainians. He’s even seen them plant churches beyond Ukraine’s borders. One student went to Central Asia and led people there to faith in Christ. Another planted a thriving church in Poland.
“This is what we’re about – training Ukrainians to go with the gospel to the nations,” Woodbridge said. “It’s been a joy and a privilege for me to come alongside them.”
Back in the Raleigh-Durham area in North Carolina, Woodbridge’s home church feels the same way about his work. Pastor Greear, also president of the Southern Baptist Convention, says their partnership with Woodbridge and his wife Ingrid, encourages the church and enlarges their faith.
J.D. Greear, standing, right, talks with a congregation planted by Pastor Elisey Pronin, left, made up of people who were displaced by the war in eastern Ukraine. The church offers the hope of Christ to people there who have lost everything.
“We pray, we give, we go – not because we have to, but because of what God has promised He’s going to do among the nations,” Greear said. “We get to have a front-row seat in what was formerly one of the most closed places in the world. It’s our honor to be connected.” That’s the blessing of working alongside the IMB, he noted.
“Being a part of this great network of churches provides opportunities that maybe you couldn’t do if you were by yourself,” Greear said. “It helps us engage in ways that are meaningful and not just a flash in the pan.” That’s the same whether your church is 50 or 5,000 strong, he said. Regardless of size, churches “can be directly engaged in the exciting things God is doing in the most unreached places on the planet.”
Woodbridge agreed. “It takes all of us – American churches, IMB missionaries, and Ukrainian believers,” he said. “It takes all of us working together to reach the nations for Christ.”
– Ukrainian believers to plant strong, healthy churches that spread rapidly among the lost in their country and beyond.
– Churches to come alongside the work overseas and support them with prayer, funding and volunteer help.
Watch J.D. Greear talk about his church’s involvement in missions around the world:
(EDITOR’S NOTE: This year’s Week of Prayer for International Missions in the Southern Baptist Convention is Dec. 2-9 with the theme “Every Church. Every Nation.” The theme undergirds the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering for International Missions. The offering, in tandem with Cooperative Program gifts from Southern Baptist churches, supports international workers in seeking to fulfill the Great Commission. Gifts to the Lottie Moon offering are received through local Southern Baptist churches or online at IMB.org/lmco, where there are resources to promote the offering. This year’s goal is $160 million.