Ukraine 2024

The war has changed everything in our lives. I continue to minister as a military chaplain. My brother volunteered for the Armed Forces of Ukraine and is now at the front.

The year 2023 has gone into eternity, and any hopes and aspirations for a meaningful and positive change in the war situation in Ukraine have evaporated quickly in the light of renewed Russian bombardment of Kyiv and other targets in Ukraine.

The news headlines make depressing reading:
‘Grim New Year for Ukrainians under Shadow of Russian Attack’;
‘Deadly Russian Air Attacks Threaten to Overwhelm Ukraine’;
‘Russia intensifies missile attacks on Kyiv as Putin promises to ramp up fighting in Ukraine’.

From a human perspective the outlook is indeed dark and grim. The unrelenting pressure generated by uncertainty, fear, and intimidation creates many emotional and psychological casualties, just as the brutal conflict results in horrible injuries and death. It is difficult for us to imagine the scale of the damage inflicted on many lives being lived out in the chaos of war. At the time of writing reports are coming in of the heaviest Russian bombardment for some time of Kiev, Lviv and other large population centres.

The pressure on the churches as they care for the desperately needy people around them is also unrelenting. Christian leaders readily admit to being exhausted, physically and emotionally drained, as they try to support and provide for the weak and vulnerable in their communities. Yet they persevere, bringing much needed material and physical aid, and constantly looking for opportunities to share the Gospel of Christ and His unfailing love.

For some of the pastors and missionaries supported by SGA, this has meant significant and sometimes sacrificial changes in their ministry. Denis Kharuk (above) tells how, alongside the ‘normal’ avenues of ministry such as preaching, pastoral care, and outreach to children, including camp ministry, he has been ‘caught up’ in unusual and difficult spiritual work.

The war has changed everything in our lives. I continue to minister as a military chaplain. My brother volunteered for the Armed Forces of Ukraine and is now at the front. I go to him and live with his unit for a whole week once every month. I am trying to bring them the warmth they deserve, and to listen to them... On my recent visit, their commander (Lieutenant Dima) came to me and started sharing the horrors he experienced during their two-day mission. He said it was very scary, explosions were on every side, artillery and mortars were trying to get them. But he strongly believes they are alive today only because of the church prayers for them.

Olexander lives and ministers in Lviv, one of the cities which has come under recent attack again. Through all the horrors of the war – destruction of homes and livelihoods, life-changing injuries and death, he keeps his focus on ministering Christ to desperately needy people. He reports on two churches already planted and his hopes for the future:

We are thankful to God for the “Generation of Hope” church we started a year ago already has an established team, we can let that ministry go and fully focus on the new “Renewal” church, and we also pray for the Lord to give us the opportunity to start yet another church one year later.

Thoughts of retrenchment or retreat in the presence of the conflict are far from the minds of Olexander and those who work with him. He reports that the small but growing ‘Renewal Church’ has been active in evangelism, reaching out to more than five hundred people living close to the war front line, and holding three children’s camps. A Care Centre serviced by the church reaches around one thousand people each month, supplying them with material aid, and sharing the Gospel with them.

Accounts of tragic events continue to emerge, often followed by remarkably positive and encouraging consequences. Pastor Pavlo ministers in Volokhiv Yar, a village in the Kharkiv region, which found itself on the front line of the war. Pavlo was compelled to give his entire house to the Ukrainian military, and to move with his wife into a small summer house in a yard on the same site. One night, a Russian plane dropped a bomb on his house where six military commanders were located. Unfortunately, all six were killed, and the house completely destroyed. Pastor Pavlo and his wife were in the summer house nearby, and the ceiling collapsed due to the explosion. Both Pavlo and his wife were injured and it took some time for them to recover from the shock, but they were thankful to be alive, preserved by the hand of the Lord.

Pavlo continues to minister in this village today, and in a strange but wonderful way his ministry has been expanded by the trauma which overtook him and his wife. He says: ‘I was the church pastor before the war, but now I am the pastor of the whole village’. People from all over the village come to him for support and aid. He felt much pain and hurt because of the tragic death of the commanders in his house, but as time has moved on, he has seen how God turned this pain into a great ministry to the whole village.

In many of our ministry reports we read of God at work in the most difficult of circumstances, motivating and enabling His people to continue their Christ-like care for the lost.

Yuri Melnik ministers in a village named Djurin and the church is active in supporting needy victims of the war.

Despite the difficulties associated with the war, the church continues to serve God and people. There are many unemployed people, refugees, and those who are simply in need of help. Every Sunday, after the service, children, youth and needy adults are invited to the church cafeteria, where they can receive a modest charity lunch and be together in fellowship.

Yuri has seen evidence of God’s work in the hearts of many. Bogdan is 24 years old and for many years lived under the domination of alcohol and sinful habits. He was invited by some of the church young people to an evangelistic service, and was touched by what he experienced. He has attended services on Sunday several times since, and it seems clear that God is working in his heart. Yuri asks for prayer for him. At the opposite end of the age spectrum is 84 year old Irina, a faithful believer with a son and daughter who are unbelievers. On a recent visit to Irina Yuri had the valuable opportunity of speaking also to her children. It is her heart’s desire that they would come to know Christ.

By the grace of God Gospel ministry continues, and Christ is building His Church even in the ruins of war! Pray for strength and endurance for believers as they persevere in ministry and outreach. The harsh winter months make life even more difficult for all.

Pray for the safety of pastors and evangelists as they travel from village to village and town to town, to care for the needy, to bring them food and aid for their bodily needs, and most crucially to bring them spiritual food and sustenance for their walk with Christ.