UCM partner Vasya, a pastor at Irpin Bible Church (IBC) and teacher of Youth Ministry at Kyiv Theological Seminary, is amongst the many Ukrainians who put the safety of their communities above their own when the conflict began. From the first day of the war and all through the occupation of their city, Vasya and his IBC colleagues provided food and shelter in their church building, and helped evacuate about 3,500 people from Irpin and the surrounding region.
Vasya is now pouring his time and energy into starting up volunteer centres in a number of locations that were devasted by Russian forces, including Hostomel and Borodyanka. Although only small towns, they were of military significance and so were attacked and occupied at the start of the conflict. Now the Russian forces have gone but the damage they have left behind is significant. “Not only buildings but lives have been destroyed,” Vasya says. He feels this is a crucial moment for the Ukrainian church to show leadership in helping rebuild lives, and pointing people to Christ.
At each of the volunteer centres, staff are working towards four main goals:
• to help people with food and medicines, with healthcare professionals also involved to offer assistance;to work with children and teenagers;
• to facilitate psychological and spiritual support groups, running "overcoming adversity" courses;
• to hold Sunday services, with the hope of planting churches.
They have been encouraged by the numbers of people visiting the centres so far, often seeing more than 1500 in a week. In one place that previously had no faith community, now about 50-60 people attend the Sunday meetings; for many, it is their first experience of church. Vasya was also happy to see many young people at an event in the summer. “We were surprised, there were more than 100 teenagers!” he says. “This is the first time I have seen such a large number of teenagers gathered together in this town.” He hopes they will continue to come along.
“My focus is on opening and supporting the centres,” he explains, “but the greatest need is for dedicated ministers. Because of the war, we have problems with the economy in the country. Many people have moved from our region because of the crisis, so we have a shortage of ministers. We pray that ministers will be ordained for the centres.”
At the end of September, a group of over 80 volunteers who serve in the different locations gathered together at IBC, sharing stories of successes, and bringing prayer needs. “Inspiring testimonies, lots of prayers and words of encouragement - that's how the first meeting of IBC volunteer centres went,” says Vasya. “Everyone has vivid testimonies of God's guidance.”
One encouraging report came from the centre in Hostomel, which has recently moved to new premises. A local artist kindly gave her time and talents to decorate the walls with a beautiful mural of a Bible verse.
"Jesus is the Way, the Truth, and the Life" - the hope is that these words from John will serve as a reminder to all who come to the church premises that the path to salvation is only through Jesus.
We are so excited to see the impact the centres are having, and we echo the words of gratitude spoken by the IBC leadership: “God incredibly gives the opportunity to serve to spread the gospel to towns and villages. Thanks to every servant for dedication, hard work and attention to the needs of the neighbour.”
Ukraine Christian Ministries Registered Charity No 1061221