Every day since the war broke out in February 2022, a group of faithful believers has gathered at Blagodatne Church to pray. When we joined them on November 6th 2023, it was day 621 of the conflict and 17 people were sitting on benches in an upstairs room, ready to start the day, start the week as they always do: with a time of listening to God, and calling out to him for peace in Ukraine.
Pastor Sergiy gave us some background about the early days, sharing their thoughts and feelings in those first few weeks when they began meeting. “In the first month of war there was panic everywhere,” he said. “Russia a big country with a big army that could destroy Ukraine easily. We were just asking ourselves, ‘How will we live, what will we do?’ But of course we remembered that God is with us.”
As well as holding their daily corporate prayer time, church members also stepped up to play their part in meeting the many practical needs brought by the conflict. A group of women baked batches of 300 filled buns twice a week, to send to soldiers in need of food on the front lines. Others helped with laundering clothes and uniforms for the army, washing, drying, sending them back and receiving more in return almost non-stop. “It was like a conveyor belt,” Sergiy commented, as those present nodded in agreement.
Alongside this, the congregation found themselves gifted with many opportunities to share the gospel, an unexpected but welcome side-effect of the war. As well as organising outreach services for soldiers at a local military base, they were also able to minister to many Internally Displaced People (IDPs). Some needed food and temporary accommodation as they passed through on their way from the heavily bombarded areas in the east to the west of Ukraine or beyond the borders into Europe; others came to the Cherkasy region and stayed, therefore needing long-term support. All of our churches have seen their numbers grow in the past year through IDPs who have come to faith after being welcomed and cared for by Christians.
Beyond the ‘big picture’ prayer for peace and security across the whole country, there are also more personal (and perhaps more painful) needs to be brought to God. “We pray for people in the war who we know,” Sergiy explained. “One man from a nearby village serving as a soldier has been killed; another (probably taken as a prisoner of war) has disappeared and his whereabouts are unknown.” They also remember the needs of the church family, the Sunday services, and other ministries.
Having heard about this meeting and been so moved by the unwavering faith and commitment of these people, it was a great privilege to be amongst them in person. As they prepared to hear from God’s word and begin their time of prayer, Sergiy reflected, “We never thought it would go on for this long. But we will not stop these prayer meetings until the war has ended.”
Ukraine Christian Ministries Registered Charity No 1061221