As the casualties from Russia’s invasion continue to rise, Christian leaders in the Greenville area offered advice on how Christians can minister to the people of Ukraine.
Since Russia invaded on Feb. 24 under the pretext of supporting separatists in eastern Ukraine and “denazifying” the government, more than 3.5 million refugees have fled to other countries.
Sergey Minka, the pastor of Word of Life Slavic Church in Spartanburg, South Carolina, said believers should consider donating money to assist the people of Ukraine.
“It is something very personal for us,” Minka said. “We pray and try to help as much as we can.”
Many members of his church, who are predominantly Ukrainian-American, know relatives and friends living in Ukraine suffering from the war. After hearing stories of Russian atrocities, Minka decided to raise money for churches in the western part of Ukraine. The church sends these funds through MoneyGram to pastors housing refugees, evangelizing Ukrainians and delivering food to besieged cities.
Bob Roberts, a former employee of the Wilds Christian camp who teaches at Minka’s church, brought the opportunity of partnering with Word of Life to the attention of Bob Jones University faculty members.
As of March 29, BJU had raised $22,722 for the Ukrainian relief fund through donations and student fundraisers, including selling boba tea and organizing a volleyball tournament and a campus-wide game of tag. Those interested in giving can donate here.
Minka said students should also pray for Ukrainian believers. “Just knowing that people in other parts of the world are praying for them is helpful,” he said.
Minka asked for prayer that Russian Christians will not accept Putin’s propaganda justifying the war. He has been encouraged by reports of hundreds of Russian pastors openly condemning the war at risk to themselves, an action that can earn dissenters up to five years in prison.
Minka suggested Christians model Jesus’ prayer in the garden of Gethsemane before the crucifixion. “And he said, Abba, Father, all things are possible unto thee; take away this cup from me: nevertheless not what I will, but what thou wilt” (Mark 14:36).
He offered an example of a prayer following Christ’s approach. “Lord, we’re asking you for mercy for the people of Ukraine and for this conflict to stop as soon as possible,” Minka said.“But we don’t know what His sovereign will is for the nations and history, so His will be done.”
John Hutcheson, the field director at Frontline Missions International, said his South Carolina missions agency supports several Ukrainian missionaries and pastors. Some of these pastors have been cut off from their congregations because of the war.
“Prayer is the most important thing we can do,” Hutcheson said. “It’s not just something to do while we’re standing in line waiting to do something else.” He cited 1 Thessalonians 5, which tells believers to pray without ceasing.
Hutcheson suggested BJU students meet in small groups for a few minutes before classes to pray for the people of Ukraine. Illustrating the power of prayer, Hutcheson pointed to the Haystack Prayer Meeting, a group of five college students he said launched the modern American missions movement.
“The Bible says a lot about God’s desire to humble oppressors and how God comes to the aid of the oppressed,” Hutcheson said. He encouraged students to pray God would humble and save Vladimir Putin, the president of Russia.
“Let’s pray for the Gospel to advance even in these despicable circumstances,” Hutcheson said.
Mark Vowels, the director of the Center for Global Opportunities at BJU, agreed.
“Realize that throughout history, God has used horrible circumstances to bring people to know Him. Amid bedlam, carnage and malice, the light of [the] Gospel shines especially bright. Perhaps this time of greatest trial will prove to be the time of greatest revival and spread of Gospel hope,” he said.
Vowels said believers can find comfort in the words of Psalm 56 and in the sovereignty of God.
“God sees the end from the beginning, and nothing surprises Him,” Vowels said. “He even uses the evil of men to accomplish His eternal purposes.”