It was a tremendous blessing, given the circumstances, to have Ukrainian brothers in Christ; Roman Soloviy joining from Lviv and Taras Dyatlik joining from Rivne on the Langham Live Zoom last week. They shared their experiences and extreme challenges they are going through, serving God in Ukraine as they endure the Ukrainian–Russian war.
Both have been involved with Langham for many years and significantly in the Slavic and Central Asian Bible Commentaries and similar projects. Taras shared how these publications helped build up the community of theological educators and church ministers in Eastern Europe. John Libby, LPUKI National Director, shared that originally there was a significant number of the Slavic Bible Commentary at risk in a warehouse in Kiev early in the war, but most of these have now been retrieved, Praise God.
Faith under fire
This horrendous war has unimaginably impacted their everyday lives. The Ukrainian population is all too familiar with the Russian oppression of their nation which has culminated with the horrific events of this year.Thousands of people fleeing Ukraine, seeking refuge in neighbouring countries flooded all roads towards the borders. People displaced from their homes and cities started to fill all public spaces: schools, churches, seminaries. People were queuing for days to get across the borders. Roman explained how he and his colleagues did everything they could to help those people in those days.
Extreme situations lead to having to make decisions that are very difficult. Shelling all around Ukraine led to deep questions having to be faced, such as “what do we do with our family?” History had shown them, and they knew what atrocities would be inflicted on the nation by the Russians. Roman’s wife took their children to Romania. These are unforgettable moments, he explained. Not able to know if he would ever see them again. Such decisions need to be made in the moment, moments that will never be forgotten. Many men cannot leave the country because of their age and therefore face this harsh reality. Taras’ family is scattered. Many are serving in special forces. The daily calls between them bring relief that they are still alive. Both men affirm that the calling is to stay and serve with the churches and seminaries. There are very difficult days ahead, but as they share – the church is strong and will survive. And still the war rages, people are devastated, tired and mentally exhausted.
The theological seminaries are working together with local churches and were the first to receive refugees as the Russian army moved in and displaced hundreds of thousands of local people. Many people stayed at the seminaries.Taras shared how his seminary was one of ten locally who worked together as a coordinating group, creating a network of seminary-based refugee hubs. They have helped evacuate more than 10,000 people. Daily they help 4,000 refugees by providing sanitation and clothing etc. They provide food and medical supplies to over 300,000 people.
In the midst of all that is going on, there are opportunities to listen to people and point them to hope, particularly the hope that only Jesus can bring.
War takes you to the root of your beliefs and theological reflection. It makes your theology extensional, Roman shared. Churches are united, all churches are displaying their sacrificial nature. The amount of kind work they are doing is tremendous. God is active, even in the secular space there is coordination and work being carried out that can only be inspired through God’s love.They believe in God’s intervention, reminding us it’s a challenge to faith when it seems that prayers are going unanswered. It can cost and challenge inner strengths, emotions, and courage. They are carrying faith to all the work they do having to daily and personally challenge their thoughts and doubts, looking for biblical, human hope and perspective. In the cold reality of the circumstances, it’s easy to want to run from this all but daily end up running to God where he meets them. It’s like daily becoming a Christian again and again in the growing of faith under challenge.
Prayers for PeaceRoman asked for prayer for God’s miraculous intervention as it’s a David vs. Goliath war. He seeks prayer for their work helping internally displaced persons, 265,000 in one region. He encourages us to pray for these people in desperate situations and for theological educators in the very difficult situations that they are facing.
Taras thanks God for the partnership working with them, outlining without this help they couldn’t survive. He sought prayer for millions of divided families: fathers, husbands, wives and children who are all separated because of this war.Over 70 people attended the Zoom call and were allocated to breakout rooms to pray about these requests. It was a privilege for all who attended the Langham Live session to pray into this war, and to seek God’s intervention on behalf of the millions affected. There was a real tangible sense of God’s presence with heartfelt prayers raised to God.
Please join us for the next Langham Live calls at the end of November.
By David McMullan, Deputy CFO, LPUKI.