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Leading an MB Church in the Midst of War

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Maxym Oliferovski and Anya Oliferovski are cofounders of New Hope Centre in Zaporizhzhia and lead church planters of the Mennonite Brethren church plant, God's Family Church. Maxym is the program manager and Anya is the manager of finance and human resources. Courtesy of Maxym Oliferovski

On the morning of February 24th, 2022, Russian military forces began a full-scale attack on Ukraine by land, air, and sea. Missiles have been targeting major cities and many Ukrainians are fleeing their homes for safety.

“Your heart begins to pound…And you can feel the stress in the air.”

When Russia started sending missiles into Ukrainian hospitals, schools, and homes, Maxym Oliferovski and his wife, Anya, moved themselves to a small cabin to be further from the growing violence. Although they are in a relatively safe area in the city of Zaporozhye, the violence is not far off.

“You can hear and feel the explosions,” Oliferovski says.

The couple leads Multiply, formerly MB Mission, in Ukraine, as well as the New Hope Centre, an organization working with local families in crisis. Oliferovski is also the pastor of a church plant he and his wife started three years ago.

They bought this small cabin a year ago as a place to retreat and garden. They never thought it would become their shelter in the midst of a war.

“We saw one of the missiles flying right over us,” Oliferovski recounted solemnly. “It’s hard to be prepared for that.”

There is no easy choice to stay or leave, but Oliferovski and his wife plan to stay as long as they can be of help. As one of 25 MB Churches in the country, they are doing their best to support the hospitals and relieve stress in the local community.

“Everything is different. People are different. It’s changing every day.”

At this time men as young as 18 can be handed a machine gun just by showing their Ukrainian passport. What Oliferovski called “territorial defense” encourages the average citizen to take up arms or craft homemade explosives to protect their family and cities.

Navigating an active war as a pastor can be difficult. Oliferovski says although he does not condemn those who choose to take up arms, he reminds them of the responsibility.

“No matter what [the Russians] do, they are God’s children.”

Oliferovski is advising the people in his church to evacuate their children or stay home and try not to panic. He and his wife are offering support to these families through phone calls and message groups until they can meet in person.

Oliferovski listed a number of physical needs that people in the U.S. and Canada can provide. Things like food, water, and finances will help protect and rebuild their communities, but he says the real need is a “restoration of broken hearts.”

“There is definitely revival happening in the military,” Oliferovski says even in the midst of war soldiers are praying and accepting Jesus as Lord. Commanders are asking the chaplains to come to speak to their troops. Prayer is needed and prayer is working.

“We’re expecting a miracle to happen,” Oliferovski said confidently. “So many people are praying and that’s why we have no doubt.”

We invite you to join us in prayer. Pray the violence would cease. Pray for safety and that needs would be met for those in Ukraine. Pray for the restoration of broken hearts. And for Maxym and Anya, that they would remain healthy and capable to help as long as they are there.

To hear more from Pastor Maxym Oliferovski and find out how you can help through Multiply visit: https://multiply.net/event/ukraine-in-crisis

And to read more about what MCC is doing to aid the crisis in Ukraine visit: https://mbherald.com/mcc-responds-to-crisis-in-ukraine/

Holly Hannigan is a staff writer for MB Herald

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