Ukraine Independence Day
August 24 is Ukrainian Independence Day, a day commemorating Ukraine’s formal separation from the Soviet Union in 1991. This year, August 24 is also a day of bitter irony, commemorating six months since a Russian invasion initiated an ongoing war. Could it be, for us, a day of fasting and prayer?
On this anniversary of freedom, we encourage prayer not only for peaceful resolution to this devastating and deadly conflict, but also for deep reconciliation with the God of peace. The World Evangelical Alliance (WEA) and the European Evangelical Alliance (EEA) have issued this statement, “On this day of independence, we want to declare our dependence on God, the One who can bring true peace to the hearts of each individual person, each family and even entire peoples.” The WEA has also made available this kid-friendly prayer guide for families to use as we pray for Ukraine. www.children.worldea.org/wp-content/uploads/2022/08/Pray-with-Children-in-War-and-Conflict.pdf
Ukrainians have always had their own culture and language, but for centuries were dominated by Russia, Poland, Turkey and other countries. Because of this, the holiday has always been a time for Ukrainians to publicly express their love for, and strong commitment to, their homeland. Celebrations have typically been strongest in the capital of Kyiv, but with the realities of war overshadowing the city, the Ukrainian capital has banned public gatherings, with security forces on alert and ready to respond to any missile attacks or bombings. Pray for protection, and pray for peace.
Ministry to Displaced People
Pastor Maxym and the team at New Hope Center in Zaporizhia continue to provide shelter and care for those fleeing war zones. He writes, “We had thought that by the end of summer the amount of displaced people would decrease. But unfortunately it stays the same. There are still many people moving out from occupied territories and search for a safer place.” Max continues, “The Heart of Christ MB church in Vinnytsia is also leaning in to help displaced people from other parts of the country to integrate into their new realities. MB pastor Aleksei writes, ‘Although it is important to help people by giving away food kits and essentials, it is also important to help them find jobs, rent houses, meet together, make new friends, and just talk. Every Friday we hold a tea party where people can share their problems. People are looking for answers to their questions; we tell them about Jesus, the One who helps us go through and survive all these horrors of war. Pray for us to show the heart of Christ.’”
Other relief efforts minister to both civilians and military alike, as church teams share practical aid as well as emotional and spiritual encouragement. We are told, “Everyone we meet is amazed and encouraged – beyond what I can even express in words – to learn that there are people in North America who pray for them, and who even give their own money to help them. Even from thousands of miles away, you are encouraging Ukrainians in their fight for their sovereign right to exist and to live in peace. Thank you!”
Summer Camp Ministries
Despite increased dangers and logistical challenges, Ukraine summer camps are reaching children, youth, and families with the hope of Jesus. One of our MB pastors in Ukraine writes, “We hear these words: ‘I don’t want to leave here.’ This is what we are hearing again and again as camps are ending. Summer is flying by at a tremendous speed. Time is not in our power, but we wish we could stop it. More than seventy people came to the tent camp from Avdeevka, Andreevka, Berdyansk, Zaporizhia, and Balkovoye. Several kids gave their hearts to Jesus; we keep working with each one, we believe that all of them will be servants of God! On behalf of everyone, I would like to say words of gratitude to Multiply, Mission Eurasia, and the Association of Mennonite Brethren Churches of Ukraine (AMBCU) for making this possible.”
MB pastor Oleksii Makaiov also writes about what God has done through camp ministries this summer, “What we definitely didn’t expect and didn’t plan for, during this turbulent war time in Ukraine, was to hold a summer camp for young people. And yet the camp took place! Young people from Zaporizhia, Dnipro, Kyiv, and Molochansk spent several days in the quiet refuge of the Carpathian mountains. Thank you for helping with the camp, and for your prayers!”
Summer camps in Ukraine have risen courageously to the challenges imposed by war. Pastor Alexei in Kherson reports, “Special pain is felt for those children who are without a home, who sat in bomb shelters for months, who saw people die and their homes being bombed.” Their team in Vinnytsia has been holding weekly children’s day camps for children living in schools, dorms and other shelters, as well as for the local children from Vinnitsa. “We are giving joy to children during war,” Alexei says. This is no small victory.
Pastor Maxym, director of New Hope Center in Zaporizhia, speaks soberly of the recent missile strikes in his city. Many houses were damaged in the village as a result of shelling in the suburbs, and some were completely destroyed. The risk to the nuclear power plant remains high.
Maxym’s wife Anya writes, “Daily I receive many messages from friends from abroad, asking, ‘How are you?’ Many write that they pray for us. Our nights are rough and restless. Explosions are heard all night. One morning, I learned that two rockets were shot down over the community where my mother lives. I pray daily for my country, for peace.
“Please, Lord, let this be soon!”
Pastor Oleksii in Molochansk is involved in distributing thousands of Multiply relief bags to people in need in various regions of Ukraine, supplying urgently needed food kits and personal hygiene products.
He writes, “This war touches everyone. In addition to numerous losses in the army, civilians are dying every day; schools, hospitals, houses and the country’s vital infrastructure are being destroyed. Ukraine still needs our prayers and help! By daily meeting with people and passing them a food basket, we build friendships and remind ourselves and them of God’s promise from Hebrews 13:5 – ‘I will never forget you; I will never leave you.’