Ukrainian Christians React to Threat of a Russian Invasion
Written by The Ministry of Jesus Christ on February 1, 2022
As threats of a Russian invasion of Ukraine continue to spread, Christians in Ukraine are contemplating how they should respond to the possible danger.
Last Wednesday, the U.S. Embassy in Ukraine warned American citizens in the country to consider evacuating immediately amid the growing threat of a Russian invasion.
“The security situation in Ukraine continues to be unpredictable due to the increased threat of Russian military action and can deteriorate with little notice,” the U.S. Embassy in Ukraine stated on its website. “The U.S. Embassy urges U.S. citizens in Ukraine to consider departing now using commercial or other privately available transportation options.”
Ukraine’s president, Volodymyr Zelensky, warned that Russia may be eyeing Kharkiv – Ukraine’s second-largest city – as its next target.
“Kharkiv, which is under Ukraine government control, could be occupied,” Zelensky told The Washington Post last week. “Russia needs a pretext: They will say that they are protecting the Russian-speaking population.”
“I don’t know what they are going to do because these are big cities. Kharkiv has over 1 million citizens. It’s not going to be just an occupation; it’s going to be the beginning of a large-scale war,” he added.
Despite threats of a possible invasion and war, some Christians are choosing to wait out the threat instead of evacuating immediately.
Jane Hyatt, an American missionary living in Ukraine’s capital, Kyiv, said she doesn’t presently plan to leave.
“I have lived here for 26 years, and as of today, I do not have any plans to evacuate. I’m watching to see how things go, and we’ll just trust God and see what happens next,” Hyatt told CBN News.
Hyatt, who runs the christian children’s rehab center, Father’s Care, maintained that she’s been preoccupied with her duties there.
“We have over 20 some children at our rehab center, and I have many responsibilities, and I feel that I need to do as many of those responsibilities as I can,” she asserted.
Pastor Anton Tishenko, who leads New Generation Church, one of Kharkiv’s largest evangelical congregations, told CBN News that his church had launched a 21 day fast for revival and peace in Ukraine.
“We gather with our church at 7 a.m., and so we pray about peace in Ukraine, we pray about revival, so we keep praying, we keep fasting, and we believe God will protect because He’s a very faithful God,” Tishenko said.
The church is located near the Russian border by the provinces of Donbass and Luhansk. Russia annexed both areas in 2014.
Nevertheless, Tishenko asserted that God is moving across the region. A year ago, New Generation Church led an evangelistic crusade where 27,000 people packed a stadium in Kharkiv.
According to Tishenko, over 10,000 people made professions of faith at the crusade.
“People like never before are open to Jesus Christ,” the pastor said.
Tishenko also told CBN News he will continue preaching messages of hope regardless of the Russian threat.
“It’s going to be a great opportunity for us to preach more, to pray more, and we will see how many people will come to the Lord,” he said.
Baptists in Western Ukraine, however, are concerned that the possible conflict could send Ukrainian Christians into hiding.
“If Russia will invade, they will invade in eastern part and northern part, and a little bit of south,” Yarsolav “Slavik” Pyzh, president of Ukrainian Baptist Theological Seminary (UBTS), told Christianity Today.
Pyzh, who holds a doctorate from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, noted that Western Ukraine churches told other Christians across Ukraine that they would open their doors and churches to them if war were to break out.
According to Pyzh, Ukraine would likely split into two countries if the Russian takeover is successful, with Western Ukraine remaining independent. As a result, Baptist churches under Russian rule would have to go underground to avoid persecution.
“The church will go underground,” he noted. “You have to understand that historically we had that experience before under the Soviet Union. So the church did not forget what does it mean to be persecuted, and I think that we will rearrange, reorganize, and still do what we always do, still preach the gospel.”
While Russia has denied that it is planning an invasion, more than 100,000 troops have been deployed near Ukraine’s border in recent months.
“Anything can happen, and it is impossible to make a prognosis because, with Mr. Putin, the war can be expected at any minute,” Kyiv resident Krystina Lutsenko told CBN News.
Photo courtesy: ©Getty Images/Pawel Gaul
Milton Quintanilla is a freelance writer. He is also the co-hosts of the For Your Soul podcast, which seeks to equip the church with biblical truth and sound doctrine. Visit his blog Blessed Are The Forgiven.