Since gaining independence in 1991, Ukraine has been the major hub of evangelistic and humanitarian activity throughout Eastern Europe, Russia and Central Asia. Ukraine is often referred to as the ‘Bible Belt’ of the Former Soviet Union. Despite strong resistance from entrenched Soviet mentalities and unfavourable legislation, Ukrainian Christians succeeded in establishing various NGOs, Christian missions, and centres of theological education.
The Ukrainian Baptist community has often been at the forefront of these initiatives. For those with ears to hear and eyes to see, the Holy Spirit has been active in various ways in Ukrainian society in the 25 years since the demise of the USSR. I have long been convinced that of all the nations in Eastern Europe, it is Ukraine which has the greatest potential to become a beacon of light and hope to the people of the Former Soviet Union.
My passion for Ukraine goes back many years. Between 2011 and 2013 I worked with my Ukrainian wife, Varduyi, as a missionary at Donetsk Christian University (DCU), which was a major centre of Baptist education in Eastern Ukraine. Sadly, in 2014, following the Russian-led uprising in Eastern Ukraine, DCU was forcibly seized by Russian special forces and has now been turned into a military base, home to around 400 militants.
Despite moving back to the UK in 2013, my passion for Ukraine and my sense of solidarity with its people has only increased. After witnessing for myself the suffering of so many vulnerable and needy people, I and a group of friends from Baptist churches and the Northumbria Community felt God’s call to organise a mission trip to Eastern Ukraine (pictured below). During the February half term break at Spurgeon’s College, where I am a tutor, we had an opportunity to see for ourselves the incredible things that God is doing in Ukraine.
The trip even exceeded my high expectations in terms of the impact and the encounters that we had with all kinds of people – some in really terrible situations of disease, disability and poverty. It was a privilege to have ministered to these people in Christ’s name and to have seen God at work in Ukraine, especially among the sick, the disabled, the homeless and the refugees.
The trip was an entirely unofficial undertaking in so far as we went out as a group of friends, rather than as representatives of an organisation, and we relied on my friends and local contacts through Mission Eurasia and in various churches that we visited in Eastern Ukraine. Thankfully, owing to the generosity of friends and family, we raised enough money to purchase a considerable stock of essential medical supplies for a disabled home that we visited nearby my wife’s hometown. We were also able to buy food supplies for refugees we visited, whose houses had been destroyed as a result of the war in Donetsk.