How to Pray for the Church in Ukraine

Hope for a hurting nation

How to Pray for the Church in Ukraine

Hope for a hurting nation

“Don’t be afraid, I need you here.” 

Leonid Lavryk, pastor of Holy Trinity Church in Ternopil, Ukraine, felt the Lord saying these words to him at the beginning of the Russia-Ukraine war. The church’s doors had only been open a month, and as Ternopil became a refuge for thousands of displaced people, it became clearer to Lavryk what the Lord had planned for Holy Trinity. “These people are looking for peace,” he said. “There were so many opportunities for new ministries. … We seized the moment and opened our hearts to God’s call to serve people.” 

Holy Trinity began working to serve wounded soldiers, immigrants and the vulnerable in their community.

Everyone in Ukraine has been touched by the war in some way. Over the past two years, since Russia invaded their country, thousands have been forced to flee their homes. They’ve lost loved ones in violent bombings, missile strikes and shootings; or they themselves have been tortured or injured. Ukrainian cities such as Izyum and Irpin, in the wake of Russian invasion and occupation, are burned-out shells of what they once were.

Churches in Ukraine face new and difficult challenges as they seek to be the hands and feet of Jesus to an intensely hurting nation. In general, the chaos of the war has driven people away from material concerns to seek the truth and help they can only find in Jesus Christ. 

In Irpin, the “hero city” of Ukraine, not far from the nation’s capital, Irpin Bible Church served as a bomb shelter and dining room for hundreds while Russia occupied the city last March. Russian military forces left destruction and death in their wake—over half of the city destroyed and hundreds of civilians dead. Pastor Serhiy Sologub suggested evacuating his wife, Tanya, and their three children to their friends in Slovakia, but Tanya would not leave him in the city. “She and the children remained close, and this supported me in the ministry,” he said.

A growing number of men from Irpin Bible Church have been drafted into the military, some of whom have been killed, leaving widows and families behind. Many members of the church and community have been injured by rocket fire, their homes destroyed or significantly damaged. The church keeps the Good News of Christ and practical assistance as its top priorities.

Izyum was occupied by Russian forces for five months in 2022, which destroyed the city’s infrastructure, while killing and torturing its people. “Rockets destroyed the building … the city is ruined,” Pastor Vitaly Ostapenko of New Life Church in Izyum said. “Most of the church moved away. … [But] the people learn the Word of God, and evangelization is taking place. 

“Something is changing,” Ostapenko said. “People saw that everything can be lost in one moment, including life. … People have become interested in the Gospel [and] ask questions.” A father and a grandfather, Ostapenko added: “We don’t have a job, but thank God we have something to live for. God takes care of us.”

In Kropyvnytskyi, 300 kilometers south of Kyiv, New Life Church of Evangelical Christian Baptists works to serve the displaced people who have flocked to their region. “Thank God, Kropyvnytskyi and other places in the Kirovohrad region are not so close to the conflict zones,” Pastor Serhii Teslenko said. “For today, at least.” Only two of the church’s 15 members left the area—one of whom was a young man who joined the Ukrainian Armed Forces. 

A food distribution at Irpin Bible Church.

Teslenko says that “spiritual ‘sowing’ is taking place at the moment, but at the same time there is a great spiritual war for human souls.” It is difficult to discern whether people in the community are truly open to the Gospel, or simply keep coming back for food and necessities—and less are coming for physical aid now, let alone to hear the Gospel. “I believe that a lot depends on the readiness of the local church to help people find God,” he says, “so that their openness (or closedness!) is not on an emotional level, but on a deeper, spiritual one.”

However, he says that the general statistics are encouraging in that “a very large number of people would openly go to churches, not just for food and other help, but also to seek God’s mercy and the salvation that is given in Jesus Christ.” Through the hardship of the war, “He knocks on the hearts of all people in order to pay attention to Himself, to His sovereign will, to His Word, to His Church.” 

New Life Church has turned into a sort of headquarters for planning, organizing and providing assistance to the community. “Of course, we see in this God’s will in the direction of expanding opportunities for people to hear about Jesus Christ.” 

Please pray along with these pastors:

  • That more people would come to a true and saving knowledge of Jesus Christ.
  • That believers and pastors would be fully equipped with time, finances and workers to serve the Lord, and would not grow fatigued from the hardship.
  • That the Lord would heal wounded souls, protect those fighting and bring an end to the violence.
  • For the next generation of Ukrainians, as more and more men are being drafted into the military and leaving their wives and children behind.
  • Finally, for churches in the regions most affected by the destruction to have consistent and safe places to meet and to be a refuge and ministry in their communities.

As Sologub prayed, “Keep us strong, Lord, keep us according to Your mercy, and help us to testify about You to many more people!” ©2024 BGEA

Translation by Maria Tkachuk, chaplain program officer for BGEA’s Rapid Response Team in Ukraine.

Photo: Courtesy of Irpin Bible Church

Subscribe to Decision Email Devotional

Subscribe to Decision Email Devotional

Billy Graham Evangelistic Association

About Us     Contact Us     Privacy
©2024 Billy Graham Evangelistic Association. BGEA is a registered 501(c)(3) non-profit organization.