Ukraine: Looking Back at 2015

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Messengers of Peace in Midst of War: Chaplains of Hope in Ukraine

Story by Jessica Russell

By Thursday of this week, February 17, 2022, there were reports of heavy shooting and shelling into Ukraine. Russian soldiers and armament are stationed around much of Ukraine’s border. The possibility of invasion by—and war with—Russia remains imminent. Calvary Chapel missionaries report sightings of more Russian units arriving at the borders, despite reports of a small withdrawal.

Michael Pratt, a CC missionary in Lviv, Ukraine, said, “We’ve been told to expect hackers to shut things down prior to an invasion. Our Ministry of Defense website was hacked today and is still down. Several major banks have also been hacked. Those who study these things have warned an arial and missile bombardment could be next. Then a ground invasion would follow.” He added that all major cities are arming and training militia and that Soviet-era shelters have been opened and resupplied. “The mood throughout Ukraine is calm, but the threat is on all our minds.”

Sasha Andriyashyna, a member of Calvary Chapel Kyiv, Ukraine, shared, “I was with different soldiers today pretty much the whole day; they’re doing fine, they’re ready to fight, but they will not let Russia provoke them.” She noted that despite uncertainty about the future, the Ukrainians are thankful for the prayer support from Americans. “May God’s grace and His mercy be with us, and may He be glorified in our life or death or anything that will come our way,” she affirmed.

                  

Calvary Chapel Magazine is republishing the following story, which first ran in Issue 63, Spring 2015. It chronicles the important and life-changing work of Calvary Chapel pastors who served as chaplains during the continuing Russian-Ukrainian conflict in 2015.

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Vasyl Khimich (right) gives a New Testament and other spiritual literature to a soldier. Before becoming a pastor, Vasyl served in the Air Force. Photo by Yuriy Skrypnik

*Name changed to mask identity

With a war raging on the eastern border of Ukraine with pro-Russian separatists, volunteer chaplains traveled nearly 12 hours to reach soldiers on the front lines with an urgent message. When they arrived at the war zone, the chaplains promptly proclaimed their message of Jesus’ love and peace. “I shared the Gospel with two fighters right there,” began *Ilya, a chaplain and Calvary Chapel pastor in Ukraine. “A week later, we found out they had been killed. As chaplains, our vision is to go to the places where help is needed most—often where it’s a life-or-death situation. Eternity is very close to these guys.”

Man is like a breath; His days are like a passing shadow. Psalm 144:4

After political unrest began in early 2014, believers from CC Kyiv and surrounding churches ministered to protesters in Maidan Square, the center of Kyiv, Ukraine. They established prayer tents to provide demonstrators with spiritual counsel and a place to get warm or receive food. Now, almost a year later, the Square is quiet again, but the country’s eastern borders have become war zones. Some men voluntarily joined the army, while others were drafted.

                  

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Tidings of Peace
“When the army first went to the war, they needed everything—clothes, bulletproof vests, food, and medicine. People all over Ukraine began helping. And since people were receiving the Lord in the war zone, churches decided to visit the soldiers,” explained Ilya. “In all the things we are doing to help them physically, our first motive is always to share the Gospel. We’re concerned with salvation first and foremost; the soldiers’ standing with God is most important.” Mature men from churches may volunteer as chaplains to go where there is conflict and encourage soldiers. The chaplains minister in any way possible—from cutting wood and making food to holding church services and reading the Bible to the fighters.

CC Kyiv created a book for soldiers titled Tidings of Peace in the Midst of War and has published over 5,000 copies. The resource contains the Gospel of Mark, Bible verses pertaining to war with commentary, an example prayer of repentance, and contact information of nearby churches. They hope to print 20,000 more.

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Vasyl (left) delivers supplies to an army outpost. Photo by Igor Plohoi

Those Who Seek Shall Find
“During one of our first trips, a soldier heard that chaplains had come, so he was looking for us,” Ilya recalled. “When this man found us, he told us that he used to believe in God but had wandered away from Him. He didn’t have peace between himself and God and wanted to fix that, but he didn’t know how to and couldn’t find anybody to help him. We reminded him of God’s love and grace; those simple words touched him dramatically, and he recommitted his life to Christ right then.”

Before the war, there were no chaplains in the Ukrainian Army. “Nobody thought or cared about that,” Ilya commented. “For that reason, every trip and every meeting we have as volunteer chaplains are significant.”

During another trip, the CC Kyiv chaplains were invited to stay overnight at a soldiers’ base. After the morning roll call, the man in charge called Ilya to the front to speak. He read from the Bible, told them about Jesus, and prayed. One by one, soldiers began to kneel and remove their hats, despite the freezing temperatures. “Even though those seem like small details, they show how valuable the chaplain’s ministry has become,” remembered Ilya. “We, as chaplains, have simple tasks before us: to show the hope in Jesus Christ, strengthen those who are already believers, and share the Gospel with those who are not.”

For it is written: “As I live, says the LORD, every knee shall bow to Me, and every tongue shall confess to God.” Romans 14:11

“We’ve heard this phrase said by many soldiers lately: ‘There are no atheists on the front lines.’ They are asking who God is and what He is like, which gives us a unique opportunity to share the Gospel where it’s needed most,” Ilya shared.

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Vasyl Khimich (leff), a Ukrainian pastor, shares Gospel literature with a soldier on the front lines. Photo by Volodymyr Rysht

Because of Love
“Pray for us!” a commander yelled to Pastor Vitaliy Pirogov and his group of chaplains as soldiers opened fire. “Stay underground and prepare to take arms if you hear the fighting intensify,” he added. It was late, dark, and because of a surprise ambush on the base, it was too dangerous for the chaplains to return home. Instead, they spent the night in the soldiers’ underground encampment. Though the night continued with no further attacks, tensions were high, and soldiers pleaded for God’s protection.

When Vitaliy, the pastor of Calvary Chapel Dnipro, shared his testimony with the soldiers, he told them that God had transformed him—a former criminal—into a new person. He explained that true relationships with God are based on His love, not on human efforts. One man named Andrey sought out Vitaliy afterward. “He was impacted to know that God loves him simply because He wants to, not because Andrey deserves it,” recalled Vitaliy. “God touched Andrey’s heart just like many other soldiers.”

                  

Look for our previous story from February 18, 2022, which describes the efforts of CC believers in Ukraine to minister to pro-democracy protestors in early 2014.

Look for our previous story from February 16, 2022, in which several CC missionaries now serving in Ukraine share their perspectives on the current turmoil in their country. Some have temporarily left Ukraine for either the U.S. or a neighboring country, but many have stayed. They remain ready to minister to the Ukrainians they love, whatever happens.

                  

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All verses above are quoted from the New King James Version, unless otherwise noted.

© 2022 Calvary Chapel Magazine (CCM). All rights reserved. Articles or photographs may not be reproduced without the written permission of CCM. All Scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the New King James Version. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc.® Used by permission.

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