Pentecost in a War Zone
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<<First Name>>, please pray for Ukraine!

These are some of my thoughts after 110 full days of war. Follow my Facebook for more frequent updates. You can also find this same post there with more photos.

Pentecost in a War Zone

This past Sunday here in Ukraine we celebrated Pentecost. It’s a big holiday nationally. But for us, it was also a reminder that God often does His greatest work in the midst of hardships and persecutions.

The disciples were gathered together in a room in Jerusalem praying on that Pentecost in Acts. This was not only because they were heeding Christ’s imperative, but likely also because the same authorities that had tortured and killed their Leader not two months earlier were still in power. To publicly associate themselves with Him was anything but safe. They needed power and boldness. They needed the Spirit. It’s easy for us to read the stories of the miraculous work of God in the early church and skim over the context of serious threat and persecution. But it almost seems to be the rule: the more the enemy rages, the more God’s glory shines forth.

Pentecost is not only the birthday of the Church, capital C. It’s also when we celebrate our local congregation’s founding. We began the first Bible studies of what would be CC Svitlovodsk in our apartment in early June, now 17 years ago. We have been amazed to see God’s faithfulness over these years, and especially so over this last year. At our service on Pentecost in 2021, we as a church made a few “birthday wishes”, things that we committed to pray for during the next year until the following Pentecost.

One request was that God would bring 15 new people to faith in Christ over the next year through our church. It seemed like a bold and maybe unrealistic request at the time. But as it turned out, the Lord has brought over 20 new people to faith through our church since then—most of them as a result of the war. I joked with our church that we need to be more careful about how we pray next time! But this is truly a reminder that the victory is God’s and His Church will not be defeated by either the gates of hell, or the Kremlin’s tanks.

We were able to celebrate God’s answer to this prayer at a church picnic and baptism on Sunday. Six people were baptized (pictured above and below right). Some of the new believers still felt they needed to wrap their heads around it a bit more first, so we might have a second baptism towards the end of the summer. The surprise baptism—the only one I didn’t know about ahead of time—and the greatest joy for me and Lena personally was our daughter Abby receiving baptism (pictured below left)! She has know Jesus since she was little, but this was a big step for her to make a personal and public step to follow Jesus, especially as she’s generally very shy about being in front of people at all.

On Pentecost 2021, we additionally prayed for the church to grow in generous financial giving and personally put before each member the challenge to increase their giving, whatever that might look like. You might think that during a war congregational giving would go down—but the reality is that since last Pentecost our monthly giving has gone up a whole 60%! We see the Lord’s faithfulness in answering this prayer as well.

Another prayer request was for the Lord to bring along a new co-pastor after we sent out the last one to church plant. Sadly, this is the one “wish” that has not yet been fulfilled. It’s personally difficult for me that this is not yet answered—and I would be lying if I said it’s not disappointing. So if you think of this, continue to pray. And on that note, please keep praying for us in general. Here are some other key requests:

- Pray for the world to not grow indifferent to the hundreds of Ukrainians being killed every day. We’ve heard from many that Ukraine is beginning to slip out of the headlines in other countries. But our people are still dying and Putin’s evil war is still ongoing! It is deeply grieving to think of the thousands of brave young men and women defending our home who will never go back to their families, who will never have a chance at a full life. Pray for them to know the hope of eternal life through Christ!

- Pray for the nations of the west to speed up their delivery of promised weaponry to Ukraine. Some nations seem to be playing games and are hurting because of increased gas and oil prices. The reality is that the sooner we get the weapons we need, the sooner we can defeat Russia and the economic suffering for many will be over. To play the Kremlin’s games is a losing battle for everyone. Nothing they say can be trusted.

- Pray for boldness and repentance among the Russian churches. There are some pastors and leaders who realize the evil their country is perpetrating and are condemning it with varying levels of boldness. But there are others who are ambivalent or even supportive of this evil war. Some Christians there claim to be “outside politics” but when your earthly kingdom is opposed to God's kingdom, the only acceptable answer is to oppose your earthly kingdom, no matter the cost.

- Pray for wisdom and opportunities for finding long-term housing for the many refugees we are evacuating. As the city gets fuller, good options are becoming harder to find.

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