I visited Ukraine with my 13-year-old daughter in November, and by the end of February, Russia had launched a full-scale invasion in Ukraine. Like you, I saw the devastation from videos of shootings and bombings. I saw news footage of places where we had taken selfies a few months ago.
On the first day of the invasion, I began praying for peace and justice. I’m burdened for my friends in Ukraine who are living the nightmare I’m only watching on television. Many of the men I know remained to offer aid after sending their wives and children away to safety. They spend countless hours serving and helping refugees. Others I know waited at the border for days, desperately seeking safe transportation away from war.
I first visited Ukraine at the end of 2013 when protests were beginning in what would become an eventual overthrow of the pro-Russian government. On the day we were scheduled to fly home, the United States ordered Americans to leave Ukraine. Three months after that trip, Russian occupancy began in Ukraine and Russia annexed Crimea. Seeing the political climate as well as gospel opportunity led us to partner in Ukraine to see more churches planted.
Partnership with Ukrainian Planters
Today, New Heights Church in Milton, West Virginia has fruitful partnerships we’ve been developing over the past eight years with two churches in Ukraine. I’ve had the privilege of spending time in Ukraine on four different trips. We’ve hosted many Ukrainians in West Virginia, and we even gathered in Belgrade, Serbia for an Acts 29 conference together. I’ve shared meals with, preached to, and slept on the sofas of many Ukrainian brothers and sisters. Their strength and courage have always inspired me, and they’ve become good friends.I’m burdened for my friends in Ukraine who are living the nightmare I’m only watching on television. Click To Tweet
One church planter we partner with is from eastern Ukraine and moved to the western part of the country due to earlier conflict. He moved looking for “open doors” for ministry in starting a new church. He found much more, describing it as not just open doors, but “doors blown off the hinges!” He’s met many Ukrainians who are open to the gospel of grace, whose lives are being transformed by God.
Another planter told me they’re seeing lots of conversions since the war began. God is using dire circumstances to draw Ukrainians to himself. They trust that the Lord will even use horrible acts of injustice to build his church in Ukraine.
Empathy When It Doesn’t Concern Me
Given these deep partnerships, the news of war in Ukraine hit me hard. One of our church members quickly organized a benefit to raise emergency funds for refugees. Other churches have contacted our church to ask how they can help, too. I’ve seen countless others do all they can to help and also have their hearts broken alongside mine. People who don’t have the connections to Ukraine that I do have taught me a lot about empathy.
Honestly, I can look back over my life and see a very real apathy toward world events that didn’t directly affect me or anyone I know. That’s tragic. Our Lord Jesus is a perfect picture of empathy in the incarnation and he calls us to be empathetic with sufferers. Whether or not you know anyone in Ukraine or Russia, you do know that the Lord has his people there. Jesus has redeemed them and they are sons and daughters of our Father. Pray and ask God that your hearts would break along with theirs.
Compassion for Our Global Family
When Jesus entered Jerusalem near the end of his earthly ministry, he wept over the city (Luke 19:41-44). His weeping was centered on the coming war. Jesus knew he would prophesy of Israel’s destruction and that grieved him. But Jesus also knew of the salvation of many in Jerusalem; his elect he was going to the cross to redeem. They would suffer at the hands of wicked armies, but the Father’s family would lovingly care for them. The Apostle Paul gives us a brief picture of this care in several epistles (Rom. 15:25–32; 1 Cor. 16:1–4; 2 Cor. 9:1–5).God is using dire circumstances to draw Ukrainians to himself. They trust that the Lord will even use horrible acts of injustice to build his church in Ukraine. Click To Tweet
Christians from around the world sent support to brothers and sisters they likely didn’t personally know in Jerusalem. The reason for this is because the Father had adopted them into the same family. And families take care of each other. Paul even speaks of us being obligated to this noble task of relief (Rom. 15:27).
So Christian, when you hear of wars and rumors of wars, don’t you dare continue on with life as normal. Stop and weep. Pray. Give. Speak up and advocate. These atrocities deeply affect God’s elect, and we who are in Christ are obligated in the gospel to be moved with compassion and empathy. Our church views it as a high privilege to partner with our Ukrainian brothers and sisters to make more disciples of Jesus Christ. In times of peace, and more urgently, in war time, gospel partnerships are essential for missional impact on earth until Christ returns for his bride.