“I wonder when the missile’s going to drop on the mall I’m in with my kids right now.”
“Every single day, around the clock, people are knocking on the church door, coming and asking for shelter, food, clothes, medicine, and money. It feels like an onslaught. I can’t get an hour off, let alone a day to rest.”
“The war feels like a marathon, except you don’t know when the finish line is going to come.”
“I’m really struggling to preach because I’m angry at God for letting this happen.”
These are the messages Sean Martin, regional director for Europe, hears when he asks pastors we work with in Ukraine how they’re really doing.
“There’s spiritual exhaustion and hurt,” said Sean. “There’s emotional exhaustion and hurt. In some cases, there’s physical exhaustion and hurt. Just like there’s a cost to Paul getting stoned – it cost Paul to spread the word of God – these guys are paying a cost.”
Partners in Ukraine, Russia, and Poland are living in the shadow of the war. In some regions of Ukraine, the threat is real and urgent. Training has been halted as pastors struggle to meet basic needs for their communities. In regions further from the front lines, they are involved in both refugee care and WordPartner training.
Pastors in Poland continue gathering supplies and caring for refugees in their midst. And while Russian pastors have been able to continue training, sanctions have made getting resources to them difficult. They, too, are now welcoming refugees from Ukraine coming to Russia.
They’re all coping with uncertain times, tension with brothers from neighboring nations, and frustration with governments. Many wrestle with the idea of unity in Christ while they hear cries of nationalism in an environment of political betrayal of the worst kind. It is complicated.
“It brings such heaviness to my heart to see this situation,” said Vladimir L., program director for Russia. “I’m trying to be understanding, sending words of support and prayers. If there is an opportunity to help them in a material way, we try to do that as well. That’s what the Word of God calls us to as ministers of the gospel.”
When the war ends, more questions will likely emerge: What new challenges will the pastors face in the work of rooting pastors deeper in the Word of God? Is reconciliation possible in this generation? What impact will trauma have on communities and pastors? How will rebuilding a nation impact training?
And then there are the sensitive and yet practical questions: “What does it mean for people who lost family members?” said Sean. “What does it mean for people whose villages were destroyed, and they can’t move back? We’re not going to go in and say, ‘Okay, where are we going to do the next workshop?’ It’s going to be, How do we shepherd these guys and care for them?”
There is a long road ahead for these dear brothers. But even with the very difficult realities the pastors are facing, they share hope, too. Take Pastor Oleksiy* from Kyiv. He was displaced early in the war and found himself in a new community. Joining in with a local church helping hundreds of refugees, he was asked to preach God’s Word to the people on Sundays. There he continues equipping the people using the training he has been part of for so many years.
“Despite the war, the movement continues.”
– Pastor Ivan from Ukraine
As Pastor Ivan reflects, “Despite the war, the movement continues.”
* Names changed for security reasons.