Over the last three years, the country of Ukraine has frequently been in the news. Russia seized the Crimea and Donetsk regions in the East. A Malaysian Airlines passenger plane was shot down over Ukraine. Many people have died during these years; even more have fled. Internally displaced people (IDPs) wander all over Ukraine, many helped by the churches. Other people have left the country for Russia, Europe, the USA and Israel.
In November 2013, thousands of Ukrainians gathered hopefully at the Maidan Square in what became known as the Kiev Maidan Revolution, watching, waiting, praying for days. In the months that followed, clashes resulted, killing approximately 130 people and wounding 1,100 others. The president fled to Russia, leaving the glorious riches of the palace displayed to the world, in stark contrast to the poverty many of his people experienced. Then the Russians moved in.
Ukrainians have suffered painful events with losses to be mourned, especially those whose loved ones died, or who had to flee their homes in the East, or the non-Russian inhabitants in Crimea. Although the news media has moved on to other crises, in Ukraine things are still happening. Even more importantly, God is on the move.
“The churches are busier than ever,” says Oleg, the OM team leader and a pastor in Rivne. “Many people are seeking God. It is really a new day. Since the Kiev revolution, there is a new sense of freedom. There is also the awareness that in our time of need, our help did not come from Europe, not from USA, but from God himself. With our new president and people seeking God, we are excited to see what God will do. Please continue to pray for Ukraine, and for the new day dawning in our country.”
OM teams work with several churches in the cities of Odessa, Rivne, Vinnitsa and Kaharlyk. They often focus on children, through Sunday schools, clubs and camps. The teams also help IDPs from the war zone in the East, reach out to Jews, and create new business opportunities. OM welcomes short-term teams, especially during school holidays, when week-long camps for children sometimes run back-to-back for several weeks.
“In the past, the churches had no vision for mission, and the Ukrainians could not travel anywhere. This is now changing, and some students are ready to go on short-term mission outreaches. Some have gone for a few weeks, for instance to the war zone in the East or to a neighbour country. When they come back and share their experience with the church, it is changing the church!” Oleg rejoices.
The OM team praises God for what He is doing in Ukraine and asks for further prayer: for protection and an end to the war in the East, for the churches and OM teams to reach out in many different ways, and for even more people to turn to God and experience spiritual freedom.