Since late February, the tragic attack on Ukraine has seen 3.8 million refugees leave the country and displaced another 6.5 million internally. According to official reports, this is the largest refugee crisis on European soil since World War II.
With tanks and artillery destroying homes, civilians, infrastructure, and pretty much everything, you would be excused for thinking churches would shut up, shut down, and pray. Indeed, believers are praying across the globe. However, the Seventh-day Adventist Church in Ukraine is neither ready to remain silent nor inclined to idleness.
Stanislav Nosov, Ukrainian Union Conference (UUC) president, has noticed the crisis brings some unsuspected opportunities. In an email exchange with leaders from the Norwegian Union Conference, Nosov highlighted that despite the unspeakable suffering, the church has become a blessing to many.
The War and Church Members
Maksym Krupskyi, director of Hope Media Group and the Public Affairs and Religious Liberty Department at UUC, highlighted the impact of the war. “I do not know the exact figures, but I assume that more than 30% of our church members are displaced or refugees.” With a total membership of 43,307, this means about 13,000 Ukrainian Adventists are losing their homes or being forced to abandon them.
At the moment, it is impossible to be certain about the number of casualties among church members, bBut we know of two sisters from Mariupol who came out of their basement to look for water and tragically died in a bombing,” church leaders reported.
“People living in areas with no hostilities are managing very well,” said Nosov. However, the situation in occupied areas is quite different. “Church members are running out of food, water, and access to heating. It’s a humanitarian crisis.”
Some church buildings have been destroyed. However, buildings that are undamaged are used as shelters for the homeless. Of the 40 school buildings belonging to the church in Ukraine, all are now closed with classes being offered online. The Ukrainian Adventist Center of Higher Education (UACHE) has sustained minimal damage and is now closed. Students and staff have been evacuated. “The area is occupied, and active fighting is taking place. We do not have any information about the current situation on campus,” Krupskyi reported.
“We do not know what will happen next. Everything is in God’s hands. But we do know that His hands have blessed us and given us grounds for hope,” Nosov said.
Serving the Community
During this crisis, the church is busy blessing members and the community alike. “Pastors and leaders are helping to evacuate people from areas of fighting,” Nosov reported. “They provide shelter, medicines, food, information, and prayer support.”
Krupskyi described their new service routine. “Our partners and friends bring aid to the western regions [of the country]. From there, pastors bring aid in small convoys of cars into areas of active fighting, as well as evacuating people from those areas on the return trip.”
Additionally, through the partnership between Hope Channel Ukraine and the Adventist Development and Relief Agency (ADRA) office in Romania, internally displaced people are receiving a supply of hygiene products, food, water, clothing, and medicines.
Through it all, the courage and resilience of church members are remarkable. “One of our pastors, Mychaylo Prodanyk, is from Chernihiv, an area north of Kyiv that sees active fighting. He was saved by God when a bomb hit the church where he was with his family. After the bombing, he came back, facing great risks, to help others,” Krupskyi shared.
Hope Amidst the Blasts
“In the darkness of death and destruction, people are seeking God,” Nosov exclaimed. “They are not asking why God would allow this war but seeking to connect with Him.” Surprisingly, church attendance is on the rise. “There are more people in our churches now than before. The churches that have not been damaged or destroyed are operating as normal, providing Sabbath School and church services to a growing congregation.”
“Hope Channel Ukraine goes live every Monday to Friday at 11:00 and 18:00, on Saturday at 11:00, and on Sunday at 18:00, pushing forward in spite of challenges,” said Krupskyi. Because of the evacuation, the team only runs two TV studios, but they are still operating, as is Adventist Radio, welcoming the ever-growing prayer requests from the nation. “The church has held eight baptisms and baptised over 30 people from the beginning of the war,” said Nosov, thanking God for His mercies amidst the tragedy.