In the midst of the war their country faces, a group of 30 Ukrainian Adventists mobilized to go to St. Louis, Missouri, United States, to attend the General Conference Session. They were willing to face numerous challenges to get to the meeting place and express their gratitude for all the support the Adventist Church around the world has sent to Ukraine.
To be able to travel, they had to apply for a special permit from the Ministry of Culture of their country for the pastors of the delegation because due to the war, all men ages 18–60 without disabilities and with fewer than four children cannot leave Ukraine. In addition, as most airports were destroyed, they had to travel by land to neighboring countries. Another difficulty was the COVID-19 pandemic and the different restrictions governments have imposed on international travel.
Initially, the delegation that was going to travel was larger, but considering the circumstances, only 30 arrived to represent Ukraine at this meeting. Tetiana Rutkovska, the coordinator of the Ministry of Prayer for the Ukrainian Union, the denomination's national office, explains that for them, being able to participate in this assembly is very significant.
“We are very grateful to God for making it possible for us to be here representing our country because even in times of war, we feel and continue to feel the support of the world church in different ways. We know that many people are praying for us, for our country, for the war to end, and sending a lot of humanitarian aid and financial support,” comments Rutkovska.
On June 6, the first day of the assembly, a special mention and acknowledgment was made to the presence of the Ukraine group at the meeting place. Rutkovska responded to this. “We are very excited to be here and to have this spotlight at the opening. We know that many people are aware of our situation, and many have approached us to express their support. So it's been very comforting to see people's reaction to our presence because that way, we feel more supported and confident. We feel that we are not alone.”
To share their gratitude with the participants of the assembly, the Ukrainian delegation set up several tables with flags, magnets, and some sweets from the country, among other souvenirs with messages that promote the continuity of prayers for the end of the war and economic aid for those affected by the crisis.
Caption: Group of Ukrainian Adventists with some souvenirs from their country, which they are giving to assembly participants.
Involved with the Mission
Since the beginning of the war in Ukraine, the Adventist Church in the country has been involved in helping the population with evacuation and providing food, clothing, medicine, shelter and even work for those leaving the country.
“Many people continue to come to our churches to receive food, clothing, and a safe place to stay, as many churches are located in the best areas of Ukraine to become shelters. And this has been a great opportunity for us as Adventists to be able to proclaim the gospel to more people—to our neighbors—because they are more open to accepting the biblical message at this time,” explains Rutkovska.
Even in the midst of war, Adventists in Ukraine find opportunities to share hope and the message of salvation, becoming involved in fulfilling the mission of announcing that Jesus is returning, thus fulfilling the theme of the current General Conference Session.
Finally, Rutkovska says the participation of the Ukrainian delegation in the meeting is only to express their gratitude. “We want to tell you that we love you and that we appreciate everything you have done to help us, and that if you can continue doing it, and praying for us, we will continue to thank them, because we still really need their help.”