Note: This article was updated on March 3, from its original post on February 25.
I have been graced to be able to take several trips overseas to teach the Scriptures: Cambodia, Germany, Uganda, Russia, Ukraine, Israel, and Dubai. When the opportunity to travel and teach is given, my first response is to ask my wife, “What do you think?” Her immediate response every time has always been, “You have to go; you don’t know how long these opportunities will be available.” Political climates and governments change and borders close; personal illnesses arise and health changes, preventing travel; and wars occur, precluding travel.
Two years ago this month I returned from a trip to Ukraine and Israel to teach Biblical Counseling at a seminary (Irpen Bible Seminary, above) and college (Israel College of the Bible). When I returned I received an email of appreciation, anticipating a return trip to teach another course in February, 2021. Then COVID shut down the world. Then Russia invaded Ukraine.
Today, that trip to Ukraine would be impossible. Who knows when — or if — it will ever be possible again. So I’m grateful for the opportunity to have gone to Ukraine, and as I look at the pictures of that trip taken just 24 months ago, I see students who are now clearly in harm’s way and will be, like Paul and all believers, poured out (2 Tim. 4:6) in caring for the flock of Christ in Ukraine.
As I pray for this nation and the pastors and leaders in Ukraine, I have been encouraged by several articles: one that pointed out the value of staying in Kiev, though it is directly under attack from Russia, and others that have given direction on how to pray.
Read and pray.
- To Stay and Serve: Why We Didn’t Flee Ukraine (
- Why Does Ukraine Matter? or How Does It Matter? (Kevin Carson)
- As We Worship Today, Join with the Ukrainians in These 3 Ways (Kevin Carson; he also has other articles here)
- Pray for the Precious People of Ukraine (and Russia), Traumatized by War (Randy Alcorn)
- Now’s the Time to Pray for Ukraine (TMAI)
- Ukraine Prayer Update (TMAI)
- An opportunity to help refugees from Ukraine through a GBC-known missionary — see the March 4 edition of Grace News (email us if you are a member and did not receive your copy).
This afternoon I received an email from Slavic Gospel Association, for whom I have made several trips to Russia, Ukraine, and Israel to teach biblical counseling. Irpin Bible Seminary Seminary currently is housing 28 people, and at the moment are safe. There are running gun battles down their streets. A student from the school wrote this earlier today:
Today is the seventh day of the war. Irpin has become a hot spot. I’m from the Donetsk region, it’s hotter here than in our place in 2014. I can’t go home. But in the seminary, I feel safe, as if I were on a boat in a stormy sea, and Christ is sleeping in the stern! God takes care of me in this place! In these terrible days, it is especially felt. I am in a warm place and well-fed, have hot water and read the Word of God. “I won’t leave you and I won’t leave you.” Thank God 🙏 that He opens the hearts of people to donate for the seminary. And for the people who work selflessly here.
Consider the cost and joy of following Christ, first from a pastor in Kiev, and then from the Apostle Paul:
We have decided to stay, both as a family and as a church. When this is over, the citizens of Kyiv will remember how Christians have responded in their time of need.
And while the church may not fight like the nation, we still believe we have a role to play in this struggle. We will shelter the weak, serve the suffering, and mend the broken. And as we do, we offer the unshakable hope of Christ and his gospel. While we may feel helpless in the face of such a crisis, we can pray like Esther. Ukraine is not God’s covenant people, but like Israel, our hope is that the Lord will remove the danger as he did for his ancient people. And as we stay, we pray the church in Ukraine will faithfully trust the Lord and serve our neighbors. (
“For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure has come. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith; in the future there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day; and not only to me, but also to all who have loved His appearing.” (2 Tim. 4:6–8; NASB)
It is sometimes painful and always costly to serve Christ. It is always eternally worthwhile, whatever the cost. Pray for the church in Ukraine, for its testimony to the people and soldiers in Ukraine, and for its persistence and faithfulness to follow Christ.