Ukranian Pastor Tells U. S. Baptists of War, Persecution In His Homeland

The war in Ukraine has destroyed cities, churches and lives. (Creative Commons photo by Sasha Maksymenko)
The war in Ukraine has destroyed cities, churches and lives. (Creative Commons photo by Sasha Maksymenko)

In just a few short weeks last July in Ukraine, Pervomaysk was destroyed, Elisey Pronin’s church — Revival Church — burned and his family threatened as Ukrainian separatists took over the region.

Pronin has been sharing the story of his church and ministry for the past several weeks to garner support for believers and churches in the Ukraine. He spoke most recently to about 25 pastors in Jefferson City, Mo., on May 27.

Trouble began brewing in the former Soviet bloc country in November 2013 when then-President Viktor Yanukovych sought to strengthen ties with Russia and to back away from the European Union.

His stand sparked demonstrations in the Ukrainian capital, Kiev, among citizens who wanted a closer relationship with the West. The protests led the government to pass stricter anti-protest laws, which created more violence.

Then in February 2014, pro-Russian separates, with help from the Russian military, seized control of the Crimea, on Ukraine’s southern border. Russia annexed the Crimea after that country held a disputed referendum to return to Russian control.

Then in April, separatists began targeting cities in Donetsk and Lugansk regions in the Ukraine.

Evangelical minority

Though Russian leaders deny any involvement by that country’s military in the Ukraine, Pronin showed slides of tanks and equipment arriving in Pervomaysk. A ceasefire was declared on Sept. 5, but fighting continues between government forces and separatists in the two regions.

His town was quiet and peaceful, Pronin told the pastors. His church was strategically located in the heart of the city, within walking distance for all ages. With about 300 members, the church ministered to the community through social ministries, including food distribution.

It also had strong children and youth programs and provided summer camps for children and youth each year. It offered family ministry for young couples, a rehabilitation center for substance abusers and an international fellowship with a long-term connection to Baptist churches in Kansas.

Pronin’s congregation also was working to plant a church in a nearby community. The new work had already attracted about 30 worshippers.

When separatists took control of Pervomaysk in July, Pronin sent his wife, Oksana, and the couple’s two children to a refugee camp in the western part of the country. He remained in town with several church members to minister to and to share the gospel with as many people as they could.

Though no one wants conflict or wants to be uprooted from home, the war has opened opportunities to share the gospel, Pronin told Concord association pastors.

Only about one-tenth of 1 percent of Ukrainians are evangelicals, he said.

“Most did not want to hear the gospel, but because of the war, they were willing to listen,” he said.

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SOURCE: Baptist News Global
Vicki Brown

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