In February, the controversy surrounding political decisions as well as blatant corruption in the Ukrainian government finally exploded. Mass protests erupted in the capital city of Kiev. In the end, over 100 civilian protesters were killed in clashes between anti Yanukovych protesters and members of the opposition security forces.
“It was a hard night,” EHC’s National Director for Ukraine, Anatoliy (Toli) Kushnir, wrote to our office after tensions erupted in Kiev’s Independence Square and over 100 people were killed. “We are staying out of it,but we did not leave the city and I don’t know if we can now. We have mile-long lines at gas stations, stores are empty and public transportation is not functioning well. There is panic.”
Historically,Ukraine has been known as a divided nation with competing loyalties, and those attitudes remain evident today. For many Ukrainians, the desire is for closer friendship with Europe. Others desire closer ties with Russia. In recent months, thousands of people protested former Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych’s decision to ditch an agreement for closer ties with the European Union and turn to Russia instead. Such political turmoil is not new to Ukraine. Discontent has ruled the day for this formally Communist nation, known as the “Bible Belt” during the Soviet era, throughout its history. Over the years, Ukrainian churches have suffered and millions of Christians have been killed. Yet despite 130 years of sustained persecution, evangelicalism has emerged stronger than ever.
For 20 years, EHC Ukraine has remained steadfast in its commitment to see every home in Ukraine reached with the Gospel. Sustained growth has created thousands of new congregations requiring leadership, so training is a primary need for the church today. And in a country where the church is bogged down by politics, old walls are being torn down as churches in Ukraine unite under the vision of EHC.
Today, EHC Ukraine holds regular church fellowship meetings where churches are brought together to strategize. Toli reports that with an average of more than 500,000 homes being reached annually, he and his team are on track to reach every household in Ukraine every ten years. However, Toli’s goal is to double their rate by the end of 2014 so that his team will be able to reach every Ukrainian home every five years.
“Some may wonder why the urgency of such a rate of coverage,” Toli says. “And the answer is that our time is short! Reaching for the impossible is only possible with God, and we must act now.” Workers are visiting every one of the 25 regions of Ukraine and up to 15 new churches or church planting projects have sprung up in each region. Some churches have conducted big public prayer events, and three stadium campaigns were held in just one region alone. Now regional church communities are beginning to reorganize their strategies with a deliberate effort toward church planting.
As a service organization, EHC’s work is focused on church partnerships—primarily with two largest denominations in the country, Baptist and Pentecostal (numbering 2,500 and 1,500 local churches respectively). Because of cultural backgrounds and locations of these denominations,they are well suited for taking the Gospel to every city, town and village in Ukraine in partnership with EHC.
EHC’s unique organizational model is to encourage the Church to take spiritual responsibility for new believers from the start through evangelism and discipleship.“We see how well this strategy is appreciated by the local church,”explains Toli.“ Pastors tell us they don’t feel EHC is in competition with their own ministries, so they are more willing to work with us. We,as a small team, cannot necessarily take on the needs of all the people in Ukraine. But there are enough evangelical churches that can! Thousands of churches and hundreds of thousands of young people in these churches are our hope and prayer for Ukraine. Mobilizing the Lord’s army of many witnesses is the only way we can even consider being able to minister to so many individuals who need to know Christ and grow in him.”
Toli believes there is great hope for his nation because the Church is still a valued part of Ukrainian society: “Overall,the Church in our nation has a high level of trust in our society—exceeding 80 percent. So, unlike in Western Europe where people are not religious, the Church in Ukraine is still very relevant.”
Pray for Ukraine and for Toli and the EHC team! Toli says,“My biggest privilege to date is working with Every Home for Christ in Ukraine at a time such as this. Our desire is to take the printed Word to every home in Ukraine. We believe it can be done through the partnership of EHC and the Ukrainian Church. And it will be done!” Amen!