On recent Sunday mornings in Ukraine, whispered reports have run through the churches: The soldiers on the eastern border have portable rocket launchers. The Bondarenko boy was shot in the leg; they say he won’t walk again. Did you know the Kovals left? Some questions have gone unspoken: Will we be here again next week?
Yesterday, those whispers became cries as a series of missiles hit near Kyiv.
The invasion puts the Ukrainian church at the heart of the conflict, as Christian leaders contend with people’s despair and uncertainty. They are standing, united and strong, and they’re helping Ukrainians find hope in God’s Word.
As the head of the American Bible Society, I’ve been in close contact with my friend and counterpart, Anatoliy Raychynets, who serves as the deputy general secretary of the Ukrainian Bible Society. Over the past few months, he has shared reports that are hard to read: mothers wailing for their sons outside the hospitals; children who won’t remember their fathers’ faces; thousands of people feeling hopeless and afraid.
But Anatoliy has noted something else too: church leaders working together for peace, and people seeking out the hope of Scripture.
In Anatoliy’s church, people are fearful they will lose everything. In response, he has been sharing Psalm 31 with anyone searching for reassurance. He reports that people are often surprised to hear words that, according to them, sound like they could have been written in Kyiv in 2022: “Praise be to the Lord, for he showed me the wonders of his love when I was in a city under siege” (v. 21).
As people grapple with unknown, many are experiencing the Bible’s message for the first time ever. According to Anatoliy, priests and pastors over the past weeks have been flocking to the Bible Society store in Kyiv to buy Bibles. Demand is so high that they’ve run out of copies.
This, Anatoliy says, is one of their biggest challenges: “We need more Bibles.”
Another resource offered by the church in Ukraine is Bible-based trauma healing. Although it was introduced only six years ago, the program has been incredibly effective, especially for family members of those killed in the conflict with Russia. It allows community leaders to guide small groups of people through a restorative process.
Now that it’s available in so many churches across the country, the Ukrainian Bible Society can’t keep up with requests for resources and training.
What, then, can we do to help?
Our brothers and sisters in Ukraine need Bibles for people searching for comfort in troubled times. They need trauma-healing resources to provide the balm of Scripture. And they need us to intercede for them.
“I ask you, in the name of Jesus Christ—whoever can pray, please keep us in your prayers,” says local pastor Viacheslav Khramov. “Today, the war started on our land. We ask everyone who is able to pray, please pray for us. Pray for Ukraine. Pray that lives are spared, as well as our bodies and souls.”
Anatoliy, too, echoes this plea.
Out of everything he’s shared with me, I am most inspired by the show of solidarity from the Ukrainian church across confessions, borders, and party lines.
“We speak to our colleagues in Russia,” he told me. “We church leaders speak to one another, and we pray together. We are united in the Lord.”
This is exactly the gospel message we should be magnifying to a hurting world: God’s Word can reconcile enemies, drive out despair, and heal suffering hearts.
This is the vision of the united church we see shining in Ukraine. Amid war, politics, and division, the church of Jesus Christ is still spreading the gospel and building the kingdom.
Robert L. Briggs is president and CEO of American Bible Society.