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Praying for Ukraine: the Donbas region

Remember those who are in prison, as though in prison with them, and those who are mistreated, since you also are in the body. (Hebrews 13:3)

Weep with those who weep. (Romans 12:15)

 I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me. (Matthew 25:36)

Even before the Russian invasion, parts of the Donbas region of eastern Ukraine were occupied by Russian separatists, who set up their own illegal governments. In 2021 the European Evangelical Alliance said that this “was the area of Europe where the Church suffers most” and made calls for special prayer.  Since the February 2022 invasion, in which more Ukrainian land has been occupied, the situation has become worse. Churches are harassed or closed; buildings are confiscated; men are forcibly recruited to fight against Ukraine, including pastors and church workers. To avoid conscription, many younger men have gone into hiding. Few of the previous church leaders are still in a position to shepherd their people. Communication with friends outside is very difficult.

We may not be able to visit these brothers and sisters, but we can pray for them, sharing their pain. We can pray for their protection. We can pray for provision for their needs as individuals and churches. We can pray for their strengthening and close experience of the Lord through the Holy Spirit. We can pray for their faithfulness. We can pray for the churches to stand. We can pray for effective leadership to arise in this challenging situation. We can pray for their continuing effective witness.

Under such pressures, it may seem difficult for the church to stand. However, I am reminded of the situation in China when the communist government forced all foreign missionaries to leave after the 1949 establishment of the People’s Republic. The Protestant church numbered just a few hundred thousands and was suddenly left without much of its leadership. There was much poverty, severe persecution from the government and little or no connection with the outside world. Many in the West wondered how Christian witness could survive. Yet when China began to reopen to the West in the late 1970s, it was found that the church, sustained and empowered by the Holy Spirit, had grown to many millions. Ultimately, Jesus is the one who builds his church.

During that period, many Christians in the West continued to pray for the church in China. Let us also play our part in faithfully praying for our brothers and sisters in the Donbas.

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