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A War Zone Shepherd’s Heart

By Eric Mock
SGA Vice President of Ministry

A father and his son near a separatist checkpoint in eastern Ukraine are on their way from one city to the next. They are abruptly stopped with automatic weapons at their backs. One man holds a revolver next to the ear of the father, and slowly reloads the chamber. He whispers, “I am paid to kill… Ukrainian, Kazakh, whoever, it does not matter to me.” After the papers are reviewed, they are allowed to pass. Once home, the son tells his father, I have peace in my heart in Christ, but my legs are still shaking.”

Later, this same father travels with his daughter to the capital city, and after arriving, he asks her to stay and find a job. Speaking to his wife, who remained behind during his brief trip, she tells of sleeping in the basement, and listening to gun and mortar fire all night long. He must make his way back home.

We had a moment to speak with this father, and found that he spent his last funds to drive to a pastor’s meeting in the capital city, praying he would have funds to return. After receiving assistance from Slavic Gospel Association, he told us, “With these funds, on my way home I will be able to help a woman in a village whose heart is not functioning well, and needs medicine.”

This father, who seeks to protect his family and who sees personal gifts as a means to bless others, remains in the most difficult of conditions out of of dedication to his calling. He is a Baptist pastor in eastern Ukraine. His church has half of the congregation missing as most have fled the region. This Ukrainian pastor, like many Baptist pastors in eastern Ukraine, sees such hardship as an opportunity for the Gospel and is unfazed by the conflict around him. Some have left, but the faithful shepherds remain.

Christian believers of many backgrounds gather together in an eastern Ukrainian city, praying for peace and reconciliation in their country.

Christian believers of many backgrounds gather together in an eastern Ukrainian city, praying for peace and reconciliation in their country.

Christ gave us this witness and contrast . . . I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. He who is a hired hand and not a shepherd, who does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and flees, and the wolf snatches them and scatters them (John 10:11-12). Not mere hired hands or professionals seeking personal gain, these Ukrainian pastors can barely put food on their own tables. Yet they brave gunfire and overwhelming intimidation. Facing false propaganda that frames them as harmful to the national good, and living in constant stress and fear, they follow the model of the Great Shepherd in laying down their lives for the sheep.

Many of Ukraine’s eastern cities have seen a majority of the population leave for safer locations in the western regions. Food is hard to find, water is scarce, and banks are only open an hour a day, if at all. Yet these faithful shepherds, following the Great Commission of their master and Lord Jesus, minister to those that remain. And now in the midst of hardship, they are trusting that new doors have been opened for the sake of the Gospel, and new resources will be provided to continue their ministry.

The more difficult life becomes, the more vibrant the witness for the sake of the Gospel. Rather than defeat, the Gospel message resounds. This is our God, and these are His people in the country of Ukraine! And these are the faithful churches that SGA is privileged to serve. You can help them today through our Crisis Evangelism Fund. Please click here to find out more.

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