According to SGA-sponsored missionary pastors in the region, and leadership in the Union of Evangelical Christians-Baptists (UECB), officials in the Lugansk region threatened Baptist Union pastors not to meet for worship or else they could face raids and fines. The deadline for compliance is this Sunday, March 17. Lugansk is one of the regions in eastern Ukraine that have declared independence from the rest of Ukraine, although that has not been recognized by the national government or most other countries.
On February 25, an SGA-sponsored missionary pastor in Rovenki near the city of Lugansk reported that all the pastors of Baptist churches were summoned to the Ministry of Internal Affairs and warned that any gatherings would be disrupted due to their “illegal” status. Some churches have again submitted documents for re-registration, but for now they plan on discreetly gathering in small groups. In addition, Pastor Igor Bandura told Forum 18 that all Baptist churches that have Houses of Prayer will stop meetings in them from March 17 onwards. Church members believe they are under surveillance and that their phone calls have been tapped.
Pastor Bandura also said that the Lugansk authorities have warned pastors from Ukrainian government-controlled western Ukraine that they risk being arrested if they try to visit the region. Please intercede in prayer for this situation, asking for God’s hand of protection to be on our brothers and sisters in Ukraine, as well as in neighboring regions of Russia. Pray for Ukrainian and Russian church teams who have been going into the conflict zones with humanitarian aid that SGA partners helped provide. Ask the Lord to grant them wisdom in how they should respond, and to continue their Gospel ministries.