Recently, the news has been increasingly filled with information about local armed conflicts in different parts of the world. Even when a volatile peace is managed to be maintained in these areas, it is not able to give people a real future and hope. This should not perplex the Church, for the Lord did not leave us in ignorance but warned his disciples: “And you will hear of wars and rumors of wars. See that you are not alarmed, for this must take place.” (Matthew 24:6)
As those who are outworking the NPI in the CIS region, the Lord has given us the wonderful privilege of being participants in the spreading of his Kingdom and the building of his Church in conflict areas. As a part of CV, we have a beautiful vision: to introduce people to Jesus and encourage them to become his true followers.
Problems or opportunities
We often hear that a particular region is broken and destroyed but any destruction, like construction, does not occur by itself. The destruction of the region as well as its restoration begins in people’s hearts.
Where there is pain and need, there are open doors for the Gospel. And to allow God to influence a nation, it is important to understand the given opportunities and our responsibilities.
Military actions are usually limited in time and are local in nature, but the spiritual war for human souls is ongoing. It is the NPI missionaries who are at the forefront of this spiritual war. Through the NPI, we are providing missionaries in eastern Ukraine with three years of support, which gives them the chance to plant new churches, spread the Gospel and help people in the front-line cities of a war zone.
Missionaries conduct a spiritual war, where there is also war in the physical realm. And for building a church in a war zone, it is important to mobilize all possible forces and resources. Hence, I would like to focus on a few necessary elements:
In the matter of spiritual warfare, the “foothold” of prayer is one of the most important things. Jesus said, “Without Me you can do nothing.” (John 15:5) To pray is to make efforts to remain in harmony with the Lord, calling him to do his work and watching him crush the darkness.
It is important that sending churches take responsibility for the systematic prayer support of missionaries and the entire project, which is an important condition for our partnership relationship. Also, missionaries in the front-line cities perform daily morning prayers and hold organized prayer tents in the front-line cities, where people have the opportunity to reconcile with the Lord and pray together for peace in their city.
Equip to impact
Soldiers who participate in military operations usually undergo special training. Missionaries, as spiritual warriors, should also be adequately trained to work in specific places such as frontline locations. For this purpose, for example, in the east of Ukraine, there are two missionary schools, where missionary students receive unique five-week training. Intensive physical and spiritual loads, theoretical lessons and practical missionary trips will help to create effective missionary teams that are able to build churches in a war zone.
It is these missionaries who meet the challenges of wartime who will go to the ruined cities to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, restore the ruined and bring healing and hope through the preaching of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. In the east of Ukraine, we have seen several hundred missionaries sent out as quality “seeds” in the hand of God, already bearing fruit in tens of thousands of lives saved.
Unity and partnership
Paul Rattray, who oversees NPI projects across the globe, said: “It is important that we achieve unity between the churches that become our partners. In each country where we were present, we fixed the union of churches for the common cause.” We have noticed the same thing in the CIS region. In this difficult time, the Unions of Churches have really united for a common purpose and work shoulder to shoulder to spread the Good News and build the Church in the war zone.
In the parable about the man with palsy in Capernaum, four friends uncovered the roof of the house to let down their sick friend to the feet of Jesus. And the Lord healed him when he saw their faith! Exploring this parable, we see the importance of uniting and mobilizing the common efforts of all friends (partners) to bring the sick (nation) to the Lord with faith for speedy healing. Together we can do much more.
It is important to have clear, digitized goals and move towards them persistently. So, in the east of Ukraine, together with our partners, we determined that we will establish 150 new churches in the front-line cities by 2022. An accountability system helps us to achieve this by allowing us to feel the pulse of what is happening in the teams and to see progress on the way to our goal.
In practice, we use the following tools: daily chat for urgent issues, monthly reports on the effectiveness of each team, quarterly offline working meetings with representatives of partner unions of churches, and monitoring trips to new churches.
We can only influence what can be measured.
It is important to focus on the main goal: the foundation of stable, steadily developing churches and the preaching of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. At the same time, we must bear in mind that any military conflict inevitably leads to an economic crisis.
The main challenge that stands in the way of the development of churches in the war zone is the lack of finance, which is necessary for the sustainable development of each church and the support of the pastors of these churches.
This is both a challenge, but also an opportunity to mobilize partners to become an accomplice in the activities that the Lord does in this region, as well as to look for alternative sources of support. For this purpose, we are actively working on the additional sources: donor assistance for new churches, and a charity business to service the needs of new churches.
In close cooperation with our partners we are creating presentations about specific churches to raise funds for their sustainable development. It is also important to create “bridges” between sustaining churches with stable resources and new frontline churches, and we are already seeing the first fruits of this work.
Some churches from more developed regions of Ukraine make a year-long commitment to support specific missionary churches in the war zone. It is their responsibility to pray for a specific missionary church, send volunteers to help, support with finances and other resources, and pass on expertise and experience for the development of a new church.
Caring for pioneers
National pioneers (missionaries) are the most important assets of an NPI and everything is done to support them being mission effective. The sending churches must take care of their missionaries, and we must keep abreast of this issue. We have had an excellent opportunity with churches for several years in a row to conduct relax retreats for missionaries. Such events are held to help recuperate, heal internal wounds of ministers who work in the front-line cities, and to equip them to serve war-torn communities.
It is also important that missionaries gain recognition for their exceptional role in building churches in the war zone. Annual missionary conferences are one of the platforms for this. This is a great time for worship, exchange of testimonies and experiences, prayer meetings and fellowship. The most beautiful thing is to see specific fruit, such as the faces of the people who decided to make their covenant with the Lord through water baptism.
Any incurable disease begins with a small unhealthy cell. Then this cell affects other cells and can eventually devour the entire body. But also, healthy transformation in the body begins with one small healthy cell, when a healthy cell begins to impact another cell and so on. This process is called healing. We have an amazing opportunity to see how churches in the war zone become such healthy and life-bearing cells.
Much work is yet to be done, but we believe that the complete healing and restoration of the Ukraine and entire CIS region is irreversible for the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ.