The following dialogue is the account of an emergency worldwide prayer meeting organized by Lausanne Europe on Thursday:
My mother came into my room in the middle of the night. “The war has begun.”
I live in Sumy, a Ukrainian city of about 250,000 people near the Russian border. A week ago, my husband insisted that I take our children and my mother and evacuate. While we arrived in the United States, he stayed.
I immediately started panicking on Thursday. What was happening in Sumy? Where was my husband? Was he safe? When I finally joined him, he told me he woke up to the sound of bombs. He was now stuck in traffic as he tried to get out of town. I scrolled through pictures on my phone of long lines at gas stations and people sleeping in subway stations, and read the government’s announcement banning men aged 18-60 from leaving the country. . Will I see my husband again? When? My 93-year-old grandmother is alone… my team… my friends… our house….
I had a hard time getting through the day. In the afternoon, I joined an international prayer call organized by the Lausanne Movement in light of the invasion. When the host asked me how I was, I cried. I was angry. I felt betrayed, broken and trampled by Russia. I told everyone that I was afraid for my husband and for my friends in Kiev who were praying at that time to know if they should evacuate.
Then the host asked if someone could pray for me. My friend Alexey volunteered. My Russian friend, Alexey.
I woke up Thursday morning surprised to learn that my country had invaded Ukraine. I was in Moscow on a ministerial trip, over 2,000 miles from my family in Novosibirsk, Siberia. It was a cold morning and I watched the news in silence as I struggled to eat breakfast. The shame that my country had started a war against another – a country I had visited no less than four or five times – began to invade me. I feared for the future of the world and cried for my Ukrainian brothers and sisters who would live or die as a result of this decision.
I was born and raised in the Soviet Union in Siberia. After the collapse of the USSR, I became a Christian at the age of 23 after hearing the gospel preached at my mother’s rehab center. For me, finding faith in Christ was more than accepting that I was God’s child, it was realizing that I had brothers and sisters all over the world. One of them was my Ukrainian friend Angela.
I met Angela seven years ago at the Lausanne Conference in Jakarta. I was struck by her boldness when she announced the gospel. One of his initiatives was to mobilize teams to enter nightclubs in different Ukrainian cities to initiate conversations with people who would never enter a church! Since then, we have become good friends and supported each other in our ministries. In 2018, Angela brought a team to Moscow during the World Cup to share the gospel in the streets. These memories kept coming back as I watched the news.
Later that day I joined the Lausanne call to prayer and was grateful to see that Angela was also there. It was heartbreaking to hear what she and the other Ukrainians on the call were going through. It was terrible that my country caused him so much personal distress. When the facilitator asked who would volunteer to pray for her, I said yes and started talking to God crying.
I’ve always liked my Russian friends, even though when I was young there were no “Russians” or “Ukrainians”. We were all one nation called the Soviet Union. As a child, I repeatedly jumped on a 5 p.m. train in Sumy to arrive at 11 a.m. the next morning in Moscow, where my aunts and cousins still live. Over time, things have changed. In 2014, after the annexation of Crimea by Russia, I quickly realized that the Russians saw the situation quite differently from me. Few people understood where I came from. Sometimes people laughed at me.
In 2018, I traveled to Moscow for a street evangelism trip during the World Cup. For three weeks we stood in Red Square, sharing the gospel and praying with Russians and visitors from all over the world. Ten months later, 150 teams from Russia had registered for my ministry’s Global Outreach Day. Many told us later that they had not dared to preach publicly before but felt inspired after seeing us. I was touched by the bravery and courage of our brothers and sisters in Russia.
Last fall, Alexey asked me on the phone what my dreams were of reaching the next generation for the Lord. I told him that I was looking for partners to help me lead five intensive missions in Russia. Alexey offered to support my efforts and then shared his heart with me. He wanted to bring together the heads of mission of our countries to pray and fraternize together over a cup of tea. I remember thinking to myself, “That’s the type of leader I would follow, and I know young people would too.
When I heard Alexey’s heartfelt prayer for me, my family and my country, Ukraine, I couldn’t hold back my tears. His pain was real. His words reminded me that I was part of a family not based on nationality, skin color or status. Only Jesus.
Of all the people God could have used to comfort me that day, he used a Russian brother to give me a glimpse into his heart.
After I finished praying, the host asked me to share how I felt. I told them that I felt bad. I was ashamed of my country’s actions.
I will never forget the look in the eyes of my Ukrainian friends. Instead of condemnation, I saw compassion. Angela wanted to pray for me. She asked God to show himself to Christians in Russia who felt helpless and afraid. She prayed for revival in Russia and Ukraine, a desire we had shared in our hearts for years.
On the day Russia invaded our neighboring country, God used a sister from Ukraine to give me further insight into His grace.
The enemy wants to divide us these days, sowing hatred and separation between the church in Ukraine and Russia. Indeed, it hurts when I see some Christian leaders in Russia not openly taking a stand for Ukraine. Maybe some think that if they speak out, they or their children might be in danger? I know the fear and the danger are real, and I try not to judge, because I am not God. It’s still painful.
But I believe the most important thing for us Christians is to remember that we are one bride, one body of Christ. His blood runs through our veins and we are all united by his Spirit.
Russia is currently bombing my country and killing its people. But, in the midst of this pain, the body of Christ must stand together, weep together and pray together. My good friend Alexey is an example.
Brothers and sisters in Russia, Ukraine or any other country, we all have a Heavenly Father and we are all members of the same family. This is not a war among our peoples. I don’t care about your political views or your theology of power. When someone close to me is in pain, I want to be there for you.
To my Ukrainian friends in particular, thank you for being willing to cry and pray with me and for accepting my feelings of fear and regret, despite the fact that I am Russian. It gives me confidence that Satan will be defeated once again, and God’s church will continue to demonstrate the love of Jesus.
Angela Tkachenko is director of Steiger Ukraine.
Alexey Shabinskiy is General Secretary of IFES Russia.
As Sarah Breuel, Director of Revive Europe and Evangelism Training Coordinator for IFES Europe, said.