Hope and Peace in a Time of War | A Global Partners Story
“I wake my children in the night sometimes and move them into the hallway of our home. That is the strongest structure to protect them if a bomb hits our house.”
Woodside’s Global Partner, Pastor Igor, his wife Suzanna, and their three children live in Kyiv, the capital of Ukraine. On New Year’s Day, the bombing of their city reached a new level of intensity, resulting in low morale.
“We are weary. We cry out to the Lord and beg him to save us from our trouble! We wait for him to deliver us from the darkness,” Igor shares, referencing Psalm 107.
Yet amidst the destruction of war, the hand of God can be seen actively strengthening and refining the Ukrainian church. Bible studies at Resurrection Church have doubled in attendance and continue to gain popularity. As the church is confronted with several struggles they never could have imagined, one answer resurfaces time and time again. “We must know the Word of God calls us to transformation and is useful in every situation, even in times of war.” Says Pastor Igor.
People turn to all kinds of coping mechanisms to escape the traumatic effects of an ongoing war. Consumption of drugs and alcohol temporarily numbs the grief and suffering but cannot bring soul restoration. Resurrection Church trusted the Lord’s leading and opened a rehabilitation center with the goal of setting the addicted free to discover life found in Jesus.
Many married couples have been separated as the men fulfill their military duty or send their wives and children to safer cities. Separate men’s and women’s Bible studies provide the opportunity for accountability and encouragement during extended periods of stress and loneliness. Instead of ignoring an uncomfortable topic, Igor and Suzanna were led by the Spirit to call their young people to declare faithfulness to the spouse God gave to them.
“The reality is that war often separates married couples and the struggle to remain faithful while apart. Followers of Jesus are called to a higher level of integrity. People outside the church have begun to see a difference in the way the church commits to one another. They are searching for hope!”
Other creative ways the church has been serving the community include:
- Allowing the use of washers and dryers from sunup to sundown.
- Delivering groceries to home-bound senior citizens.
- Providing a safe environment for youth who lack adult supervision.
It would be easy and understandable for the Ukrainian church to remain solely focused on the vast needs of their country. However, they have not fallen into this trap. Pastor Igor recently took three young leaders he has been discipling on a short-term mission trip to Pakistan, where they ministered to the local church. For six days, the team preached on The Marks of a Healthy Church, found in Acts 2.
They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Acts 2:42
“You know, Christians in Pakistan face intense persecution that we just don’t experience in Ukraine or America. But the hope the Ukrainian church can now offer them has been birthed from a newfound reliance on God. We can now encourage the international Body of Christ in a way we were not equipped to before the war.” Igor states.
Another Global Partner Woodside has the privilege of partnering with is Pastor Nihad. Like Igor in Ukraine, Nihad, his wife, Salwa, and their three children live in a region immersed in conflict—the Holy Land.
Just a few days before Christmas, Nihad and the church invited the widows of the city to attend a special breakfast event. He hoped to honor and care for women who have suffered profound loss. It’s safe to say that the message the Lord laid on his heart surprised everyone. From Isaiah 9:6, Pastor Nihad spoke on Jesus, the Prince of Peace.
The first point of his sermon was that Jesus restores peace between God and man through His perfect life, death, and resurrection. Secondly, Nihad talked about his own testimony and how Jesus offers personal peace. No matter your current life circumstances, your soul can be at peace if you trust Jesus as your Savior. And for his final point, Jesus, the Prince of Peace, enables His children to forgive and offer peace to their enemies.
“I had no idea how powerful this message would be, but all the widows were crying! Those who did not know Jesus wanted Him so they could experience inner peace and forgive their enemies,” Pastor Nihad shared.
From December 23 to January 3, He was able to share about Jesus ten times! Each time, the listeners responded with tears, brokenness, and repentance. One secular humanitarian aid event he was asked to speak at was attended by more than 70 Muslims. Another day, Pastor Nihad took a group of young people from his church to a more dangerous city, where they joined other young people for a special night of prayer and thanksgiving for 2023. It’s hard to imagine giving thanks for a year that ended in such violence and destruction.
There are challenges for all believers seen in Igor and Nihad’s ministries. 2024 has arrived, and the fighting in Ukraine continues with no end in sight. While he prays for the war with Russia to end soon, Pastor Igor is more focused on the response of the Ukrainian church. He quotes Corrie ten Boom when encouraging his church family to have hope, “Never be afraid to trust an unknown future to a known God.”
In Bethlehem, when it seems everyone must choose a side, Pastor Nihad offers a different solution. “Carry the gospel forth in peace and share it with all who will hear!”