Paulo Feniman – Caring for missionaries with God’s moneyJune 29, 2023
Prosper Deh – Encouraging Christians to pray and work to make the world betterJuly 31, 2023
When Russian troops moved toward Kyiv in March 2022, the Ukrainian forces blew up this important bridge in Irpin, on the northwest side of the city, to stop their advance. Now, on the left side of the photo, you see workers have started the work of rebuilding this important crossing. This picture seemed fitting for our field report because the work of GTP in Ukraine right now aims to build bridges in the wake of catastrophic brokenness.
While GTP engages in this kind of work in other parts of the world, the opportunities and openness seem greater during wartime. Stewards go from being interested in teaching to crying for practical tools. In crisis times, ministries realize the need for and value of standards more than ever. So, following God’s leading, we planned this complex trip with our wives, Nina and Jenni, as their giftedness compliments our own. We scheduled meetings and ministry work over a month from mid-June to mid-July.
We thank God for His hand of protection on us. He empowered us to move toward danger with good, toward need with provision, toward the lost with love, and toward atrocity with generosity. We did that, thanks in part to the many people who sent gifts and who prayed for us. This trip built on the foundation laid on our first GTP trip to Ukraine (see the Eurasia September 2021 Field Report for details) and highlights the fruit of our bridge-building efforts in four areas: solidarity, service, strategy, and support.
People expressed appreciation that we came to cities like Lviv, Ivano-Frankivsk, Ternopil, and Kyiv. But candidly, most could not believe that we planned ministry in places like the Kharkiv, Dnipro, Donetsk, and Kherson Oblasts, near the Russian border or active war zones. This first point, solidarity, reflects the heart of the GTP “with you” culture. By drawing near to the Ukrainian people in difficult times, we built bridges of new relationships and strengthened existing ones.
As a result, GTP now has a wider network of pastors, seminary administrators, and other Christian workers in Ukraine who want to grow as faithful stewards and help ministries follow standards to flourish with sustainability. Now, in solidarity or with a shared purpose, key national workers have offered to translate and contextualize more GTP resources. In this way, look for us to collaborate with them to serve the Ukrainian church, whose reach and impact among the people has grown with the war.
To strengthen stewards and give them tools for processing trauma and ministering to others, Gary and Jenni facilitated an interactive seminar entitled, “Coping in Crisis,” at Ukrainian Baptist Theological Seminary in Lviv and at Kyiv Theological Seminary. Participants appreciated the teaching from 1 Samuel 17 and the practices we engaged in together. Marc and Olya Meland said, "This was just what we needed." They will use the practices with youth in 24 camps with Josiah Ventures in the coming weeks.
In addition to these seminars, we spoke to many groups. Michael served on a panel at an international conference on “Church Diplomacy and the Religious Dimension of the Russian-Ukrainian War.” Both Gary and Michael preached in multiple churches. Our service through seminars and speaking used the relational bridges we built to deliver help and hope in the form of biblical thinking and practical tools. We also shared printed and digital copies of Flourish, a 30-day devotional, translated into Ukrainian.
Our strategy centers on serving schools as they influence the trajectory of ministry in Ukraine. Recently, GTP was invited to join a strategic alliance of 39 educational institutions and partner organizations from Austria, Latvia, Lithuania, Moldova, Netherlands, Poland, Ukraine, and the United States. As one of the partner organizations, we aim to help alliance members follow standards for sustainability in areas such as governance, administration, and resource development.
On 28 June 2023 in Kyiv, we attended a meeting of alliance representatives from Odesa Theological Seminary, Tavriski Christian Institute, Kyiv Theological Seminary, United World Mission, and Overseas Council. We focused on listening to the needs of these schools and discerning how we might assist alliance members in the days to come. We believe our participation in this alliance can serve as a bridge for shaping the future of ministry in Ukraine and neighboring countries.
In war-torn areas, often younger people and families have fled, leaving the elderly or fragile populations behind. Thankfully, God has raised up bold workers who have moved toward these areas to minister. With their extensive network, Michael and Nina identified key frontline workers to visit and assist with financial support from their church, Revival Baptist Church. Gary and Jenni also encouraged people to give to GTP to have funds to bring help and hope.
Our top emergency relief priorities included water, bread, and church planting. We praise God that together we were able to distribute more than $16,000 to ministries in the Kyiv, Kherson, Dnipro, and Donetsk Oblasts to aid the thirsty, feed the hungry, and strengthen new churches. This bridge-building work is connecting people to Jesus! Katerina Ivancha of Saltivka said this with tears of joy, “I lost everything in this war, but I found Jesus.” She came to faith in one of the church plants we supported.
While most of our relief work in Ukraine served internally displaced people (IDPs) and workers ministering to them, we cannot forget to mention those serving refugees in Eastern Europe. Pray for 4D Ministries, the GTP partner organization working in Eastern Europe. Gabriel Hakulín (GTP Regional Facilitator for Europe and VP at 4D Ministries) helped arrange many meetings for Gary to build bridges with key contacts in Czechia, Slovakia, and Austria.
Also pray for Mission Eurasia, another GTP partner organization playing a key role in serving both IDPs and refugees. Michael and Nina visited the Mission Eurasia team in Poland, and Gary and Jenni encouraged their staff in Moldova. And thanks to their translation team, Gary and Jenni shared the Russian translation of the Flourish devotional with relief workers in Moldova. Pray for Mission Eurasia as they continue to provide emergency supplies and gospel materials to thousands of refugees per month.
In devastated places like Ukraine, our bridge-building work with stewards may take years. But we think meeting them at their time and place of greatest need in solidarity with service, a strategy, and support in collaboration with partners builds bridges to a future that includes flourishing. We know this because of an expression many people shared with us: “Friends before the war. Friends during the war. Friends after the war.” Praying for peace for our friends in Ukraine. With you!