21 May, 2024

Ukraine: Wounded but Not Broken

by | 8 April, 2024 | 6 comments

By Valentin Siniy 

The words “wounded but not broken” aptly characterize Ukraine since Russia’s full-scale invasion of our country in February 2022.  

Ukraine is indeed wounded, and we witness these wounds on the faces of Ukrainians under occupation, in the war zone, and even abroad.  

Thousands of internally displaced persons (IDPs) have carried these wounds to relatively safe regions of the country. The wounds of our people will take a long time to heal, and some people will be forever scarred by the horrors of war. Despite these challenges, wounded Ukrainians continue to live and fight, as the enemy has not managed to break the nation or its people.  

Frankly speaking, no one expected such resilience from Ukrainians—neither the neighboring enemy nor the Western partners who thought Ukrainian resistance likely to last just a few days. 

As a minister of the Evangelical Church and a coordinator of many humanitarian projects, I can confidently say that during the two years of full-scale war, Ukraine has undergone an important stage of social change. 

CHANGES IN UKRAINE 

Our nationwide volunteer movement has been significant, demonstrating the unity and resilience of the Ukrainian people from the first days of the war. This movement is a peculiar phenomenon of the war, as thousands of people without any training or program of action have united to help one another. The emergence of this powerful volunteer movement has been quite a phenomenon, because for decades, our young state was under the watchful eye of a Soviet communist dictatorship. This dictator state denied any free and nongovernmental associations of citizens in matters of statehood, identity, and freedom of action.  

It is difficult to calculate how many thousands of Ukrainian volunteers evacuated from the war zone and occupied territories, and how many thousands of tons of humanitarian aid, medicines, and basic necessities were received and delivered to our citizens. 

The nationwide volunteer movement is closely connected with church communities, which, thanks to a clear organizational structure and interchurch ties, managed to organize an extensive volunteer system in the shortest possible time.  

I can say that the overwhelming majority of volunteers at the beginning of the war were provided to Ukrainian society by churches. It is impossible to ignore the significant role of the church in serving the Ukrainian people during this full-scale war.  

It is difficult to find an evangelical church that did not play a role. Virtually all evangelical churches hosted refugees or evacuated people; distributed food packages, clothing, or medicines; and supported children, women, or the elderly. When I see volunteers from the churches restoring thousands of damaged houses in areas that Russian troops no longer occupy, I see a manifestation of God’s great love in wounded Ukraine. This is much more than a big construction project. It is about God’s love rebuilding the damaged and destroyed. 

The volunteer ministry of the churches has also led to rethinking the role and mission of the church. In many cases, churches have started to move from solely a soteriological mission to a more holistic mission—the presence of the church in society. Increasingly, churches are beginning to reveal God among a wounded society. That is, in fact, the emphasis of the church’s mission in shifting from the Great Commission to the Great Commandment. 

In this way, the church becomes more open to society. Openness is often manifested through hospitality, which has many different forms. More and more often I am seeing churches creating areas for free communication between different people. Quite often, these areas have a coffee machine or a thermopot around which people can talk about various topics over a cup of coffee or tea. For people who attend churches with such areas of communication, the church opens up in a new way. 

RETHINKING MILITARY SERVICE, HUMAN LIFE 

During the full-scale war, the church also has rethought its attitude toward military service. This resulted from the fact that in the Baptist Union alone, more than 400 church ministers serve in the armed forces. Many of these men have joined the chaplaincy ministry within the Ukrainian army. 

In this time of war, our society is rethinking the value of human life. Before Russia’s full-scale invasion, we had not seen such a huge number of deaths; therefore, we did not fully realize the value of another person’s life. The war changed this, and now we are more deeply aware of the value and gift of life. 

The war also has affected the migration of Ukrainians. About 6.5 million Ukrainians were forced to leave Ukraine because of the war, and about 3 million more became internally displaced. But both those who relocated outside the country and the IDPs continue to support the Ukrainian people and the nation’s armed forces.  

As a result of the large number of Ukrainians who have joined foreign churches, cooperation between Ukrainian churches and Ukrainian church communities abroad has increased. Relations between these communities of believers have always been quite difficult, but they have improved significantly since the war’s outbreak. 

The war has had a significant impact on demographics in Ukraine. Today, it is impossible to accurately determine the number of Ukrainian civilian casualties. It also is difficult to ascertain the number of Ukrainians in the temporarily occupied territories, especially because so many people, including children, have been deportated.  

The birth rate has declined significantly. In prewar 2021, 260,000 children were born in Ukraine; that declined to 190,000 births in 2022, and just over 178,000 in 2023. (This data does not include births among Ukrainians living abroad.) 

Ukraine’s economy has also undergone significant changes over the past two years. The war has led to the loss of a large part of budget revenues from industrial regions in the east and agricultural regions in the south. Migration abroad has also contributed to a decrease in the number of taxpayers in the country.  

It should be noted that in the first months of the war, Ukraine received strong humanitarian aid from abroad, but this did not lead to dependence on humanitarian aid. On the contrary, we have seen that once Ukrainians have relocated to another region of the country, they try to find work, frequently start their own small businesses, and even offer job opportunities to other compatriots. 

Valentin Siniy serves as president of Tavriski Christian Institute.  

6 Comments

  1. Glen Elliott

    Thank you for your amazing leadership through this unbelievably difficult time. Thank you for the work Tavriski Christian Institute has performed to see people all over Ukraine. I’m so grateful for the many faithful believers who risk life and sacrifice daily to serve their fellow citizens. The church is shining in a dark place.

  2. Wesley Paddock

    I was with Doug Lucas when we entered Kherson right after communism fell.
    Later 2001 I would go back to Kherson to teach for TCM.
    I thoroughly enjoyed the Ukrainian people and will never forget my time there.

  3. Roman Kapran

    Personally I thank “Christian Standard” for the article. American Christians must know what is going on in Ukraine, especially on occupied territories by Russian army. Unfortunately, there are people in the USA who believe Russian propaganda about Ukraine. Please continue to pray God to protect Ukraine and support in different ways Ukrainian churches, Christians and people.

  4. Mykhailo Smyshliaiev

    To witness the church’s evolution in serving both spiritual and societal needs is to see love in action, healing wounds with acts of profound generosity. It’s a moving reminder of how compassion and community can rebuild the foundations of a society and reinforce the precious value of every human life.

  5. Donald Marsden

    The book of Esther tells the story of the survival of the people of God during a time when their very existence was threatened. Against overwhelming odds, they survived. They did not manage to survive by military skill, by stealth or by a palace revolution. They managed to survive by a patient discerning of the actual conditions threatening their existence, by courageously stepping into action within the constricted limits available to them and by speaking truthfully to people in authority in the right way at the right time.

    The name of God is never mentioned in the book of Esther, but it is clear that Esther and her uncle Mordecai were directed by God at each step in the precarious times in which it was appointed for them to live.

    In Valentin Siniy’s article, “Ukraine: Wounded But Not Broken,” we see evidence of the same kind of patient discerning, courageous action and truthful speech at the right time in the right way. “A word spoken in due season, how good it is!” Proverbs 15:23.

    The survival of a people matters to God. It is not only the tactical genius of military experts, access to the best weaponry and the mobilization to the battle front of young men that make for the repelling of the invasion of a superior force. It is also the resolve of the farmers, the workers in an underground railroad network to rescue compatriots and their children taken into exile, the pastors who exchange their pulpit in a house of worship for an opportunity to preach to discouraged and frightened soldiers in a muddy field tent in order to strengthen their hearts.

    While the US House of Representatives debates whether to assist Ukraine with additional weaponry, evangelical Christians in Ukraine are not sitting at home waiting to hear how the debate ends. They are looking for the tiny spaces allowed for them to step into action to build up a people that has been targeted for destruction.

    Valentin Siniy and Tavriski Christian Institute are training young people and older ones who have not fled Ukraine, but are willing to step up and serve in the churches which have no ministers because their pastors are serving as chaplains in the military or have left Ukraine.

    I thank God for Valentin Siniy and the faithful people of Ukraine who patiently bear witness through their service in “such a time as this.”

  6. Diana

    Comment *oh, wow, that’s very informative, thanks for your work

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