Converge establishes fund to assist gospel leaders and others in Ukraine
Regional President, Converge North Central
Contributing authors: Bob Marsh, Rick Post, Tania Martin, Bill Ankerberg, Brian Weber and Truett Lawson
For years, Ukrainian believers have been the brightest light of the gospel of Jesus Christ in Europe. We want to help them hold that light high regardless of the circumstances, as some stay within the borders of Ukraine and others seek refuge in neighboring nations.
Last night, I was on a zoom call with Maryna Kyrylkova, a friend I have known for almost 24 years, since she was a child. We talked just hours before she and her husband, Vladymyr, made the decision to flee the city of Pilipcha, Ukraine.
Maryna and her family have left their home behind and have begun a new journey as refugees. Their world has been turned upside down and that world may never be the same again. Her name and face are a representation of the countless Ukrainians who are now on an unimaginable journey.
“It is sad and frustrating, but I know that God still has plans for Ukraine,” said Tania Martin, director of Mobilization for Converge International Ministries who lived as a missionary in Ukraine for 11 years. “My hope is that this will be a refining time. The possibility of loss of life is sobering, but I know God is in control.”
I learned from the former regional leader Truett Lawson that in 1991, he had met with two Russian brothers who wanted to start a church for immigrants, most of whom were refuges of the Soviet repression of believers. They were from an area of the Soviet Union that had the same number of Baptist churches as Minnesota. The idea of sister churches appeared like an unexpected vision of the Lord.
Paul and Linda Wicklund, who had prayed for a new ministry together with their Sunday school class from Calvary Church, joined the discussion. The Lawsons and Wicklunds traveled to meet Baptist Union leaders in Ukraine, eventually visiting the Cherkasy region and Zolotonosha, site of the first sister church.
Nearly 100 Converge churches have actively participated as sisters in this Love Lift sister church movement.This sister church relationship brought people from many churches across Minnesota, Iowa and the East Coast to visit the Cherkasy and Rivne Regions of Ukraine. People stayed in Ukrainian homes while kids camps, women’s meetings and men’s meetings took place. Lifelong relationships were formed.
Some of these churches have continued their partnering ministries to this day. A number of nonprofit ministries were spun off and continue today as Read Ministries, Shepherd’s Foundation, Potential Endeavors and Impact Ukraine. In the last decade, Shepherd’s Foundation, with a Ukrainian team, has built and operated Camp Maximum, a groundbreaking camp in Zolotonosha, using Minnesota’s Trout Lake as a model.
Bob Marsh, who leads Converge’s Europe & Mediterranean Region Impact Team, spoke with the senior vice president of the Ukrainian Baptist Union. “Each pastor they contacted in the east said that they are committed to staying in their communities and ministering to their flocks, regardless of the Russian oppression that may come,” Bob said.
The Ukrainian people are suffering. Stores are running out of groceries. Card payments stopped working. Gas is in very short supply. People are fleeing the cities that were bombed while Russian helicopters, soldiers and tanks continue to roll in.
Thursday night, representatives of the Baptist Unions from around the world met Igor Bandura, vice president of the Ukrainian Baptist Union, to express their pain for what is happening in Ukraine.
"I am not saying that we will win, but God is honored in the midst of it all,” Igor told the group near the end of the meeting. “We are not a good nation. We are not a holy nation."
His prayer is that the Father will use this great tragedy and injustice to turn the hearts of the Ukrainian people to himself.
Rick Post, president of Potential Endeavors, an organization active in Ukraine, said:
In the last couple of months, conversations between the Baptist Union and Converge have started again to see what partnerships could look like in the future. Meetings were scheduled to take place in Ukraine in March, but now Russia has invaded.
In the early 1990s people came to the church because it offered hope coming out of Soviet oppression, and now people will look to the church to offer hope from the impact of war. We need to provide support and help to the leaders of the Baptist Union of Ukraine to enable the church to stand strong and provide help and assistance.
Irrespective of what transpires in the days, weeks and months to come, Converge's commitment to support and equip the Church in both Ukraine and Russia remains the same. We currently work with gospel movement leaders in both nations. They are dear brothers and sisters who long to see their communities and their nations meet, know and follow Jesus. Our goal is to help those indigenous leaders as they catalyze gospel movements in their own nations and to neighboring peoples.
Let’s continue to partner with them as they face this crisis. Converge has established a World Relief fund to help provide relief for gospel leaders and others who remain within the Ukrainian borders and people who are displaced.
If your church has a global relief fund, consider donating now. If you receive a special offering, Converge will help administer the funds you raise. There will be no service fee for donations given to this fund.
“A consortium is a group of churches that have a similar passion for ministry in a particular place, like Ukraine, and they strategically work together to increase those efforts toward meaningful outcomes,” said Brian Weber, Converge MidAtlantic regional president. “Throughout the Converge districts, there may be more than 50 churches that had missions efforts in Ukraine. An effort is happening right now to mobilize these churches to help Ukraine again.”
The hope for Maryna and her family, and for the many Ukrainian families like them, is still found in Jesus and the gospel. As brothers and sisters from afar, let’s prepare to serve and share in their suffering.
Give if you can, and let's lead our churches to pray for the Ukrainian people.
UPDATE - March 11, 2022
The Swedish Church, including a Converge partner, is paying for transportation and meals to move 200 Ukrainian refugees to Sweden. Your gift to the Converge Ukraine world relief fund will help with funding for this project.