Greetings from Kiev!
The RZIM team is just wrapping up an intense time of ministry with Mission Ukraine, as the past five days have been filled with unprecedented open doors and unique evangelistic opportunities. Ravi Zacharias and Michael Ramsden were invited to Ukraine to address pastors and churches from a wide array of different denominations, as well as to speak to students and faculty from the academic community in a range of events.
“A few months ago, we received the invitation from mission leaders in Ukraine asking us to come for a series of meetings and programs in Kiev,” recalled Zacharias. “This was the only week I had set aside in my calendar to take a vacation with my family after 200 days on the road this year. I asked my wife what she thought, and she said, ‘How can we talk about a vacation when a nation is struggling to survive?’ Margie was very supportive, and we both understood the urgency of the needs in Ukraine at this time. That is why we are here.”
There is a sense of uncertainty and deep concern among Ukrainian citizens as they ponder the future of their country and wrestle with how best to respond, corporately and individually. Preaching at the Central Baptist Church in Kiev on Sunday morning, Zacharias reminded the congregation that even in these dark days for Ukraine, we must not lose heart or give up hope. “When we respond with faith during challenging times, we will see things happen that God will assure us can only be possible by His power,” he said. “God changes history and He uses individuals. We must pray fervently and be instruments for His glory.”
There is also a sense of openness and interest in spiritual matters among the young people and academic communities, and God opened the door for Zacharias and Ramsden to speak at National Pedagogical Dragomanov University in Kiev on Monday. The topic was “God and the Problem of Violence,” and Zacharias and Ramsden took every opportunity to point the audience to the truth of the scriptures and the reality that only God can bring about lasting peace. “God is the one who gives you dignity, not the state and not the culture,” said Zacharias. “You are created by an infinitely worthy God, you and I are made with essential worth, and therefore I have no right to violate you and you have no right to violate me.”
Something significant is happening among the young people of Ukraine, and it has been heartening to see such an overwhelming response from the students, many of whom brought their friends and traveled a long distance to attend our events. “Thank you very much for coming to my country and my University! The things you said so needed to be heard,” remarked Lyudmila Statkevich, a student who attended the open forum. “Thank you for words of hope. Thank you for feeling what our country is going through. I pray that all nonbelievers who were there left knowing the truth.”
Throughout our time here, our local host team has reminded us that we are encountering a nation in crisis – a country that is vulnerable yet hungry for messages of hope. “We are coming into a country that in the East is facing war; lives have been destroyed and there are many refugees,” said Blair Carlson, Founder and Director of GoodWORD Partnership and International Advisor for Mission Ukraine, who is organizing RZIM’s visit. “We must be energetic in proclaiming the gospel but also sensitive that a portion of the country is literally being torn apart. We must not focus on the war, but at the same time we must not ignore it,” he told our team.
Zacharias and Ramsden have also had the unique opportunity to meet with an unprecedented gathering of various denominational leaders in an effort to mobilize the church and respond to the vision God has given them to reach Ukraine at this time. “In times of great trouble and turmoil, it is amazing how God seems to burden the hearts of some people to leverage their position for the glory of God,” Zacharias told the group of influential leaders from diverse backgrounds. “You are honoring us by coming together. We have one thing in common: we love the Lord Jesus Christ, and we have one burden in common: to help salvage this beautiful country.”
Thank you for praying for our team and for following our updates from this historic visit to Ukraine. Please continue to pray with us and stand with us. As Thanksgiving approaches, we are reminded to give thanks for the extraordinary doors God continues to open for RZIM to share His truth around the world. And we are incredibly grateful for your support and encouragement as you partner with us in this unique calling.