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How can you have peace in hard times?

By | persecution, Personal Life | No Comments

“I have said these things to you, that in Me you may have peace.
In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.”
(John 16:33)

Tornadoes, like the one that came through our neighborhood earlier this year, can cause major destruction in a matter of minutes. How do you find peace when the tornadoes of life come?  (Photo cred: Katey Hearth)

Tornadoes, like the one that came through our neighborhood earlier this year, can cause major destruction in a matter of minutes. How do you find peace when the tornadoes of life come?
(Photo cred: Katey Hearth)

Jesus spoke these words to His disciples in one of their last meetings together. In the hours that followed, Jesus would be severely beaten, mocked, humiliated and ultimately hung to suffer on a Roman crucifix. The disciples’ world was quickly turned upside-down and sideways, simply because they followed a humble carpenter from Galilee.

The same is happening today to hundreds of thousands of Christians around the world.

The list goes on and on; persecution of Christians is taking place on a worldwide basis. Check out this list our friends at Open Doors USA put together. It’s called the “World Watch List”, and it shows you which countries have the most violence against Christians.

Peace may seem hard to find in this chaotic and often-violent world. When peace is elusive, at least in my case, anxiety is quick to set in. When situations and circumstances spiral out of control, my knee-jerk response is to worry and fret.

“In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.”

These simple statements a two-fold promise: you will face trials, but you will also overcome them. We often don’t know how the Lord will help us get through a hardship, or when we will see Him act. But, the end result is promised: we will overcome.

When you know how a story ends, it often provides peace to “ride out the storm” and endure whatever challenges come your way. Please join me today in praying for peace and endurance for our persecuted brothers and sisters in Christ around the world.

How do you find peace in the middle of life’s storms? Let me know in the Comments section! 

Weekend Prayer Alert: Ukraine

By | urgent prayer needs | No Comments

Dear Ministry Friends and Supporters,

With Ukrainian presidential elections scheduled for this Sunday, May 25, violence has sharply escalated in the eastern part of the country, renewing fears that Ukraine is on the verge of civil war. On Thursday, a total of 14 Ukrainian troops were killed and 32 were injured in two separate attacks in the cities of Donetsk and Luhansk.

Sadly, Christians have also become targets of the violence. Today, armed separatists attacked a prayer tent in Donetsk, ripping the tent apart and issuing this threat to those who were praying: “If any Christians come back here tonight to pray, they will all be shot.” Specific threats have also been made against pastors in the cities of Pervomaisk, Lisichansk, Slavyansk and Bryanka, who had to flee the region with their families.

Many speculate that this escalation in violence is an attempt by pro-Russian separatist forces to derail the imminent presidential elections by further destabilizing the situation in the eastern part of the country.

The following is a firsthand account from one of our School Without Walls coordinators that describes the situation in eastern Ukraine as well as how these young Next Generation leaders trained by Russian Ministries are reaching out with the gospel:

“I live in Dimitrov in the Donetsk Region of Ukraine. I love my country and believe that, as a Christian, I must do everything possible to help it flourish and to spread God’s Kingdom. My roots are also from Russia and I can’t help but love the Russian people. I pray and care for Russia and want Christ’s light to reach all corners of that enormous country.

“In Dimitrov and Krasnoarmeisk three weeks ago things were already starting to stir. Government buildings and police stations were seized. They raised a flag of the so-called Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR) above the mayor’s building. Many people with criminal backgrounds have gotten behind the DPR. For some people war is a tragedy, while it puts others in their element. People are scared, and are buying up all of the sugar and flour, in case of war. Most people keep their money in Privat Bank, but the DPR members are robbing Privat Bank’s cash in transit vehicles, so the bank shut down for a while. It has started working again, but they will only issue limited amounts of cash. People are panicking.

“On a positive note, people are more open to the gospel. In churches we are praying a lot. We have had night-long prayer meetings. We ask God to have mercy on our country, not to allow war, and to save many people in our town. Praise God, the Ukrainian army has set up posts around our town. We collected money and took them some basic necessities – razors, soap, socks, water. We also distributed Scriptures. We prayed for them, for God to protect them.

“I recently attended a meeting of pastors of Baptist and Pentecostal churches of our town. Everyone said that they are also praying for Ukraine and hope for peace.

“It is sad that the DPR has announced that they are against all churches other than the Russian Orthodox Church. It is sad that this resonates with a large portion of the population. But for us it is a signal that we have work to do here, that the harvest is ripe, but the workers are few.”

Russian Ministries has been responding to this situation by organizing prayer meetings, providing emergency aid and distributing Scripture throughout the country.

This Sunday also marks the observance of Refugee Sunday. While major Western news outlets are not reporting on this problem, there are now as many as 20,000 refugees fleeing Crimea and the eastern part of Ukraine. Russian Ministries is caring for these refugees by providing food, clothing, temporary housing and the Gospel of Luke through its Emergency Fund.

In light of the growing violence and refugee crisis in Ukraine, Russian Ministries urges the global Christian community to pray that the violence would cease and that the upcoming presidential elections in Ukraine would take place without interference or disruption. Please also consider a generous gift to our Emergency Fund by visiting our website at: www.russian-ministries.org, clicking on the Donate tab, and selecting Emergency Fund from the dropdown menu.

Thank you for your prayers and support during this critical time that may determine the future direction of Ukraine.

Prayerfully,
Sergey Rakhuba
President

Russian commentary no empathy, no truth

By | trends | No Comments

Mission Network News has learned that there is a growing conflict between Russian evangelical Christians and Ukrainian evangelical Christians. The accusations between the two sides are astounding. 

On March 9, Dr. William Yoder (no relationship to me, that I know of) wrote an article and commentary about the schism between the two. Unfortunately, he sided with the Russian pro-Putin church. 

I’ve decided to give equal time to Ukrainian evangelical church who are in the cross-hairs of Yoder. Here is the response to Yoder’s accusations. 

Ukrainian Christians believe some Russian Christians are aligning themselves with pro-Putin radicals in Russia. Russian Christians are accusing Ukrainian Christians be being ultra-nationalist revolutionaries. Dr. William Yoder, representing the interests of the Russian Baptist Union, came to the defense of Russian policy regarding Ukraine.

In his mailing on March 18th, 2014 he criticized the Ukrainian Maidan protesters and their defenders for not being democratic enough, and not waiting for the next elections, but instead seizing power and provoking the secession of the Crimea.

Additionally, Yoder compares Ukraine’s claims to the Crimea to a former spouse, who was never actually legally married, but after splitting up claims a right to the other’s belongings. Crimea was given away by Khruschev illegally in 1954, therefore no one owes Ukraine anything.

 

Justifying Russia’s aggression towards Ukraine, Yoder criticizes Ukrainian church leaders who have come to the defense of the territorial integrity and sovereignty of their country. He corrects of the vice president of the Ukrainian Baptist Union, Valery Antonyuk, and states that Kiev Protestants have no right to talk about their country’s integrity because the eastern part of the country wants to be part of Russia.

 

He also commented on the “illegal” interim government of Ukraine and acting president Oleksandr Turchynov, a Baptist, who is supposedly hurting the reputation of Baptists in Russia. William Yoder defends Yanukovych’s regime from accusations of cruelty by saying, “Was Yanukovich’s administration more despicable than Cambodia’s Khmer Rouge?” It seems that all regimes any less despicable than the Khmer Rouge must be acknowledged as fully democratic.

 

But the height of cynicism from Yoder’s side was his criticism of a Christian organization for supporting the family of Alexander Khropachenko, who was killed by a sniper on the Maidan. Yoder believes that this is evidence of one-sided sympathies. Yoder suggests equal assistance for the families of police who lost their lives (who killed over 100 Maidan activists and injured hundreds more), in order to show a non-partisan and peacemaking front. And because some of the ministry’s leaders took a clear stand on the side of the unarmed protesters instead of the armed killers, Yoder accused them of criticism of Russia and anti-Russian viewpoints. However there is a distinction between disagreement between Russia’s policy, which is natural for the civilized world, and truly unacceptable Russophobia.

 

The commentary of Dr. William Yoder is a mix of naïve faith in the authority of Russia, loyalty to his employers, and lack of understanding in the sphere of politics, history, and culture. You cannot talk about peacemaking while avoiding the truth and failing to distinguish between the aggressor and the victim, right and wrong. Peace can only be achieved after truth – acknowledgement of and repentance from crimes committed. Therefore the comments of William Yoder should have begun with an acknowledgement of the obvious fact of Russian intervention, without which everything written is a manipulation of facts. But what is even more noticeable and sad is his lack of empathy and sympathy for the tragic events in Ukraine. It is a bad sign – without empathy you cannot hope to come to the truth, let alone achieve peace.

 

M. Kuznetsov

Ukraine In Crisis

By | missions, MNN, news, special reports | No Comments

Ukraine (MNN) — I have been watching with dismay the situation in Ukraine. The ouster of the government, now the Russian troops that have invaded Crimea, and now an illegal referendum vote, have left the region in chaos. This is Ukraine in crisis.

(Image courtesy Sergey Rakhuba via Facebook)

(Image courtesy Sergey Rakhuba via Facebook)

It reminds me a little of the Cold War days when the Soviet Union would do things that were only in their interests, not the interests of the people. This situation, though, could have serious repercussions for the world both politically and spiritually. How?

Let’s talk about the political side first. Ukraine is wrestling with a new government that has basically divided the country. The pro-Ukrainian side appears to outnumber the pro-Russia side. Unfortunately that divide could  cause the country to lose a portion of a treasured region, Crimea. This pro-Russian mindset may be the spark of sussession. Ukraine is mobilizing troops to try and defend its sovereignty, but they don’t stand a chance.

That leads to other questions. If Ukraine attempts to defend itself, will it ask for help from the United States and he European Union? If those nations respond, will China get involved? If the United States assists Ukraine, what will that mean for the future of USA/Russian relations?

If the United States and the EU are asked to help and they don’t, what kind of message are we sending to the rest of the world? Is it a sign of weakness? Is is a sign of disinterest? Will Ukraine ultimately fall into Russian hands, creating another Soviet-like state? If the U.S. doesn’t respond, will this be the end of U.S. Influence in the region? Will Russia continue it’s invasion into Ukraine, eventually taking over the entire country?

On the spiritual side, the crisis in Ukraine is creating an uncertainty that this generation in Ukraine hasn’t seen before. Openness to the Gospel has never been better. Russia has a similar openness, which I witnessed while I was in Russia this past week.

Will the strained relations between Russia and the U.S. prevent American Christians from being able to go to Russia to help people understand the Gospel? Will short-term mission trips to socially needy parts of the country end?

These are all questions that have no answers, yet. Because there are so many questions we MUST pray. Don’t just pray for the country, pray specifically for the following:
1. Pray that Russia will leave Crimea and that peace would be restored to a sovereign nation.
2. Pray the newly appointed Ukrainian government will be given wisdom from God to be able to handle this difficult situation.
3. Pray that God would use this uncertainty to help Christians share the certainty that can only come though the Gospel.
4. Pray that the EU and the USA would be used by God to help the situation end it peace.
5. Pray each nation’s leadership would be given divine inspiration on what they should do.
6. Pray that God would use this crisis to lead entire cities and communities to Christ.
7. Pray that planned ministries would be allowed to move forward despite the uncertainty.
While these are the requests of men, pray that these requests are also the desires of our Might And Holy God.

Mission Network News will continue to cover the unfolding situation in Ukraine, including the Crimean Penninsula.