Ukraine (MNN) — Russia recently accelerated the process for Ukrainian citizens to gain Russian citizenship. The circulating question—why? After all, Russia is technically still at war with Eastern Ukraine. But Vice President of Ministry Operations for Slavic Gospel Association Eric Mock says the move makes sense.
“Since 2014, with the revolution that [Ukraine] had where they ousted [the] previous government and wanted to become more of an independent nation…the first response of Russia was to reclaim, in their words, to reclaim the Crimean Peninsula. Internationally, this has not been accepted as an acceptable move.”
Accelerating the process of offering new passports and identification to Ukrainians expedites aligning Ukrainians with Russia. There are pro-Russian factions in the Crimean Peninsula, some of which are supported by the Russian military. Military exchanges between the pro-Russian and pro-Ukrainian forces happen in Eastern Ukraine near a line of conflict known as the Minsk accord line.
Tensions in Ukraine
To this day, people in Eastern Ukraine continue to die from artillery fire on both sides of the conflict. Furthermore, the fighting which occurred between 2014 to 2016 decimated the infrastructure of this region. Combined with the separation of the Russian patriarchy from the Ukrainian patriarchy earlier this year, tensions are high in this area.
“There’s a little bit of conflict among the Russian Orthodox Church. There has been an increase in persecution of Protestant churches in what is known as this occupied area…. We are watching that and monitoring that to see if this persecution continues to grow,” Mock says.
However, SGA steers clear of politics. Instead, it supports local churches who are sharing the Gospel on both sides of the divide.
Responding With Aid
SGA is unique in its perspective. Rather than involving itself in the political chaos or choosing sides, the ministry is working with local churches to provide physical and spiritual aid to needy people in the area.
“Everything that we do…[like] Operation Winter Warmth where we’re bringing heaters and blankets and coal [and] wood for those that are suffering in this region — all these work together to build bridges [so] the Gospel may be presented,” Mock explains.
Recently, Mock met two widows from the region who lost their husbands during the winter. One man had died from the long-term effects of radiation following the Chernobyl disaster of 1986. Another woman lost her husband and son from the raging conflict.
These widows and other hurting people in the conflict zone live in extreme poverty. Here, it is not uncommon to live without water, natural gas, or electricity. Those living in these conditions cannot afford to leave, but they cannot afford to stay either.
Hope in Christ
Mock says we can feed the hungry, but there won’t be a profound difference without the hope of Christ. Despite a seven-kilometer walk, these women still choose to attend church and worship God. But it is here where the women experience the grace of God and His love.
“Ultimate peace is found in Jesus Christ. Ultimate peace will probably not be found on this side of Heaven, but most certainly on the other side when we are in glory…. Until this time, the greatest ambassadors of peace are those who bring the Gospel of Jesus Christ. We’re equipping these churches to do just that,” Mock says.
“Check out the various ministries of SGA to equip the local Church for ministry, and let the heartbreak of the many stories move your listeners to action.”
To financially partner with Slavic Gospel Association, click here.
But most importantly, pray for the churches SGA serves to boldly declare Christ. Pray for peace and hope despite circumstances for the people of Ukraine. Ask God to move in the hearts of individuals to give to SGA’s work and support national churches in reaching their own with the Gospel.
Header photo courtesy of Slavic Gospel Association.