War in E. Ukraine aids church planting in west

by Marc Ira Hooks, posted Monday, March 02, 2015 (3 years ago)
Tags: UkraineIMB

KIEV, Ukraine (BP) -- More than a year after the Euromaidan revolution on Kiev's Independence Square, thousands came to memorialize "The Heavenly Hundred" -- those who lost their lives during bloody protests in February 2014.

Much has changed in Ukraine during the past year. A new president is in office. War continues in the east between pro-Russian separatists and the Ukrainian Army despite a recently negotiated cease-fire agreement.

But not all news coming out of Ukraine is bad, International Mission Board workers report. At the same time prayer services were being held for the fallen at the central square (also known as Maidan Nezalezhnosti), a new church was being birthed across town as 16 people gathered for worship in a former beauty salon.

Pastor Oleg, who leads the new congregation, is a church planter from the Luhansk region who has been forced to flee his home, and his church, due to the war.

"This was not in my plan," Oleg said. "I had no desire to come to the big city. I was content to pastor my church and plant new churches in the Luhansk region. But, God had different plans."

Leaders of the church-planting program at the Kiev Theological Seminary say Baptist leaders in Ukraine recently began an emphasis to plant new churches in Kiev and other areas of the west. But they were short on church planters and did not know who would start and lead these new church plants.

IMB worker Dan Upchurch, who teaches church planting at the seminary, explained that many of their students came from Ukraine's east, which has seen the fastest percentage of church growth over the past 25 years.

Upchurch said that in recent months they have seen several of the church planting students move from their homes in the east so they could continue to plant churches in the central and western parts of the country.

When asked if he would ever return to his home church, a teary-eyed Pastor Oleg said he longed for the day he could return.

"But, in the meantime, I will plant churches," he said. "That is what God designed me to do."

* Name changed. Marc Ira Hooks is a producer for IMB based in Europe.
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