Editor's note: As the Russian aggression against Ukraine lasts for almost one year, Dmytro Mishkur, a Ukrainian Protestant preacher and teacher shared how the attack affected the Church there and what the Church did during the dangerous time in an exclusive interview with China Christian Daily. He highlighted that nothing is more valuable than brotherhood for the Body of Christ in times of difficulty, and unity is more needed when the worldly shaking becomes more violent.
China Christian Daily: Can you introduce yourself first?
Dmytro Mishkur: I'm Dmytro Mishkur, from Kyiv, Ukraine. I’m a preacher and also a teacher in evangelical churches of different Protestant movement denominations. My main task is to speak about the end times and Jesus’ second coming, and build a relationship between the Body of Christ and Israel itself.
China Christian Daily: What’s happening in Ukraine, and what effect does the Russian invasion have on the Church there?
Dmytro Mishkur: This is a full-size war, Russian aggression and invasion against Ukraine. It’s a difficult time for Ukraine because we are at war with one of the biggest armies. But praise God that our- Ukrainian army is doing an incredible job and taking back our land step by step. We have already returned back some key strategically important territories and cities in the south and north of Ukraine. And the most difficult fights are now in the east. First of all, it’s a spiritual war. Russia wants to destroy Ukraine as a nation, people, our language and culture, as well as the Church, because they want the complete dominance of the Russian Orthodox Church. We fight not only for our land and the existence of our nation but also for the freedom to believe as we want. If they occupied some territory, they would immediately close Ukrainian Orthodox and the Evangelical Protestant churches and keep kidnapping and arresting priests, pastors, believers who are influential and were very active volunteers.
China Christian Daily: How’s the Church doing there right now?
Dmytro Mishkur: At the start of the war, when the Russian army took over Melitopol, one of the strategically important cities, they took at least two influential pastors hostage, closed the churches, and made it illegal for Christians to meet. One of the two pastors was sent away immediately to leave his city; the other was arrested by the Russian security service and disappeared without any news of him for more than a week. But finally, he was released after a huge resonance and efforts took place. Not everybody was lucky. Some believers were killed and disappeared, and later their bodies were found in mass graves. It’s a reality that when Russia occupies some place in Ukraine, the Protestant and the Ukrainian orthodox churches in the vast majority will be closed or used as barracks to house their soldiers and weapons, they can fire from there, using as a shield, knowing that in response the Ukrainian army will not fire at religious buildings or temples.
China Christian Daily: You may not agree with the Russian Orthodox Church, but we hear that there are many Russian Protestants who publicly protest against aggression.
Dmytro Mishkur: Unfortunately, we don’t hear a lot of voices in Russia. Rather, they are the lonely voices of the brave, like the voices of those who scream in the desert. This is painful to us Ukrainian believers as a part of the Body of Christ. Jesus says that there will be wars “nation shall rise against nation” and country against country. But as born-again Christian believers we belong first of all to God’s Kingdom, and brotherhood should be the most valuable thing that exists for the Body of Christ.
When the war started in 2014, Crimea was occupied, then Donetsk, and Luhansk, there were a number of meetings on various platforms between the Evangelical, Protestant movements leaders from both countries, Ukrainian bishops with the bishops of Russian evangelical churches as well as in a broader format of denominations. We were not expecting political statements because they would face pressure from their government of Russia, but support. We wanted to hear from them: “We are with you! We are for you! Sorry for what our country does, but we, as brothers and sisters, are supporting you and standing with you!” But unfortunately, this is not what happened. The majority of the church in Russia supports their government in this war and aggression and keeps silent about the churches in Ukraine destroyed, believers killed, and women raped by their soldiers and mercenaries. It’s brought division between us.
China Christian Daily: Most Chinese Christians are not familiar with the Church in Ukraine; can you share a general picture of the Church there with us?
Dmytro Mishkur: The Ukrainian Orthodox Church is the majority, but many of those who identify themselves are nominal and secular. We have a strong Evangelical Protestant Church. There are over 10,000 Protestant movements churches uniting about 1.4 million Evangelical Christians only statistically, of which more than 3,000 Baptist churches with over 300,000 active believers, Pentecostal movement with about 3,000 churches, influential associations of charismatic churches and other evangelical denominations.The main unions have good connections inside, and we have several interchurch or interdenominational platforms to relate to each other, especially in relations with governing authorities and with society in general, as well as in matters of international relations. There is the Ukrainian Council of Churches and Religious Organizations that unites all mainstream Protestant and Evangelical, Orthodox, Greek and Roman Catholic Churches as well as Jews and Muslims in defending religious freedom.
Especially in the time of war, churches stood up to meet the needs of people. They are feeding people not only with the spiritual Bread of Life but natural as well. When food storage facilities and electrical infrastructure were destroyed during the aggression and missiles attacks, churches were feeding people for free, giving clothes and shelter to refugees, and even helping people charge their mobile phones. Because of that, many people in Ukraine are very open to God. Some people’s hearts are hardened because they lost loved ones, and they blame God for that, but many people, in times of danger, prayed to God and were open to the gospel. There are Christians of different denominations who are at the front, or perform various tasks in the army. There are many priests, pastors, ministers serving in various combat units and branches of the military as military chaplains,assisting, preaching and praying for our soldiers on the front lines, as well as civilians in hot war zones.
China Christian Daily: What kind of help do you expect from the global Church?
Dmytro Mishkur: First of all, we appreciate prayers because it is a spiritual battle. Right from the beginning, we saw many believers stand up with strong prayers, fighting in the spiritual war. Many territories were preserved. We believe it was God’s miracle that answered our prayers. I ask you to pray for our victory in this battle in this war; otherwise, there will be no more independent state and nation of Ukraine and will be massive persecution on the Church in Ukraine.
Send any assistance if you want to respond practically. It’s like everything is valuable, starting with food and clothes. During the winter, generators can provide warmth to people and maintain electricity. We may need your moral support even more. Just say: “We are with you! We are standing with you! We are praying with you! We believe you will win this battle."
China Christian Daily: Do you have any words for the Church and Christians in China?
Dmytro Mishkur: We are rapidly entering the events of the last days. This aggression is not only related to Christians who suffer in the nation of Ukraine; it’s also about Jewish people because the Scripture writes prophetically that God will gather Jews from everywhere, from all ends of the earth, but first, especially significant from the "land of the north”, which means the former “Soviet Union” territory to me. As a result of this aggression, many Jews were driven out of Ukraine and now Russia. This sign indicates that this historical period of mankind is coming to an end, the “birth pains” of the coming Kingdom of Christ on Earth have been already starting and Lord Jesus Christ will lift up His Bride-Church from the earth on clouds of Glory to meet Himself and return to rule very soon.
Everyone will live by his own faith! In such times of wars, persecutions, cataclysms and upheavals there are no collective decisions and generalized manuals answering all questions. For those who are led by the Spirit of God are the children of God! This is what we experience in big and small things, spiritual and practical. Our ability and skills to hear and understand the Holy Spirit in our heart and mind, and even in external signs, will determine destinies. If we can obey Him, it even seems to be in "strange" instructions, it will save us from many troubles. We need to keep our lives holy. We are not perfect, but we are walking with Jesus closer day by day and fulfilling His will for our lives. This is the safest place for us to be, right in the middle of His perfect will for our lives. You can be right in the middle of a fire, but if it is the place where God wants you to be, He will protect and take care of you, and you will be a blessing to others. The amplitude of shaking in this world will be more and more intense as more frequent and accelerating “labor pains”.So different parts of the Body of Christ should draw closer to each other. Nothing is more valuable than brotherhood!
On the other side, be connected with Jesus. Not merely nominally; do not claim, "I've been a believer for many years." It needs daily relationships. These are simple things, but that's what saves lives now.