On Thursday morning, 24 February, everything changed for many Ukrainians as the reality of war reached their front door. One Ukrainian Baptist leader who is leading Baptist humanitarian responses recalls his harrowing experience of fleeing the Russian advance.
His family lives just a few kilometres from a nearby airfield northwest of Kyiv. They expected the conflict to stay near the airfield, but after his wife and son ran inside their house when an enemy aircraft swooped close to the home, he realised that they needed to leave quickly.
Grabbing what they could, he piled his family into the car and began their long journey westward. At one point in a traffic jam, armed troops walked alongside cars and it was not clear whether they were friend or enemy. They were local troops who then quickly swept past them toward the fight in Kyiv.
Roads were jammed with thousands of others fleeing. Petrol stations limited the amount people could buy and others were already sold out. After hours of waiting and driving, they arrived at a local Baptist church at 5 a.m. where they could shelter for some time. Baptist churches across Ukraine have been transformed into centres of refuge and act as stopover places for those fleeing the active conflict zones.
After only a few hours of sleep, the family prayed together and then continued on their journey. They waited hours at a checkpoint to finally enter into the region of Transcarpathia near the border with Hungary. After 30 hours of journeying westward across the country, they made it to a place of temporary safety with friends.
After reaching safety, he immediately began to think about responding to the humanitarian crisis that he was a part of. He reached out to friends, family, and other church leaders from around the country to begin organising a response to the volatile and desperate situation.
The senseless violence and conquest are difficult for many to process as they flee for their lives. Many do not know how to communicate what is going on to their children who are scared by the events and by seeing their adult loved ones in states of panic. The days and weeks ahead will be extremely challenging.
Yet, the Baptist brother prayed, "May the Lord keep us all! Especially those who are now on the front lines, people on the battlefield and those who are stuck on the way! Have mercy Lord! We don't stop praying!"
Even as Ukrainian Baptists are fleeing for safety themselves, they are diligently working to have a coordinated response to the war. From hosting those fleeing in churches to procuring and distributing food and hygiene items, Baptists in Ukraine need your prayers and your help.
Prayer requests from Ukraine:
Pray that the war will be stopped.
Pray for God’s comfort for those who have lost family and their homes.
Pray that Ukrainian Baptists are able to help those who are running from the war, particularly as it is still winter.