MP in Eastern Ukraine
Background of the Eastern Ukraine Conflict
The separatist-controlled area of eastern Ukraine is quite small when contrasted with the rest of the country. Though it is a small geographic area (see map), they have divided into two separate self-proclaimed “people’s republics.” For some reason, the Luhansk People’s Republic (LPR) did not get along with the Donetsk People’s Republic. (DPR) Geographically they both border Russia, they both declare an allegiance to Russia, Russian is the primary language spoken, and they both desire separation from Ukraine. Finally in May 2014 the two self-proclaimed republics agreed to a merger but with separate local leadership.
Along with the Crimea People’s Republic, the Ukrainian government describes these break-away regions as the “temporarily occupied territories.” Without the military assistance of Russia, these territories would not be “occupied” today. Thus, Ukraine considers the country of Russia and the government of Vladimir Putin an aggressor nation.
1.4 Million Refugees and Internally Displaced Persons
The conflict has resulted in over one million refugees and IDPs. A majority of the refugees have fled into safer regions of Ukraine seeking shelter and aid. Churches throughout Ukraine are on the frontlines providing assistance to these refugees and IDPs.
Mercy Projects is assisting refugees living in a school outside Kramatorsk. I met pastor Sergei at this school and he shared his story of helping people from his church escape the fighting. From Donetsk, he now lives with his wife and kids outside Donetsk in the Ukrainian area. Pastor Sergei arranged our visit to prisons in eastern Ukraine and he coordinated our ministry to soldiers on the front lines.
Videos from Eastern Ukraine
Mission to Eastern Ukraine
I was joined on this mission to eastern Ukraine by my friend pastor Eric Irwin from Calvary Chapel Franklin, TN, his son Andy from CC Chattanooga, and a Afghanistan and Iraq war veteran Kolby K. also from Franklin.
A ceasefire was in effect when we jumped on the 6 am train in Kyiv to begin an uncertain journey to this war torn area. Joined Yuri from our Kyiv office, the five of us met up with pastor Sergei after the six hour train ride to Kramatorsk. Our plans included visits to three different prisons, the last a women’s in Mariupol on the Azov Sea. Pastor Sergei obtained permission for us as foreigners to visit and preach the gospel.
During this trip, we preached in prisons, went to the frontline and prayed with groups of Ukrainian soldiers and delivered medical supplies. We gave supplies to medics including badly needed tourniquets and a generator for forward-based troops. Pastor Eric’s church helped purchase a village house for future use as a rehabilitation home for released prisoners.
The highlight of our trip was when 16 women prisoners in the Mariupol prison came forward to give their lives to Christ! Local Ukrainian missionaries conduct bible studies there and will provide the follow up ministry. Our van broke down on the long road back from Mariupol and we had to push it many times during the night. We finally arrived cold and tired at 3am to our dorm room.
It is a privilege to labor together for the Lord with our Ukrainian brothers. No sacrifice is to great for them as they tirelessly serve the Lord with little financial resources. Our prayer continues that God will use this conflict to open the hearts of the Ukrainian people.
I believe that this conflict will remain unresolved. Today, fighting has largely ceased though both sides remain on high alert and weapons are fired daily. As soon as the Russian government announced they were engaged in Syria, the military activity in eastern Ukraine massively declined. At the time of this writing, soldiers continue to die in Ukraine on a weekly basis though this is not reported in our news. Russia’s actions both in Ukraine and Syria seem to take place without consequences from western nations or NATO. The country of Ukraine, however, suffers daily from the conflict and the resulting occupation of their territory.
Mercy Projects remains engaged in sharing the gospel, assisting the poor, and working with local believers to share the love of Christ.
Our Ukraine office receives regular requests to assist needy war-affected families. A fragile ceasefire is in place, however, pleas for help continue.
Give towards Mercy Projects Ministry in Ukraine