Ukrainian pastors remain at their post: I feel that my people need me here


Eastern Europe

Church editorial desk, RD

People stand in line in front of a supermarket while smoke billows over the town of Vasylkiv just outside Kyiv. Photo AFP, Dimitar Dilkoff

Many churches in Ukrainian cities opened their doors for people seeking refuge amid the devastating war. Rev. Ivan Bespalov, minister of the Evangelical-Presbyterian congregation in Kyiv, decided not to leave the capital. “I feel that my people need me here.”

Already three days, he and his family are witnessing heavy bomb explosions, “not too far away from our apartment”, Rev. Bespalov wrote in an e-mail on Saturday. “Big cities in our countries have been attacked. As family and congregation, we have decided to stay. Because I, as a minister, will not use weapons. I think our congregation and we have a responsibility in these tumultuous times. We will try to help the people who did not flee from Kyiv. We will give shelter to people who need a residence and encourage those afraid. By doing this, we share our hope in Christ and His Kingdom.”

In addition, the pastor writes, “I feel that my people need me here. We have many elderly people and families with little children in our congregation. They have not been able to evacuate. Today I spent much time on the phone to encourage people who are afraid and ensure they have a safe place to say. Pray to God that our mobile phones will continue to work!”

“At the moment of writing this e-mail – late Saturday afternoon – it is quiet”, the pastor continues. “But it is a heavy silence. We heard that the Russian troops are preparing to take Kyiv tonight or tomorrow through a heavy attack.”

Rev. Bespalov, whose congregation is part of the Evangelical-Presbyterian Church of Ukraine, thanks the readers of his e-mail for their prayers and requests them to continue with them. “Ask our Heavenly Father to end this aggression, to save the lives of our soldiers. May the Russian troops return to their country.”


Also, Rev. Dimitri Zigankov, pastor of a congregation in the East-Ukrainian city Krasnopillya, says he stays at his post. He wrote that in an e-mail to the Dutch organisation Stichting Mir Wam, which has been helping Ukrainians with practical help for years.

“With men, this is impossible, but with God all things are possible”, Rev. Zigankov begins his letter. Next, he describes the events that took place on Thursday and Friday. “On February 24, we woke up at 5.00 a.m. because of the terrible explosions that came from the Russian border. My family knows these sounds because we also heard them in 2014 when we lived in Donbas. And now, a war started again. The children woke up and gathered in the master bedroom. We started to pray to God. Only the sense of the presence of God gave peace. The feeling of bewilderment did not leave us that day. Is this not just a nightmare?”

The pastor describes the course of the Friday. “Tanks are driving over the roads. Alarms are wailing in the cities; fires are burning, buildings are collapsing, mothers and children are crying. And the people of God pray: Lord, have compassion on our children, have compassion on the children of other people, have compassion on those who attack and those who defend themselves – they too are someone’s children. Lord, send peace! My family gathered together, and we are at home. Everyone is vigilant; what should we do now? There are no shops in our village. All people work in towns nearby, but there is almost no food. There is no way to bring food either; there is a war very close by.”

“Lord, save!” Rev. Ziganov continues. “We do not know what tomorrow will bring, and how we will have to survive, how we can gather for the church service, how we can find and buy diapers for our children, where and for whom we have to buy food. We do not know anything, except that the almighty God never stops loving us. Lord, help us to continue to love Thee as well.”

Friday evening, the youth of the congregation came together. “They met online and talked about pressing questions: how they have to judge all information that they see online, whether it is good to do this under these circumstances, how to pray and for whom... The youth shared their experiences, thoughts and desires. This night some of them will have to prove their good intentions in practice because they will have to spend the night in an air-raid shelter because of the bombings and the artillery shellings. There will have to be evangelised; there will be good deeds... Lord, bless and save.”

“As I am writing down these lines, it is 1.39 a.m.”, Rev. Zigankov concludes his letter. “I dedicate myself and my family to the will of the Highest God for the coming days. And, therefore, I will cry to the God: Lord, let Thy Kingdom come.”

This article was translated by CNE.news and previously published by Dutch daily Reformatorisch Dagblad on February 26, 2022.



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