Baptist churches in war-torn Mariupol fuller than ever


Christian Life

William Immink, CNE.news

The Baptist church in Mariupol is fuller than ever. Photo Portal of Faith

The sound of bombs and gunshots has paused in Mariupol. But the spiritual need remains high. In fact, the number of churchgoers is higher than ever: “God has meant it for good.”

“There are no unbelievers in war”, an old saying goes. The phrase was often heard over the past couple of months in the east of Ukraine. The military conflict resulted in the ruins of hundreds, even thousands of apartments and buildings. The Baptists, too, have lost some of their buildings. Remarkably, even though many believers fled the region, the churches that are still standing are full.

In Mariupol, once a city with over half a million people, only 170,000 remain in the town today. The humanitarian situation is drastic: before the end of the year, another 10,000 inhabitants could die of sickness, disease and the lack of basic needs, the city council noted. That doesn’t hold back the city’s Baptists, who remain faithful to what the church needs to do.

Bishop Kadzayev. Photo Portal of Faith

Two of the four Baptist churches have been open since May. Two other church buildings are in ruins and being rebuilt. On Sundays, around 120 people gather in the Baptist church on Gondi-street in Mariupol, amongst whom many unbelievers. “Despite the military actions, God’s people grow in faith, and the hope of Christ is being strengthened”, the Baptist news portal from all over the former Soviet Union, Portal of Faith, said in a statement.

For the good

According to Pavel Merkulov, a presenter at “Portal of Faith”, there is another side of the war. “God has meant it for good” he cited the words of Joseph in Genesis: “All evil, cares, grief and human tragedies are not initiated by God. It is all the effect of the sinful heart of man. But the Lord is involved to turn this evil –for His people– into good.” Merkulov kept away from any political statements.

Baptist church building in Mariupol after the bombing. Photo Portal of Faith

Merkulov noted that churches in the war-torn places of Ukraine are “fuller than ever”. Under the “sound of cannonades”, there are lines in front of the churches on Sundays. “Even in the nineties, we didn’t see such numbers”. The people of Mariupol, who have been living in the “kingdom of death” for months, are going to Church in the hundreds. “That has never happened before”.


As for the Baptists in the Russian-controlled area, it does not mean an end to spreading the Gospel. Between the ruins of Mariupol, a group of young believers of the unregistered Baptists took to the central squares to evangelise. They sang spiritual songs with a guitar, microphone, and speaker.

That was in the first weeks after the fighting. When the local Baptists discovered that the spiritual need was larger than they could manage, they called for help from Russia. Baptist bishop Vadim Kadzayev came to Mariupol, Volnovakha and Khartsysk only weeks later to evangelise in cooperation with the “Resurrection Orchestra”.

Many people from the occupied city come to the Baptist community. Photo Portal of Faith

“The idea came when we heard about the many people attending churches in the Donbas, but we also heard that a lot of brothers and sisters had left the region”, Kadzayev tells in a vlog about the project: “Brothers told us that there is a dire need for God’s Word, but also just daily bread. They asked us to come with a big evangelising campaign.”

In the Donbas city of Volnovakha, an astounding 550 people gathered at the church. Still, because the building wasn’t big enough, the meeting had to be held outside (in the rain). “We held services under open skies, between apartment blocks still standing and on the central squares. We had to play outside in some church buildings because of the many people. Afterwards, we heard many testimonies of people that felt Someone took all our anxiety and fear” the ‘Resurrection Orchestra’ wrote afterwards: “People still have dire needs”.

And according to Mariupol Baptists, this need can only be provided for by Christ.



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