Baptists in Ukraine lost 400 local churches


Eastern Europe


Yaroslav Pyzh in the classroom. Photo Facebook

Since Russia invaded Ukraine on Feb. 24, Baptists in that country have lost some 400 of their approximately 2,300 local churches.

This was said by Yaroslav Pyzh, president of Ukraine’s Baptist Theological Seminary (UBTS) in Lviv, on Baptist Press.com.

In the interview, Pyzh says that his seminary is working with volunteers at six locations in Ukraine to help displaced people winterise their homes, including by repairing roofs and windows.

However, the Baptists’ most significant challenge, says Pyzh, is to “restore pastoral leadership in the war-affected areas.” Partly because pastors have sometimes left or died, hundreds of Baptist congregations have fallen apart or disappeared. “So the real work is not repairing walls, windows and doors, or rebuilding churches, but restoring leadership capacity. If you don’t have pastors to lead congregations, you’re not doing anything,” said Pyzh.

Prophet Nehemiah

Yaroslav Pyzh (45) grew up in, as he once put it, “the heyday of Soviet communism.” His parents were religious, but his faithful grandmother took him to church as a small child. After he came to faith as a teenager, he studied at Baptist schools in Kyiv and Moscow. As president of the seminary in Lviv, his great mission, he says, is to help others to follow Christ and to be like Him.

Yaroslav Pyzh. Photo Facebook

The challenge for Ukraine is similar to that of the prophet Nehemiah in the Old Testament. He says that the church’s current situation in Ukraine is comparable to Nehemiah’s time. “It’s not just about rebuilding the walls of Jerusalem. It’s about rebuilding the nation of Israel, about worshipping God again.”

“Our main task in the future, when the war will be over, is to close the gap left by the loss of leaders,” said Pyzh. “And unfortunately, the longer the war lasts, the bigger the hole is. The church is not a building. They are people who leave a certain place and move to the United States, Germany or other countries.”

At a time when fear and hopelessness reign, when everything has been bombed to the ground, and many have fled, churches, pastors and ordinary congregation members must bring new hope, says Pyzh. “They are the only ones who can do that in these circumstances.”



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