Ukrainain Pentecostal Church members gather despite danger
Only twenty of the ninety members of the Pentecostal church in Kyiv remained behind. The rest of them scattered all over Europe. Pastor Serhiy Maneljok is one of the people that stayed. "We thank God that we are still alive."
For people in Ukraine, a new era started after February 24, the day Russia invaded their country, pastor Maneljok tells the Swedish daily Världen idag. He wonders what will happen after the Russian forces are gone from northern Ukraine.
At the beginning of the war, the Ukrainian pastor was busy preparing the church's basement. People who did not have a cellar could use the church as a shelter.
Young women and children need evacuation most urgently
More recently, Maneljok has been busy with evacuating members. "We judged early on that it was important to evacuate young women and children, given the reports of rapes and civilian killings", he says to Värlen idag. He knows that some of the members of his church fled southwards. About 50 travelled to Western Ukraine and about 20 to other European countries.
Maneljok's wife and youngest daughter are currently located in the United States. They travelled there to attend a wedding. More of Maneljok's children live in the USA.
Pastor escapes death
The suburb where the church is located and its neighbouring suburb where the pastor and his family live have survived relatively well, Världen idag reports. The Russians never occupied the neighbourhoods.
Yet, the suburbs are only about a mile and a half away from Irpin and Bucha. There, many dead civilians were found on the streets after the withdrawal of the Russians. The dean of Kyiv's Slavic Evangelical Seminary was among the victims. He was a former classmate of pastor Maneljok.
The pastor himself also had a scary experience. When he drove home from church, he suddenly heard explosions from artillery fire about 200 metres away from him. Maneljok: "I could see people lying down on the street. The next day, I read that four people were killed."
Despite the dangers, most adult members who stayed behind continue to meet for their daily prayer, just like they used to do before the war.
Maneljok tells Världen idag that he also sees a positive side to the war. For example, people feel a stronger connection to each other, pray more and have greater opportunities to serve others. Furthermore, as Christians, people tell him that they "become more eager to serve Jesus."
Help for the needy
Pentecostal churches in Ukraine have created a network to distribute goods that come in from abroad, Maneljok says. He works hard to provide the needy in the area with food, hygiene articles and medicines. The distribution occurs in cooperation with the local authorities who have address lists of people who really need help. According to the pastor, the local authorities asked the churches for support. "They know that we have contacts with the whole world and that our contacts are more effective than theirs."
Most of the members that stayed behind are older. Still, there is also a member who did not leave because he is a soldier of the Ukrainian army. In addition, two female members stayed behind to cook for the military during the day.
Will Putin be satisfied with Ukraine?
Maneljok is afraid that Russian president Vladimir Putin will not be satisfied with a victory over Ukraine. "He may very well continue to give himself over to the Baltic countries, Poland and perhaps even Sweden. In Ukraine, we say that appetite grows when people eat."
The Russian demon brought pain and destruction to Ukraine
Ukrainian pastor stays behind to help others