In Ukraine, 65% are Orthodox, 16% do not believe, and only 7% declare themselves as Christian for the population of 42 million. Communism fell two decades ago, but its effects are still deeply felt. Leadership training is probably the primary church need in Ukraine. Twenty years of sustained growth created thousands of new congregations requiring leadership formation. Cults remain a serious issue. From Jehovah’s Witnesses to Hare Krishna to indigenous pagan groups such as RUNVira and the Perunists, churches must realize there are other groups at work in Ukraine. In 2010, the Mormons dedicated their first full temple in the former Soviet Union. Pray for the seminaries whose goal is to promote greater discernment among Christians and encourage outreach to cult followers.
The World Bank classifies Ukraine as a middle-income state. Significant issues include underdeveloped infrastructure and transportation, corruption and bureaucracy. According to the Corruption Perceptions Index, Ukraine is still the most corrupt country in Europe being ranked 142nd out of 175 countries. Children are at greatest risk in the Ukraine. There are over 100,000 children living in orphanages and many others in precarious living situations. The majority of orphans will become involved in drugs, crime or prostitution unless they can be lovingly reached by Christians.
World Link Ministries has partnered with Kiev Theological Seminary. They provide excellent theological training and we give a stipend to graduates to focus on church planting. 25 graduates a year participate with us for two years and then roll off.
We have seen 1,000 church plants launched through 300 church planters in the past 15 years. Those churches have since multiplied themselves into 3,000 churches throughout Ukraine.
We have included a letter from one of our church-planters in Ukraine:
During my study in the seminary God placed the desire in my heart to plant a new church. At first it was rather hard to imagine because I was a youth leader in my church, so I was already quite busy, and it seemed unrealistic for me to go somewhere else for the sake of a new church. I continued to pray that God would either take away that desire if it was not from Him or that He would strengthen my heart and show me where to plant a new church and who would be on the team. Gradually, God began to answer, and to sled me where I did not want to go, and he brought the people to me whom I could not possibly think of doing ministry with. In an amazing way, God has brought those different people from different places of Ukraine, and now we all have moved to Uzhgorod City to work as one team, for the sake of many to share salvation, especially with young people.
We realized that planting a church in a new places is an incredibly hard work. Laying foundations, building relationships, exploring the city. This are the things we left behind in our previous city. This are the things we left behind in our previous cities where we had lived and now that we were in Uzhgorod, we had to start from the beginning. That's what we did and we have continued on till now.
Through this year of ministry in Uzhgorod, God has revealed so much to us! He was teaching and humbling us. We realized the complexity of the work for church planting, but we found not imagine how much difficult it would be. The most valuable understanding we have gained was about the importance of reliance upon God and dependence on Him. We had know that everything depends on God, yet in fact we relied upon our expertise. And it was amazing to watch God not helping us in what we were doing but using us in His plans! No one except God can do anything big, yet for this He needs submissive people.
Having analyzed the situation in Uzhgorod, we noticed that there actually was no church working with non-believing youth. It was an unoccupied niche, and we decided to fill it, and so all of our projects came from the needs of that target audience. In a year and a half of ministry in Uzhgorod, we had carried out several camps, and several evangelistic events in the center of the city. Also we taught in educational institutions about healthy life; several times we were invited to appear on television. We have understood this: you cannot talk to young people unless you use appropriate methods of conveying the Word of God. When missionaries go to some country share about Christ, they do not speak their native language but that of the local people to whom they address. That is why we decided to translate the gospel into the language that is common for youth–the language of hip-hop, sports, and the culture of the 21st century. We organized break dance festivals, hip-hop parties, pickup basketball games downtown, soccer tournaments and so forth. For some people, such actions were not their attitude of God. And we try to say that God wants to be in every aspect of their lives. On cannot lock God in a church sanctuary, and keep Him away from one's daily life and from one's music or hobby because he wants to be right there!
God gives the answer: professional dancers, artists, street youth, and students–different types of young people turn to Him in repentance. I can remember the story of a guy named Norbiah who heard about the camp we organized, and he wanted very much to go to the camp but he was scared at the idea that we might offer him as a sacrifice (this is a misconception some people have of the protestant church in Ukraine). At last he voluntarily gave his life to Christ. Praise be to the Lord! He is at work!
Now we have regular weekly meetings and small groups at homes; we are preparing the first group for baptism. We have been going through countless difficulties but we are not going to stop. We want to fulfill the Great Commission of Jesus Christ and "to rescue those being led away to death; those staggering toward the slaughter." (Prov. 24:11)