Ukraine was once the breadbasket of the Soviet Union, but after 1991, it struggled to develop economically due to government corruption. In 2004, the peaceful “Orange Revolution” forced new elections; however, a failure to enact change led to the protests on Maidan in late 2013 and early 2014. Presidential elections took place in May 2014 in the midst of ongoing violence, which continues to plague eastern Ukraine, and has left more than 3 million people in need of humanitarian assistance. The hurting people of this nation will have a long and difficult road to economic recovery, emotional healing, and reconciliation with Russia.
Despite these tensions, Ukraine remains one of the former Soviet Union’s most religiously free nations. The Orthodox Church is the most prominent, but the evangelical church is seeing steady growth and Ukrainian churches have sent hundreds of missionaries to nearby Russia and Central Asia. While Western missionaries are under increasing scrutiny in these nations, Ukrainian missionaries can share the gospel and plant new churches. Despite this religious freedom, Christians who are serving in the war zone in eastern Ukraine are suffering harsh persecution at the hands of pro-Russian separatists.
Ukraine is the birthplace of School Without Walls (SWW) and remains our largest, most diverse program. A wide variety of our other ministry efforts, like publishing and youth conferences, are also thriving. It is vital that we take advantage of religious freedom in Ukraine so we can train and equip as many young Next Generation leaders as possible. These young leaders can then bring peace, healing, and reconciliation to their own nation, as well as reach out to the rest of the former Soviet Union.
- Please pray for an end to the ongoing conflict in Ukraine so that those who are hurting can start to heal and rebuild their nation.
- Please pray for ongoing church planting and increased spiritual maturity within the Ukrainian church so that Ukrainian Christians would be united in order to bring peace and reconciliation to their neighbors.
- Please pray for SWW students and graduates to become the leaders their nation needs, and that God would provide the funds for Scriptures, training materials, and other resources needed for leadership development and evangelism. Please also pray for continued openness to God’s Word.
- Please pray for healing and reconciliation between Russian and Ukrainian churches, which have been divided by the ongoing conflict, so that they can work together to care for those in need and serve as examples for their nation’s leaders.
Svetlana, who is 17 years old, is in her second year at SWW in Berdyansk, Ukraine. She used to live in Torez, a village in the Donetsk region, where she led a quiet and stable life—but the war changed everything. When Malaysian Airlines Flight MH17 was shot down on July 17, 2014, Svetlana and her friends were some of the first to arrive on the scene. As the violence in the region grew worse, Svetlana, along with her mother and adoptive brother and sister, decided to move further south.
After arriving in Berdyansk, Svetlana’s family met SWW students and graduates, and Svetlana decided to start attending the program so she could serve others, especially refugees from the war zone. Even as a freshman, she participated in several different ministry projects, and now she feels called to share the gospel by distributing Bibles to people on the front lines of the ongoing conflict.
“For me, it is very important to do whatever I can for others,” Svetlana shares. “I realize that I am meant to use my life to serve others, so I want to use my future profession to establish a foundation for service. Mostly, I want to change the lives of people around me by serving them. Our team spends a lot of time together, and almost every evening we participate in different ministry projects. I’m so glad to be a part of this team, which allows me to serve my Savior.”