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Out of the Breadbasket

On a recent video call we heard from Maxym Oliferovski, Multiply’s national leader in Ukraine. He said, “This country was once the breadbasket of Europe. But we have suffered war after war, and the war in eastern Ukraine has gone on for six years! Cities there are in rubble, people lack food, fuel, clothing. If they make it home safely, they are still burdened with the sights and sounds of loss. It is like a pinch that won’t stop.” 

With COVID-19, aggression and anger has increased. “New Hope Center is now counselling exclusively online,” said Maxym. “There are more families in crisis than ever!” Then he paused. “It is a great opportunity.”

Maxym minister in the city of Zaporozhye, where an outpouring of the Holy Spirit first birthed the Mennonite Brethren movement over one hundred and fifty years ago. Out of the breadbasket of Ukraine came Living Bread. But less than one hundred years later, thousands of Anabaptist believers faced pressure from the Russian government to go to war and when they refused they had their land confiscated, were executed or deported to Siberia. Some managed to flee, clutching whatever crumbs they could in hopes of starting over.

Today, with remnants of that broken bread, the Church in Ukraine is rising up in a time of desperate need.

Ukrainian church planter Oleksiy Makaev then told what this looks like. “In the Scriptures we see crisis as a blessing. We must have that perspective also. War means we feed can soldiers, and point to the Prince of Peace. The threat of death from COVID-19 means that fearless youth jump into action! This is sometimes a disadvantage,” he admitted wryly, “but not now.”

“It was the youth that took our churches online,” added Maxym. “They volunteer to take food into the Crimea. They are working with Oleksiy to plant an urban church in Dnipro. And suddenly Ukrainian men are open to the Gospel! This has never happened before. It is usually only women!”

Maxym went on to describe how crisis has turned into blessing in Ukraine. “Our churches are more focused. Greater need has brought greater unity between churches. People see the Church caring, more than the government. They see that social services come and go; it is the Church that stays.” 

Pastors like Maxym and Oleksiy are seeing a surge of faith in a season of crisis, as fragments of Living Bread are multiplied in the former breadbasket of Europe.

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