Frank Page, president of the Southern Baptist Convention's Executive Committee, and Vyacheslav Nesteruk, president of the Baptist Union of Ukraine, had "a wonderful conversation between brothers in the Lord," Roger S. Oldham, Executive Committee vice president for convention communications and relations, reported.
"In the conversation, Dr. Page expressed his prayer support and his intention to call on all Southern Baptists to pray for our Baptist brothers and sisters in Ukraine as they minister to a nation in crisis," Oldham noted.
Nesteruk specifically asked Southern Baptists to pray:
"1. That there would be no war in Ukraine, but peace," Oldham said.
"2. That there would be a sense of peace in the hearts of Ukrainian people, rather than a sense of unrest or anxiety.
"3. For the economic situation, as sanctions imposed by Russia have already begun making life difficult in Ukraine.
"4. Most of all, that people would be open to the Gospel and actively seek the Gospel during these troubled times."
An unidentified Baptist worker in Ukraine who facilitated the phone conversation stated that it is "indeed a special spiritual time" in Ukraine, Oldham related.
"Almost all of the Ukrainian Baptist churches have been joining in special prayer for the nation," the worker said. "In fact, many have begun gathering in their city squares, hundreds at a time, for a concentrated time of prayer in their locations. In one location over 100 men had begun gathering for prayer every morning at 7 a.m. in eastern Ukraine and he had heard of the same happening in western Ukraine."
The Baptist worker also stated that for the first time since the early '90s when restrictions against evangelism were eased that "people are again very open to a Gospel witness," Oldham noted.
He wanted Baptists here to know that these are days of spiritual receptivity in the Ukraine and specifically requested, "Pray for our Baptist brothers and sisters as they share the Gospel and minister to hurting people in this time of national crisis," Oldham added.
Page affirmed the need for the Gospel in our own nation. "I am praying that the people in the United States will also be open to a Gospel witness and that it will not take a crisis of this magnitude to bring us to our realization of our need for the Lord," he said.
Ukraine has been shaken in recent days by the loss of the Crimean peninsula to Russian control amid the threat of military conflict with Russia. The Crimean peninsula crisis followed weeks of widespread protests in Ukraine's capital, Kiev, and throughout the former Soviet satellite. The protests began Nov. 21 when former Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych backed away from a trade deal with the European Union in favor of accepting financial aid from Russia. The uprising led to Yanukovych's fall from power in late February and his replacement by Olesksandr Turchynov as interim president. Turchynov also is a Baptist lay preacher.
"The Bible says that there is, 'a time to tear and a time to mend, a time to be silent and a time to speak, a time to love and a time to hate, a time for war and a time for peace' (Ecc. 3:7-8). In accordance with these wise words, we declare today to be a time to mend, and not a time to tear the nation apart; a time to seek peace, and not a time to fan the flames of war; a time to learn to love yesterday's enemies, and not a time to continue to hate rivals and those who have hurt us."
Antonyuk's full statement was reported by Roger S. Oldham, Executive Committee vice president for convention communications and relations, in a Call to Prayer March 7 in Baptist Press.
Art Toalston is editor of Baptist Press. Get Baptist Press headlines and breaking news on Twitter (@BaptistPress), Facebook (Facebook.com/BaptistPress) and in your email (baptistpress.com/SubscribeBP.asp).
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