“Sorry I’m late!” Anatoliy Raychynets begins. He explains how an overnight air attack hindered him and many around Kyiv, Ukraine, from using electricity. This seems like a reasonable excuse!
After a few minutes, an alarm blares and Anatoliy holds his computer out the window for me to hear the air sirens and watch the citizens walking to bomb shelters.
“It’s an everyday thing,” he explains. “That’s why people are tired.”
As Deputy General Secretary of the Ukrainian Bible Society, Anatoliy has been providing support and Bibles to churches, pastors, soldiers and residents since Ukraine was invaded in February 2022. He gives the following update for Eternity readers.
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What is daily life like at the moment?
Right now, it is 9am, so school begins. When you have a siren, you need to take your kids back home, or they’ll be in a basement for several hours. So you never know how a day will look. Up and down all the time, changing plans. We are learning to live in a totally different reality.
What help do you need most?
First of all, we need more Bibles. Since the war started, we have distributed more than half a million Bibles. It’s a very big opportunity and, at the same time, a challenge to have enough Bibles for several hundred thousand soldiers. It’s amazing how they are open to receiving Bibles. We also have millions of displaced people just in West Ukraine. You meet people who say, “I’ve never read a Bible; I know nothing about the Bible.” And they would like a copy. So we have a big Bible distribution this year and in the coming months, we are printing more. This is our number one need: more Bibles.
What is it like being with the soldiers?
It’s very hard, to be honest. We have been working as chaplains at the hospital where ambulances first take soldiers from the battlefields. It’s hard to see so many ends of lives – the last minutes, when they’re asking, “Can you lead me in prayer? Can you read the Bible for me?”
It’s very precious to do this work, to be with them, to see how the Bible becomes alive for people and how they meet God. But it’s also very difficult because this is a human being’s life. They have children, a wife, parents – beloved people who are waiting and praying for them. So that is the heavy part of this ministry.
Where have you found hope in that heaviness?
Last week I called a chaplain before departure from Kyiv and asked him, “Dear pastor, what do you need most?”
He said, “Bring us hope.”
I said, “We have 3500 books full of hope.”
I also can tell you story by story how many miracles we, Christians and non-believers, experience, because people see that “only God could save my life in that situation.” Something special has happened with Ukraine. We are going through “death valley” as a nation, but at the same time we see that God is very close to us (Psalm 23:4).
Where in the Bible have you found comfort?
I am reading and rereading the first three or four verses of the gospel of John, where we read that light came into the darkness and darkness never again had victory over the light. We know who is the light, who brings light and who can also make us lights in this dark world. In this horrible war, I am saying to the soldiers and to people I meet to distribute Bibles, “There is so much need for more light, and everybody who is connected to God can be a provider of his light in this dark world.” For wartime, this is a great encouragement that I am reading and reading again.
What is your hope for Ukraine?
In Ukraine, we see the development of the situation and we realise that only God’s miracle can stop the war. On a diplomatic level, it’s almost impossible. So we pray and hope that God somehow will end this war. Many people are hurt, with lost family members. So we have a huge work to do in trauma healing and Bible distribution.
But I think our nation will be very different from before the war. I think churches will be closer to God. Many new people will find, and are already finding, God as the source of life.
Then we will share God’s miracle with the rest of the world. We will bring back God’s glory to people who have been praying, to tell them the stories, to tell them that prayers matter – that your prayers have been encouraging us, bringing hope to us and now we want to bring joy and thanks back. You are helping us from Australia, from New Zealand, from the United States, and this is our common ministry: to bring the living light from the living God to people.