Home Christian News California Russian, Ukrainian Southern Baptists Pray, Grieve, Send Aid

California Russian, Ukrainian Southern Baptists Pray, Grieve, Send Aid

Ukrainian Southern Baptists
A woman holding a child cries after fleeing from the Ukraine and arriving at the border crossing in Medyka, Poland, Monday, March 7, 2022. Russia announced yet another cease-fire and a handful of humanitarian corridors to allow civilians to flee Ukraine. Previous such measures have fallen apart and Moscow’s armed forces continued to pummel some Ukrainian cities with rockets Monday. (AP Photo/Visar Kryeziu)

WEST SACRAMENTO, Calif. (BP) – Rocked by Vladimir Putin’s unprovoked attack on Ukraine, Southern Baptist Slavic churches in California confess a love among Russian, Ukrainian and other Slavic peoples cemented in a shared language, culture and Gospel conviction.

Russian Baptist Church in West Sacramento, a congregation of Russians and Ukrainians that drew about 2,700 Sunday worshipers before the COVID-19 pandemic, is particularly challenged by the tragedy. Before the Russian invasion, the church mostly steered clear of politics, senior pastor Mikhail Avramenko told Baptist Press.

“We condemn the invasion. We condemn the war and we condemn the pressure which is now from Russian side toward the Ukrainian government,” Avramenko said. “We believe that Ukraine is independent, free country. But before this happened, we never speak out or speak loudly about this issue, because we stay away from political points, (because) we’re preaching the Christ. … It’s definitely a touchy subject now.

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“We have here in California many, many Slavic churches,” he said. “When I say Slavic, I want to stress this, that they are both mixed by nationality, Russian and Ukrainian, Moldavian or Belarus. So basically, common denominator is language, definitely, and culture.”

About 30 or 40 percent of the members of Russian Baptist Church, one of many Southern Baptist Slavic congregations in California, are Ukrainian, and many of the families include both nationalities, Associate Pastor Igor Dronov said. Members are grieving in various ways, both quietly and vocally.

“So we are allowing grieving process to go its way,” Dronov said. “We are there to support, to help and of course we do God’s work trying to mediate through the grief, so that people will respond biblically the way Christ told us.”

In cooperation with Baptist Slavic churches in California, Russian Baptist Church is participating in a cooperative schedule of prayer and fasting. The churches are collecting freewill offerings and wiring money to pastors in Ukraine to help both those who remain in the country and those who have fled. Clothing and toys donated by children were shipped to Ukrainian schools Feb. 28. Church members are communicating with family members in Europe.

“The first level of communication or support is prayer,” Avramenko said. “So definitely, as soon as we knew the war is start, we established our prayer meetings. Even last Sunday, all day in the church we pray with prayer chain meetings, like after service, every hour we have different groups coming and praying for peace in Ukraine, for stop the war, for stop the invasion.”

The church membership is challenged by the war, Avramenko said.

“We definitely feel tensions between some Russians and Ukrainians because some of the people (are) very, very hurt,” he said. “Their families there (are) struggling. They’re refugees now in different countries. And they’re very hurt about what Russian government did. So definitely, they’re in grieving process and they’re very irritated by that.”

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Russian Baptist Church is ready to help any refugees of the war who are able to flee to California.