The following are excerpts from an e-mail just received from a missionary in the Ukraine who is supported by our church. Due to the sensitivity and volatility of the situation in the Ukraine, the missionary's name and the mission he is associated with will remain confidential for purposes of this post. The e-mail is dated 11/26/04.. ~The Billy Goat ~
"...Just about everyone in Ukraine today is talking about the current political crisis. The Sunday presidential elections were widely deemed to be the most significant elections in the history of independent Ukraine. Although the official government results show the current prime minister victorious by a small margin (less than 3 percent), the opposition candidate has claimed mass election fraud and called for a general strike to protest the results. Western-sponsored exit polls had placed the opposition candidate ahead by 11 percent, and independent election observers have reported 11,000 violations to internationally recognized standards.
Yesterday, the Ukrainian supreme court barred the election commission from publishing the results pending an investigation into these allegations. Hundreds of thousands throughout Ukraine have taken to the streets to protest, and to overturn what they deem to be a corrupt regime. Many are worried that the protests could erupt into violence. We are asking that each of you join us in praying for Ukraine, that God's name would be glorified in spite of the outcome. Pray for the protection of these people that we love so dearly, and that their hearts would be turned to God during this tumultuous time..
I have copied below excerpts from a prayer update from [name deleted ], our teammate living in the capital city of Kyiv. I hope that it will highlight the larger battle that is underway for the hearts and souls of the Ukrainian people...
<<< A young lady adorned with 20 orange ribbons in her hair, a young punk rocker shivering in the cold in his leather clothes, a peasant woman in her seventies who says she has never been more alive than she is this week, a grandfather speaking to his 11 year old grandson at his side, saying, "Remember this day your entire life. Today Ukraine was reborn, and you were here." What do all these people have in common? They're all part of the over 1,000,000 people who have descended upon Independence Square this week in Kyiv, Ukraine, to support freedom and a fair election.
The atmosphere here is half surreal military-esque, half Mardi Gras, and sometimes a mixture of the two. On the one hand several planes of special forces from Russia have been flown in. Buses and buses of supporters of the government's candidate for president have been bused in from other regions of the country. Hundreds of riot police stand at attention with crowd control metal shields forming a phalanx to protect government buildings. Even some artillery has been brought into the city and positioned at strategic points.
Yet on the other hand, elderly ladies come up and put roses in the holes of the shields of the riot police, others come up and pray for them, then the entire crowd begins chanting, "Brothers, lay down your shields." It doesn't sound like much in English, but in Ukrainian it rhymes, and it has a powerful effect. The riot police are antsy. They're prepared for battle, but not this kind of battle. They look around nervously. Then, after over a half hour of this Mexican stand-off, they slowly, slowly lay down their shields, to the roar of the crowd.
We've been down on Independence Square every day this week, and among the hundreds of thousands of people we've seen there ourselves, not once have we seen a drunk person. That would be a minor miracle any time, but when you consider the incredible pressures on people here at this time, its absolutely incredible. There's no doubt God is hearing and answering prayers of His people from all around the world.
We're caught up in this whirlwind of events ourselves. As I write this note, our apartment has been overrun by about 12 people. You can't even get into the bathroom, because in one two people are peeling potatoes, and in the other another person is feverishly cutting small advertisements of our church to put into bags with sandwiches. In the kitchen our stove is about to go into hyperdrive, with large pots on every burner, warming up gallons and gallons of broth, while others make large containers of mashed potatoes. In the hallway yet others are packing sandwiches into bags with Christian tracts and literature about our church.
Why all the activity? Because it's Thanksgiving? No. It's our church's response to what's happening in our city and country. We asked the question, How would Jesus have us respond to current events, and this is our answer. We're about to leave for Independence Square, to pass out food, both physical and spiritual, to those there. Some have been there 4 days straight, in chilling cold and snow, supporting freedom and fairness in the election.
We did the same yesterday, giving out food for both body and soul, and God gave some phenomenal opportunities to share the love of Christ and the gospel with people. Several even said, "We don't need hot food or drink. Give us something spiritual to read." This from people standing outside in 25 degree weather, with snow swirling about and already standing 4 inches deep on the ground. These people realize something is happening they can't control or even fully understand, and it makes them think.
It's been an awesome opportunity for our church members to see raw ministry up close and personal. Tonight we'll be opening our church to people from out-of-town to stay overnight. We have no idea who these people will be, but it'll be yet one more opportunity to show God's love and concern for both their physical well-being and their spiritual well-being.
Here's two comments from church members over the last hour alone. "I'll clean the church after anyone who stays there," said by a person who has battled a bad attitude toward specifically cleaning the church for several years (no kidding). "How can I help?," said by another person who's been on the sidelines for over a year, not wanting to get involved in any substantive way, even though we've been reaching out to him and working on that area specifically. Today he's tripping over himself to help any way he can.
Recent events here have really galvanized our church and turned our attention to eternal issues and priorities, and helped turn us into a lean mean (in a good sense) ministry machine. What a privilege to be the light of the world at such a time as this! This is the best Thanksgiving I can ever remember.
We trust you have a blessed Thanksgiving. Please also continue praying for people here, both believers and unbelievers, for God to show Himself mighty in events as they continue to unfold. >>>
Thank you for joining with us in prayer for Ukraine. While the world's eyes are focused on this country of 48 million people, let's appeal to God to bring a spiritual revival, and see His name chanted throughout the country, bringing praise and glory to His name.
Your partners for the harvest in Ukraine,