Ukrainian pastor and flock ministering in midst of battle

Ukrainian pastor and flock ministering in midst of battle

Ukrainian pastor and flock ministering in midst of battle

The city of Kyiv is holding out against the invading Russians bravely – but for how long?

Pastor Bespalov on Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy

"He's the president who I voted for, and even before the war I saw some character traits in him that present him as a good leader. He's not very skillful as a politician or as an administrator, but he's a person of integrity."

"I respect him and I think that God gave us the person who would be able to lead the country in a difficult time."

The terror of war is coming home to the people of Ukraine. Russian forces are putting a stranglehold on the Ukrainian capital of Kyiv. In an interview with AFN, Pastor Ivan Bespalov with of Holy Trinity Presbyterian Church in Kyiv says the capital is digging in.

"The situation is getting somewhat tense, even hotter than a day ago," he said on Friday. "It is very evident that the circle of the Russian army is getting tighter."

According to the pastor, the mood in Kyiv is weary but defiant. Bespalov says he's leaving it up to each of his congregants' conscience whether to take up the arms the Ukrainian government is handing out. He won't fight, but he has signed up.

"I signed up, even though I'm not going to carry arms," the pastor explained. "[But] I am going to help – there are other things that I can do. Many people volunteer with humanitarian aid and helping people to evacuate. Our church members are really involved in this."

Many of the women and children in his congregation have fled the city. Bespalov says the Russians are getting closer.

"We occasionally hear blasts of explosions. The defense units … started digging trenches right near our apartment buildings, so it seems like the Ukrainian army and the defense attachments … are bracing for a major attack that could happen [anytime soon]."

Read earlier interview with Pastor Bespalov

Evangelist exits war zone

AFN also spoke with an American minister who is safe and at home in Alabama after recently being transported out of Ukraine by friends.

Mark Posey, an evangelist and missionary from Winfield Church of Christ, travels to Ukraine ministering in ten cities, taking care of basic needs when there. He was in the city of Dnipro when war broke out, and he details how he was rudely awakened to that fact.

"I was awakened about 5:30 to explosions in the city where I kind of have my base of operation," he described, "and the windows of the building were shaking – and in the back of my mind I thought that could be shelling or bombs or something; and come to find out, that's what it was in actuality."

Friends called and said they had to get him out of the country so they picked him up about 20 minutes later.

"Twenty-two hours later, we [had] traveled the breadth of the country to the city of Lviv and there I boarded a bus; and then for the next 18 hours I was making my journey across the border and into Poland. Eventually my destination was Warsaw."

So, after a total of 40 hours on the road and a two-day wait in Warsaw, he boarded a plane to return to the United States.

After the conflict subsides, he expects the needs of the Ukrainian people will be even greater – and Posey shares he "absolutely" hopes to return to help meet those needs. In the meantime, the evangelist is calling for prayer for Ukraine – and he is already raising the funds needed to return to the country to minister and to distribute badly needed provisions.