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Ministries Evacuate as Russians Reach Irpin, the Evangelical Hub of Ukraine

Image: Dimitar Dilkoff / AFP / Getty Images
Evacuees cross a destroyed bridge as they flee the city of Irpin, northwest of Kyiv.

Anatoly, a 26-year-old member of Irpin Bible Church (IBC), is with the Lord.

His last act on earth was to carry the suitcase of a young mother and her two children, hurrying them across Irpin’s collapsed bridge to safety from Russian shelling.

All four died, when a bombshell landed in the middle of their would-be humanitarian corridor. Eight total died in the suburb of Kyiv yesterday, as Russian troops pressed hard to encircle the Ukrainian capital.

“Anatoly was deeply spiritual, with a good Christian character,” said his pastor, Mykola Romanuk. “When he saw a need, he tried to help.”

Negotiations over the weekend led to several ceasefires for civilian evacuation, only to be quickly broken. Each side blamed the other, and Russia has denied targeting civilians.

But Ukrainian sources describe cities now littered with bombed schools, hospitals, and residential districts—not least in Irpin, known in evangelical circles as the “Wheaton of Ukraine.”

After the fall of the Soviet Union, Ukraine’s “evangelical patriarch” Gregory Kommendant invited Christian ministries to join him in his hometown, 16 miles northwest of the capital, where he served as president of the All-Ukraine Baptist Union.

As of a few days ago, about 25 ministries operated out of Irpin, including Child Evangelism Fellowship, Youth With a Mission, Youth for Christ, the International Fellowship for Evangelical Students, and Samaritan’s Purse.

Once home to a single evangelical church, Irpin now boasts 13.

“We were here for 20 years, and neighbors never set foot in our church,” said Romanuk. “Now they are living in our basement, praying with us, and have become our friends.”

Describing Irpin as “secular,” Romanuk described his 700-member Baptist congregation as the largest church in the city of 60,000 people. But now, only a team of five remain, called to stay behind and minster to those under siege.

Led by the head of the missions committee, a deacon’s wife—a real estate agent—is the chief cook. She prepares three meals a day for 200 people, as others volunteer to evacuate the shellshocked citizens to western Ukraine.

Since the war began, the church has transported 100-200 evacuees every day, Romanuk said. As the Russians approached, they bused out 3,000. Early on, the government took notice of their efforts and thereafter directed everyone to the church.

Anatoly was one who returned. Originally from Luhansk in the Donbas region, he…

This article was originally published at Christianity Today on March 7, 2022. Please click here to read the full text.

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