Thirty Years Ago in Kiev

breath prayer politics refuge ukraine Mar 09, 2022

Blog by Alan Fadling

It has been difficult to watch the recent news of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Perhaps you have been praying as I (Alan) have, that God’s kingdom might come and God’s will might be done as it is in heaven.


The last time I was in Kiev, Ukraine was over thirty years ago in September 1991. I went with my mentor, Chuck Miller, his son, Scott, and a friend, Bruce. We were there as a follow-up to an evangelistic campaign in which thousands of Ukrainians had responded enthusiastically to the good news of Jesus. The problem was that there weren’t many churches for them to attend.


You may remember the political realities at that time. The Soviet Union was falling apart. We had been watching images of tanks rolling in the streets of various Soviet republics. The instability was such a concern that we were fearful as to whether we should travel to Ukraine at all.


We decided to go anyway. I remember walking through the city square (that has been one of the key images shown in many recent news reports). There was a statue of Lenin, along with a crane in the process of removing it. Angry locals had painted swastikas, 666 and other political comments all over the monument.


We had the opportunity to meet with 35 men and women who were in training to be pastors of house churches. This was the solution they’d decided upon for meeting the needs of thousands of new converts.


We had one week of evenings with them. What would we talk about? In the end, we shared very simple things about the Christian life as a relationship of communion with Jesus, lived in community, expressing the love of God to the world around us.


At one point, one of the leaders among these Ukrainian friends told us that he believed what we were sharing wasn’t deep enough. He felt it was baby food. But there is a great difference between being simplistic and being profoundly simple. He wanted us to talk about how to recognize the cults that were proliferating at the time. Our feeling was that if we helped them recognize the genuine simplicity of the faith, they would have no trouble identifying counterfeits.


I could tell many other stories but let me bring this story to the present day. A few days ago, I got a call from Chuck Miller’s widow, Cathy. She had spoken with the American, Rich, who coordinated that house church pastor training in Kiev over thirty years ago. Rich shared with Cathy that those thirty-five pastors of house churches had become about two thousand house churches! They had planted churches like theirs in other parts of Europe and even in Asia.


The sense was that the simplicity of how they began had translated well and multiplied greatly.


So as you pray for Ukraine, keep in mind thousands of brothers and sisters meeting in house churches all over the country. I’m grateful they can look to our Father in heaven as their refuge and fortress.