Brent, Jason and I in Poland before making the drive to Ukraine’s Western Border.
Written by Matt Robinson
WAR CHANGES EVERYTHING
I remember in late February of this year staying up late into the night after hearing the news that Russia was invading Ukraine. Russia’s aggression was already horrific to me, but the reality of the war carried extra weight for me because of my friends, and our church’s ministry partners who lived in the city of Kherson in Southeast Ukraine near Crimea. I had known them for over a decade. In 2019 alone I had visited Kherson and later had TCI staff in our house in New Richmond. I knew the war would have drastic consequences for them and their community.
TCI President Valek, and Staff Member Sergey at our house in the Fall of 2019.
Russian soldiers entering Kherson
Parkside had helped get TCI started almost 25 years ago. The school graduated pastors who now serve not just in Ukraine, but all over the surrounding region. They expanded to having satellite campuses in multiple countries. They built a beautiful campus on the banks of the Dnieper River where students came from all over to learn more about the Gospel and planting churches. As the war started and TCI’s staff was forced to evacuate it felt like all that work was hanging in the balance.
Part of TCI’s Campus located on the outskirts of Kherson
TCI set up their emergency base of operations in a small city in Western Ukraine away from the fighting called Ivano-Frankivsk. Church leaders in that city welcomed them in and helped them get refugees settled either in the city or get them resources as they fled further into Europe. TCI cancelled classes for the semester and dedicated their efforts to relief efforts. All of them rallied to help those trapped in this humanitarian crisis.
Town Square of Ivano Frankivsk
THE ONGOING AFTERMATH
We are now just past the 6-month mark of this uncalled for war. TCI is about to start their fall classes. Instead of their normal preparations they are praying for their home city and campus in Kherson that is still being occupied by Russia. Their staff is scattered over the continent of Europe, but TCI isn’t allowing any obstacle to prevent them from their mission; raising up Pastors that plant churches and serve their community. They haven’t stopped providing relief to refugees all around them either. Even as they are refugees themselves, they are still looking to find people who need their help the most.
BACK TO THE WHY
That late night in February, I decided that as soon as I got the chance to travel to Ukraine and not just pray FOR my friends at TCI but also pray WITH them I would. In July, I saw an update from TCI that had a picture of an American from IDES (https://ides.org/) in Ivano-Frankivsk with the TCI staff. I reached out to TCI and together we began exploring a short trip to bring supplies, listen to stories, and encourage their team. As our 3-man team came together, all of us expected that something would happen to derail the trip, but we continued to plan and to pray. And last week we found ourselves in Ukraine.
Over the next several weeks I’d like to share with you about our trip, people we talked to, and things we learned. While we were there we took lots of pictures, filmed interviews with refugees that have overcome great obstacles, and discovered more what it means to live in a country at war.
Pastors from Ivano-Frankivsk along with TCI Staff
Every city in Ukraine has barricades as you enter and exit
Rusted remains from a bombed out Russian Tank we saw in Lviv
As I share our experiences with you, I’d also like to ask you to pray for TCI, for Ukraine, and for peace. You might also consider supporting TCI directly (See link below). The war is slowly slipping from America’s consciousness. We are seeing it less and less in our news cycles, but now is not the time to forget or move on from the struggle so many are facing there. The church in Ukraine is doing amazing things. They need our prayers and our support now more than ever.
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