“The crisis doesn’t cancel God’s calling and the war doesn’t cancel God’s calling. We are called to teach people God’s Word and to be present with them…We can leave the country at any moment, but we want to be here because God is present here, and we want the church to be present.”
Anna Gnatyshyna is a dedicated Christian, living and ministering in Ukraine. She works as a Ministry & Operations Coordinator for OneHope Eurasia which produces resources for children and youth. She is also a part of her local church ministry team as a Bible teacher. She has been equipped and empowered for her ministry, in part, through Langham Preaching training.
Her story of trust and faith in God, to do his ministry in the midst of war, is an encouragement and challenge to Christians everywhere.
Joining the Body of Christ
For Anna, her family of faith was instrumental in her coming to know Jesus personally. She shares, “I was born in a Christian family, and my parents were really good, vibrant followers of Christ.”
“Being born in a Christian family doesn’t mean I’m Christian because God has no grandchildren, he has only children. But the environment and the settings gave me a positive attitude towards God and let me experience what it means to have a spiritual journey with God.” After having this wonderful example modelled to her, Anna confessed faith when she was 15. She reflects, “I wanted the same God who is moving powerfully in my parents to move in me.”
Learning from Langham
Anna originally heard about the Langham Preaching seminars from her sister, Marina, who was already involved with Langham Partnership. Anna recalls, “My sister was working with the International Fellowship of Evangelical students, who had a long partnership with Langham. They were conducting various Bible teaching seminars in the Ukraine and then I was invited to join also.”
The first seminar Anna attended was on the Gospel of Mark. From there she attended more training sessions and even started to utilise the materials from the seminars in her own ministry.
One particular opportunity Anna got through Langham that was instrumental for her, was when she was invited to a Langham Partnership meeting for women. She says, “We gathered together for one week. For me it was really powerful to see no men there, but only women. They were teaching and it was a really great experience and relational atmosphere. It was something that I experienced for the first time in my life.”
Langham’s training in Ukraine is of utmost importance for the Church according to Anna. She says, “[Langham teaching] is important because they teach how to handle the Scriptures instead of just preaching it.”
“We have lots of preaching everywhere, good preaching and average preaching,” she continues. “But the usual members of the church don’t have a chance to study how to handle Scripture themselves. Not everyone can go to a theological seminary, so usually they only get church teaching. So if church teaching is poor they have nowhere else to go.”
As well as upskilling Bible teachers to better equip their church members, Anna emphasises the power of Langham teaching many Christians skills they can use to study the Bible. She says, “[Simply listening in church] is a passive perception of somebody else teaching, but it’s not learning it themselves. Langham gives people the instruments for how to study the Scripture alone. So it leads to another level of maturity in spiritual work.”
War in Ukraine and the faith of ordinary Christians
To say the war in Ukraine has changed life for many people is a significant understatement. In addition to the millions of refugees throughout Europe, there are also millions of Ukrainians who are internal refugees within their own country.
In his mercy and faithfulness, God works through the worst circumstances. Anna says, “Many people are traumatised as they have huge losses. For most people, the tragedy breaks them but then brings them closer to Christ to ask new questions.”
She reflects, “They’re looking for some answers with an eternal perspective. We experience many people, non-believers, atheists and agnostics coming to churches. And that creates new demand in preaching and in Bible teaching because now we need to do it with people who have never [had] the Bible in their life before. They don’t know where to open it.”
Anna says it is a challenge to be teaching the Bible not just in a time of war, but to many people who have little or no exposure to it before walking into church. She shares, “We are starting to study with them from scratch and therefore it’s really different compared to when you teach the Bible to those who are already Christians. It challenges us to teach the Bible from the perspective of somebody who has never engaged with [it] before. It’s new questions and a bit of a change of ministry scope.”
Despite the horror and tragedy of the war, Anna is still seeing God working. She says, “I see God transforming lives. I see how during my Bible studies when we were studying different passages and people experienced it for the first time, and they were reading it, understanding it, I just saw that light in their eyes when they got it. That they are able to read the Bible themselves.”
God is transforming the hearts of adults, teenagers and children in Anna’s work of teaching the Bible. She has started up a Children’s Evangelistic Club for kids of refugees. She says, “I share scripture with them and they get to learn about God who is present and who is loving. I just see how they change. Even their facial expressions change, they’re not feeling alone anymore.”
Anna also is thankful to be alive and says, “It’s a miracle I would say, still working every day.” There has been a lot of change in ministry and church in Ukraine due to the war. Many ministers have evacuated from Ukraine because they have families and small children, but those who are still around have made the decision to stay.
The staff team at the church Anna works in have been one that has made that choice. She says, “The crisis doesn’t cancel God’s calling and the war doesn’t cancel God’s calling. We are called to teach people God’s Word and to be present with them. So that’s foundational now for my church team and my pastor. So we are still there. Not because we cannot leave the country. We can leave the country at any moment, but we want to be here because God is present here, and we want the Church to be present. God transforms hearts and lives through his children on the ground. Ministry has an even deeper meaning because we choose to do it.”
Pray for Anna and her country
Please be praying for Anna, for her church and ministry, and for the whole of Ukraine.
- Growth in spiritual strength and power for Christians
- Physical strength because the war is exhausting for all ministry workers
- Wisdom for how to navigate ministry work in the time of war, especially how to care for those with whom they come into contact
- Wisdom for how they refer to Scripture and discernment for what truth people need to hear
- The war in Ukraine to end and for God to provide an earthly victory for them