“Today is the 47th day of the war, the day on which we are still together, grateful to God that we are still alive and blessed by Him!” This expression from a Ukrainian Gideon in mid-April echoes the hearts of more than 2,100 Gideons and Auxiliary in Ukraine. Nearly three months have passed since the Russian invasion. An estimated 14 million people have fled their homes seeking stability in Western Ukraine and neighboring countries.
Armed with the Gospel
This isn’t the first time Gideons have experienced war. We presented Testaments to the United States military during the Second World War under the motto: Arm them with the Gospel, too! In 1941, Gideons put Service Testaments into the hands of sailors just five days before the attack on Pearl Harbor. Half a century later, Gideons were at the Gulf War distributing over one million Service Testaments by the end of the conflict. Then there were political and social wars in Rwanda, the Congo, and Kosovo. Following the catastrophic events of September 11, 2001, the safety of many Americans was replaced with anxiousness and fear.
However, the spirit of the Association continues moving forward in faith and trusting that “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.” (Psalm 46:1 ESV) For over 120 years, God has faithfully opened doors for His Word to be shared. It’s the heartbeat of The Gideons International—to help people discover lasting hope found only in Jesus Christ.
“God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.” —Psalm 46:1 ESV
United by a Common Purpose
Gideons and Auxiliary in Western Ukraine and bordering areas are assisting with the practical needs of refugees. Many members have opened their homes, and God is giving them opportunities to share the hope of the Gospel. One field representative is housing 22 people. Each night, he holds a prayer meeting with fellow Gideons, Auxiliary, and non-believing neighbors.
“On the very first evening, our neighbors and relatives knelt and began to ask God for forgiveness and cry. The daughter of our neighbor wept and regretted she had not come to God for so long. Tears of repentance flowed down her cheeks, the heaviness fell from her heart, and relief came,” he said. “Our guests received Scriptures from The Gideons—the saving Good News of Jesus Christ. The time has come when people have to stop and think about what awaits them in eternity.”
Gideons in Russia and Ukraine are staying in touch and encouraging each other as united family in Christ. The associate national director for The Gideons in Russia expressed the following to Gideons in Ukraine:
It is difficult for us to understand the pain that you are experiencing. But we pray for you all the time. I believe that our Lord has everything under His control and will not allow testing beyond our strength. I believe that under these conditions, your testimony and preaching of the Gospel will grow. We must become a response to the spiritual demand of people who find themselves in these difficult circumstances.
Ukrainian Gideons and Auxiliary have shared 300,000 Testaments with people who have fled to remote parts of the country. An additional 200,000 are being printed amidst a limited supply chain and transportation routes closed due to the vast destruction in many parts of Eastern Ukraine. Such challenges do not stop members from fulfilling their ministry. They know God has uniquely positioned them in these circumstances to point people to Him, to bring the light of His Word into their darkest hours.
“We must become a response to the spiritual demand of people who find themselves in these difficult circumstances.”
Even more Scriptures are needed for refugees seeking comfort and hope. Association leaders in Ukraine and surrounding countries are working diligently to get additional Scriptures ordered, printed, and delivered to members. As B. Don Johnson, former international president of The Gideons, stated in 1950, “Satan knows his time is short. We, as Gideons and Auxiliary, also have the understanding that our time is short on what we can do for the Lord.”
Prepared for Tomorrow
Despite all the horrors of the situation, the people of Ukraine are gratefully accepting any help and are very open to hearing the saving message of the Lord. “People thanked us, cried, and kissed God’s Word, seeing that it is in their native Ukrainian language. Now in Ukraine, more than ever, there is fertile ground for witnessing about God, about His saving love,” said one Ukrainian Gideon. Continue praying for peace and for many to come to faith in Jesus Christ.
Gideons and Auxiliary in Ukraine are grateful for the ongoing support of believers worldwide. Consider the challenge given in 1945 by former Gideon Charles Pietsch, “The question before all of us today is not about what was done in the past, but what will be done in the future. There are still spiritual battles to fight and wars to be won.”
May we remain confident in the hope of eternity and our calling to stay in the trenches.