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Evangelist Michael Gott completes fifth tour of Ukraine during war

Residents wait in line for supplies after Southern Baptist evangelist Michael Gott preached at Central Baptist Church in Kyiv, Ukraine, April 30. (Michael Gott International ministries photo)

KYIV, Ukraine (BP) – One morning after air raid sirens alerted Kyiv of imminent attack, hundreds attended Central Baptist Church for Sunday worship. Southern Baptist evangelist Michael Gott was preaching.

“The atmosphere in churches is no different than it was a year ago,” Gott told Baptist Press. “The people continue to come.

“You have a tendency to preach with an extra sense of urgency,” Gott said. “And they have a tendency to listen with an extra sense of urgency.”

Gott, president of Michael Gott International ministries (MGI), ministered in Kyiv, Zhytomyr and Kremenchuk in Central Ukraine three weeks from late April through mid-May.

Russa launched 25 missiles on Kyiv the week following the April 30 worship service, but Ukraine’s military shot down 23 of them with weapons supplied by the U.S., an MGI representative said.

Gott preached several sermons during the trip, ranging from two-to-five times a day, he said, aided by an interpreter. Host pastors extend invitations to Christian discipleship and continue to minister long after Gott leaves. MGI distributes supplies at each site it visits, donating items most needed.

Ukrainian mothers separated from their husbands during Russia’s war on Ukraine attended a baby dedication at Central Baptist Church in Kyiv, Ukraine, where Southern Baptist evangelist Michael Gott preached during the latest tour of the country. (Michael Gott International ministries photo)

Gott, 80, his 76-year-old wife Jan, and their ministry team were on their fifth evangelistic trip to the country during Russia’s war on its smaller neighbor.

Gott is not deterred by the danger of evangelizing in a war zone.

“As an evangelist, I feel like it is our responsibility to go to the flashpoints of the world. If we’re going to be used of God,” Gott said, evoking Dietrich Bonhoeffer. “We’re not going to stay in the cloistered areas that are safe, but we’re going to move into the places where there is some degree of danger.”

Gott referenced early New Testament evangelists who ministered in danger, going where they were needed.

“Without there being some heroic sense of purpose, Jan and I feel like it is our responsibility to go where we’re needed most,” he said, “and right now … the open door seems to be Ukraine.

“You just realize that it is a climate like I’ve never experienced in America,” Gott said, likening it to the London blitz during World War II that changed the European city’s landscape. “We’ve never been a part of anything like this and it’s almost beyond description.”

About 8,900 Ukrainian civilians were killed in the war through May 21, with more than 15,117 injured, the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights reported, excluding deaths and injuries in Crimea and Sevastopol. The numbers could be much higher, the OHCHR said.

Many have fled the country. Since the war began, 21.5 million have crossed the border out of Ukraine, as12.7 million have entered.

Irpin Bible Seminary in Irpin enjoyed the largest seminary enrollment in Ukraine before it was destroyed by Russian missiles, Michael Gott International ministries told Baptist Press. (Michael Gott International ministries photo)

More than 400 churches were destroyed or their congregations displaced in the first six months of the war.

Among the latest news from the war, Ukraine secured the release of more than 106 captured soldiers in a prisoner swap with Russia, Reuters reported.

Gott and Jan will return to Ukraine June 14 for a week of evangelism, this time visiting Ukrainian Baptist Theological Seminary in Lviv.

In the meantime, MGI is teaching online English as a Second Language (ESL) and Bible courses to Ukrainians within the country and those scattered. More than 6,000 students have graduated from the courses since the COVID-19 pandemic began, said Jan, an MGI mission coordinator and ESL teacher.

“It’s amazing what God has done in this hard time,” Jan said. “Living the Christian life is an exciting proposition if you’re willing to drive all night and preach all day.”