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FIRST-PERSON: ‘God is working’ in Ukraine

IMB missionary Mike Domke passes out food packets to the residents of Kozelets, Ukraine. Bread of Life Baptist Church in this city in central Ukraine, with the help of Send Relief, gives out more than 600 food packets to the community. The distribution happens every Friday. The church’s electricity is often powered by a generator donated by Send Relief. IMB Photo

Editor’s note: Michael Domke has served in Ukraine for 15 years with the International Mission Board.

In times of great need or despair, we’ve seen firsthand what the world’s greatest problem is, and it’s not war or hunger. It’s spiritual lostness. I recently watched people line up outside a church as air raid sirens sounded in Ukraine. The church was not a bomb shelter. They weren’t distributing food. It wasn’t even a Sunday. People stood in line, awaiting their turn so they could hear about the hope of Jesus Christ!

Mike Domke, an IMB missionary, and Cade and Ginny Wheeler of Send Relief, distributes food packets to people living near Kozelets, Ukraine. Mike shared the gospel message with the people who gathered. Send Relief partners with the local church to provide food packets to those in need in the community. IMB Photo

Church planting amid war looks physically different from peacetime:

  • Mattresses piled in the hallway of an apartment building where a pastor offers comfort in the middle of an attack.
  • Pews pushed up against the church walls to make room for people whose homes were destroyed. 
  • A bullet-riddled car loaded with supplies driving through occupied territory.
  • A pastor searching for a place to baptize 10 people.

I’ve found, however, church planting still boils down to believers being steadfastly present among the lost and joining God in His work. I look at Ukraine and can’t help but think it’s amazing how God works through the generosity of your giving.

For more than a decade, your gifts allowed us to disciple and train a generation of church planters in Ukraine. Just as we saw hints of a multiplying church DNA taking hold, the war ratcheted up, and we evacuated to another country. We left everything behind — our possessions, dogs, friends and ministry. We were devastated.

But there you were, holding the ropes. Your support not only got us to safety but also provided trauma counseling through IMB member care for our three kids, my wife and me. You helped us get established in a new home and schools. We left Ukraine, but God didn’t ask us to leave this ministry. In fact, we’ve watched it grow — at first through digital engagement with our network of church planters and then with trips into Ukraine.

That church-planting DNA taught before the war took root and grew. Local pastors and believers shared the Good News of Jesus Christ with many people. We saw baptism after baptism. One church that was about to shut its door now has over 300 worshiping and has planted another church. There are countless new small groups meeting as well as many new churches.

Saying “thank you” for supporting us (and, in turn, Ukrainian church planters) during one of the hardest times of our lives doesn’t seem like enough, but it’s all I have to give. Thank you for heeding Lottie Moon’s rally cry to send more workers to the field because it is harvest time in Ukraine. God is working.

And when God is working, that’s when we need to be working, too!

Writer Sue Sprenkle contributed to this article.

    About the Author

  • Michael Domke