LOUISVILLE, Ky. (BP) – For Vladyslav “Vlad” Hruntkovskyi, a Southern Baptist Theological Seminary student from Ukraine, the country’s current crisis is having a huge impact both on his family and his own personal ministry journey.
Hruntkovskyi grew up in Ukraine with his two brothers while his parents served in full-time ministry in the country. Hruntkovskyi has been in constant contact with his family receiving updates about the crisis in his homeland.
“The reality of this conflict is very severe and very real,” Hruntkovskyi said. “What is being portrayed in the American media is true; it’s not an exaggeration. It is as bad as they say it is.”
For the last several years, Hruntkovskyi’s father has served as one of the pastors of an evangelical church called Irpin Bible Church, a few miles away from Ukraine’s capital city of Kyiv. The church is connected in partnership with a sister church – Carmel Baptist Church in Charlotte, N.C.
Hruntkovskyi described Kyiv as central to a lot of the violence taking place in the country, and this forced his parents into making a difficult decision about whether to evacuate to the western part of the country, or stay and try to assist people near the church.
With bags prepared and preparations made to leave, Hruntkovskyi said one last visit to the church building caused his father to change his mind.
“By the second day of the conflict, there were a bunch of people who needed help, leadership and shepherding,” Hruntkovskyi said. “Through literal tears, my Dad and my Mom both decided to stay and help the flock.”
Relief efforts from the Irpin Bible included assisting in the evacuation process for those fleeing as well as providing church members and civilians with food and shelter in the church basement.
The church was even able to hold a small worship service the first Sunday after the conflict began.
During the first days of the conflict, several of Irpin’s pastors were out of the country attending an event at their sister church in North Carolina.
While the pastors worked on finding a way back to Ukraine, Hruntkovskyi said his father took the lead on leading the service, which included a time of worship, a short sermon and the baptism of two believers who delayed their evacuation from the city for this specific purpose.
After several days staying and ministering in the city, Hruntkovskyi’s parents, along with a majority of the church congregation fled to the Western part of Ukraine.
“They did everything they could, but they had to leave for the sake of their own lives and the lives of their close ones as Eastern Ukraine is literally on fire,” Hruntkovskyi said.
He continued to say that the current crisis is a pivotal time for the Church in Ukraine, as well as the surrounding countries in Eastern Europe.
“For Christians (in Eastern Europe), this is the greatest of our commitment to the Gospel of Christ we have ever seen, but right now the church is being strengthened,” Hruntkovskyi said.
“I know for a fact that the light of the Gospel shines in the darkest of dark. Right now I think the Church is planting the seed of Gospel in Ukraine and in all of Eastern Europe.”
Hruntkovskyi was planning to finish his Master of Divinity degree at Southern and return to Eastern Europe to do ministry. He said the current conflict has caused him to consider working for a Christian humanitarian organization where he can use his seminary knowledge to minister physically and spiritually.
Although he says he has not completely processed all that has happened yet, he is thankful for the grace of his professors and the prayers and support from people all over the world.
“Being here and powerless, I’ve realized that ultimately God is my refuge and He is my stronghold,” Hruntkovskyi said. “Ultimately in those dark moments, we can count on Him and we can ask and petition for others.
“This (prayers and support from fellow Christians) is a testament to the unification that we have in Christ. The fact that we are truly brothers and sisters and we are united by His blood. When one member of the family hurts, all members of the family hurt and are grieving with him. I know the Church is strong and God is powerful and He is acting even in the midst of this.”
Current updates from Hruntkovskyi and ways to pray for the crisis can be found on his Instagram page.