Quinter (Kan.) Church of the Brethren, which has a longstanding relationship with a partner congregation in Ukraine, is requesting prayer “for intervention for peace and safety and an end to the escalation of the situation.” Quinter pastor Keith Funk shared the request in a telephone interview this afternoon. The partner congregation in the city of Chernigov, Ukraine, identifies as the “Church of the Brethren in Chernigov.” It is pastored by Alexander Zazhytko.
Speaking with Zazhytko this morning, Funk learned that the shelling of the city of Chernigov began late last night, Ukraine time, and has continued today. In his last communication, received by Funk this afternoon, Zazhytko said Russian troops are expected to enter the city within the hour.
“I don’t know how much longer we can continue to communicate as Chernigov is being shelled,” Funk said.
The Chernigov church was planted by the former Pleasant Hill Church of the Brethren in Pennsylvania, but for almost a decade the Quinter congregation has been maintaining the relationship with the Chernigov Brethren. Funk talks with Zazhytko on at least a weekly basis, after visiting the congregation in Ukraine in 2015 and welcoming their pastor on a visit to Western Plains District in 2016. It has been a relationship of prayer and communication and worshiping together as they are able. “It’s been a really rich relationship,” Funk said.
Chernigov is “not a good spot” right now, Funk said. It is located about an hour south of the Russia-Belarus border, between the border and the Ukraine capital city Kyiv.
Zazhytko and his family–including his wife, their three teenage/young adult children, and his parents–are taking shelter in their basement, and Funk supposes that most of the Chernigov Brethren are trying to do the same. The congregation numbers some 30 to 35 people.
Up until this crisis, Funk said the Chernigov congregation had been doing well and recently celebrated the purchase of a house that is being renovating into a meetinghouse. Zazhytko has told him that he and his family are not planning to flee: “He said, Keith this is my home, my family is here, my church is here, and I will not leave. I will stay.”
Funk is grateful for general secretary David Steele’s call to prayer for Ukraine, published on Tuesday, and added to it the request for prayer from the Chernigov Brethren. “Alex is saying, pray for us, please pray for us.”
How can Brethren elsewhere in the world be supportive? With prayer, and simply by knowing that there are people in Ukraine who identify as Church of the Brethren and share the same faith and values. “More than anything, they’re coveting our prayers right now,” Funk said.
Quinter Church of the Brethren is holding an in-person prayer meeting for Ukraine this evening at 6:30 p.m. (Central time). The service may be made available to view online at the Quinter church’s YouTube channel at www.youtube.com/channel/UCfTxL5hkkeR5_WUz74tWvMg.