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'We Are the Army of Christ': Pastor Stays to Help Fellow Ukrainians Survive

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ORIKHIV, UKRAINE – Devoid of electricity, water, or heat, life on the front lines in southern Ukraine is sheer survival. The town of Orikhiv once was home to about 20,000 people. Today, less than ten percent remain. Abandoned pets roam the streets, hungry and traumatized by the near-constant shelling, which has damaged or destroyed more than 70 percent of this city.

The few who remain here say they have nowhere else to go. They have no car, no money, and no desire to give up the land their ancestors have occupied for generations.

The village is only a few miles from the front lines and it's under fire every day because the strategy the Russians are using is to just basically bomb these towns into submission, terrorize the people into leaving, and then they can move in without any resistance. But these villagers are not going along with that plan. They are staying here in the village, but they are living in basements below ground. We went into one for a look.

We met a woman named Svetlana, who has five children. She's  been staying in a tiny section of the building's basement since June. Now that winter weather has arrived, they've been using this green firewood to try and keep the place warm. 

I asked why she hasn't left and gone somewhere else.

"No, I want to live on my land, my Ukrainian land. And I hope that my city will be delivered soon," she said. "We just want peace. I just wish there were no rockets and bombs flying over our heads. We just want peace."

Orphan's Promise and other organizations and other organizations are helping people like Svetlana stay alive through the winter by delivering food, medicines, and warm clothing to Pastor Victor from a local church, who decided to stay here with his family to help those who can't leave. 

"When we were thinking about what to do whether to stay or to leave we were praying and God answered us and he said, 'I will bless you whether you will go or whether you will stay, but my name will be glorified more if you stay,'" Pastor Victor said. 

"It's really very dangerous to be Ukrainian right now. Nobody knows who will be next. It doesn't matter where you are in Kyiv, in Western Ukraine, in Lviv, or here in front line. You don't know who will be next," said Olga Buznitska with Orphan's Promise.

And so close to the front lines, more people are seeking God.

Pastor Victor said, "Before the war we had about 30-40 people coming to the church, a lot of people left but now we have services with about 100. So the church has the answer for the people here."

The shelling gets worse after dark, so I asked if could stay the night with Pastor Victor and his family. Not long after dark, the battle began.

When a large attack could be heard nearby, the family I stayed with responded by gathering around the kitchen table to pray. It's what they always do when the bombs start falling. And they believe that it's vital to their protection. They believe that through prayer and faith they'll be able to continue to serve the people who can't get out of this area and they'll be protected in the process.

"I can have a safe place in Kyiv region because soldiers are fighting for me. And I see that this people who will still be here, this church, they are fighting for me too. It's like another level of soldiers," Olga said. 

"We are the army of Christ," said Pastor Victor. "So we are here to fight on his side and to bring the word of God to these people."

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