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'We Need Weapons and Prayer': Ukrainian Christians Visit US Amid Ongoing War

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A group of Ukrainian Christians is visiting U.S. churches and meeting with government officials to build support and confront misinformation about the war.

The group, Defenders of Faith and Religious Freedom in Ukraine arranged the tour as they seek to spread the word that Russian President Vladimir Putin not only wants to control Ukrainian territory but also to silence the Church.

"Russia is destroying our faith. They're persecuting evangelical churches, they're persecuting preachers," Ukrainian military Chaplain Mark Sergeyev told CBN News.

When Russia launched its invasion in February of 2022, Sergeyev served as a youth pastor for one of Ukraine's largest evangelical churches. By early March, soldiers were at his front door. 

"I see a couple of lasers in my face, and I understand, 'Yeah they've come, welcome to the Russian Federation...' So they take me outside, put me on the oldest son was at that moment...he was 9 years old, he was sleeping in a different room and they wake him up with a gun," Sergeyev recalled.

Since his father led Melitopol Christian Church, he says Russians sought him and his family as a part of their strategy to subdue the Ukrainian people.

"People get outside with (the) Ukrainian flag and try to stop the tanks...and they scream, 'Go away, go back to your Russia,' and when these guys came to our church they thought evangelical churches organized these things, and they said, 'You have to stop them...' and my father said...'I cannot, this is the will of the people,'" said Sergeyev. 

Shortly afterward, the family learned of an abduction plot. Following the leading of the Holy Spirit, they fled the city.

Today, Melitopol remains occupied by Russia. A large cross that once stood in front of the church is gone, and the building is now a Russian embassy of "Culture and Youth."

"There's not (a) place for evangelical churches and other churches, except Russian Orthodox Church of Moscow, but the rest have just disappeared," explained Igor Bandura, with the Ukrainian Baptist Union.

He grew up in Ukraine when it was part of the Soviet Union.

"I remember the Soviet Union was terrible on Christian churches. No freedom, we were locked in our small church's anti-God, anti-Christian, anti-family, so when people believe Russia is fighting for traditional Christian values, it's lie," Bandura said.

Of the more than 3,000 churches in the Ukrainian Baptist Union, he says, since Russia's invasion, 110 no longer exist, and 320 are in occupied territory.

"Putin would like to rebuild the empire. Ukraine would like to be an independent state. Whenever Russia comes, forget about freedom and religious freedom," Bandura told CBN News.

Both men feel it's important they personally ask for prayer and share with American Christians the truth about what's happening in their country. 

"We need prayer support from millions of Christians all around the world, I am here to be just a witness," said Bandura.

"We sing the same songs like U.S. people sing here in the churches, we pray the same prayers, and I want to say thank you for the support, but we still need weapons, we still need more prayers," Sergeyev said.

Despite the ongoing persecution, both men say the Holy Spirit is at work, helping the Church in Ukraine to remain strong.

Now serving as a Ukrainian chaplain, Sergeyev specifically thanked his American counterparts for sending more than 30,000 audio Bibles so soldiers on the front line can listen to scripture. 

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About The Author

Caitlin Burke Headshot

Caitlin Burke serves as National Security Correspondent and a general assignment reporter for CBN News. She has also hosted the CBN News original podcast, The Daily Rundown. Some of Caitlin’s recent stories have focused on the national security threat posed by China, America’s military strength, and vulnerabilities in the U.S. power grid. She joined CBN News in July 2010, and over the course of her career, she has had the opportunity to cover stories both domestically and abroad. Caitlin began her news career working as a production assistant in Richmond, Virginia, for the NBC affiliate WWBT