‘Miracle of God’ Needed, Says Ukrainian Baptist Leader, Southwest Alumnus | Baptist life
LVIV, Ukraine (BP) — “We need a miracle from God,” Yaroslav Pyzh, president of the Ukrainian Baptist Theological Seminary in Lviv, Ukraine, said from his home in western Ukraine in an interview. Zoom with the Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary press team on the evening of February 26. As he prays for the miracle, Pyzh gathers people and resources from his school to help refugees from the war.
Pyzh, a Doctor of Philosophy who graduated from Southwestern Seminary in 2012, has served as president of the Ukrainian seminary since 2013. Lviv is 600 miles west of the capital Kiev, where Russian forces have been trying to seize the nation’s capital since they invaded the country. in the early morning hours of February 24. Many Ukrainians fled the country through the city in western Ukraine, located about 40 miles from the common border with Poland.
Initially, Pyzh thought he and his wife of 25 years, Nadia, would be safe in Lviv. However, actions over the past three days have shown otherwise, although the city has not yet been directly affected, Pyzh said.
“We thought Lviv was a safe place,” Pyzh said. “But it turned out that Lviv was not so safe. We have air raid sirens that turn on and off. We were hit by ballistic missiles, about 20 kilometers from Lviv and we kind of lost that security. So it was kind of an awakening feeling.
Pyzh acknowledges that “partners” in the West are beginning to deliver aid to Ukraine via Poland, that convoys have to pass through Lviv, “and I’m afraid Russia will start targeting Lviv.”
This led Pyzh to ask believers to pray “for a miracle” because “in Ukraine the only thing that will help us is God’s miracle”.
“We just need a miracle and that’s exactly what will save us – God’s miracle,” Pyzh said. “So I’m asking people to pray for a miracle without specifying which miracle.”
Pyzh correlated the current situation in Ukraine with the story of Gideon from the scriptures.
The story “stands out” with Gideon’s small “300-man army facing off against thousands of people,” Pyzh observed. “In our case, we have a disadvantage in everything.”
But, Pyzh said Ukrainians are “strong in spirit” with a “great will to fight”.
Following Russia’s invasion of the country, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky declared martial law across the country, and soon after reports began to surface that the border guard service of the he Ukrainian state banned all men between the ages of 18 and 60 from leaving the country, which according to Pyzh, only women and children leave. Major cities, he explained, have also been subject to mandatory curfews at night.
The curfew “is a good thing” because “it keeps people inside,” Pyzh said. “Whoever is on the outside must not be on the outside. This means that they have no place here because we have a lot of people who are sent from Russia” to adjust GPS-enabled devices for allow ballistic missiles to target specific locations.
He said the curfew is also for “protection” as many people have left their apartments as they fled the country and the curfew is a deterrent against burglaries.
The country has been placed under a “state of war”, which means there are checkpoints at the entrances and exits of cities, for security reasons, Pyzh said.
As Ukrainians leave the country for Poland, their journey through Lviv has opened the doors of ministry for the seminary.
During the first three days of the war, the seminary served nearly 250 people with humanitarian aid, providing a place to sleep, food, and counseling services. Seminary staff have converted three of their buildings into makeshift dormitories with mattresses and pillows, and are ready to convert classrooms and offices into dormitories if needed.
Two waves of refugees passed through the seminary asking for help. Pyzh said the first wave of people, who came through the first day of the war, were in “a pretty reasonable emotional state”, while the second wave, which arrived almost a day later, were “in very bad shape.” state”.
“I don’t even want to know what they went through,” Pyzh said, adding “they’re scared.”
On the first day of the attack, the seminary focused on its students and alumni. Classes were in session and students there from the eastern part of Ukraine could not return home. Pyzh and his team realized there were more people to help. In response, Pyzh divided the seminary staff and faculty into four teams: administration and support, reception and placement, chaplaincy team, and communications team. He gave each team the power to use their “best judgement” in making decisions.
Pyzh said the seminary leadership has used its network of 2,000 students and graduates in Ukraine and Poland to mobilize and offer help to displaced Ukrainians passing through Lviv and in need of housing.
Using the same database structure used to track students and alumni, the seminary leadership transferred the template into an online form that allows them to enter names, contact details, and other relevant information. about the refugees who come through the seminary to help. Pyzh explained that the information can be used later in case people are “lost or missing”. The seminar can then provide information on their last known contact.
A second database has been created for students and alumni to volunteer to open their homes to help house refugees. Faculty and staff at the Ukrainian seminary currently have displaced families living with them, including Pyzh and his wife who have two families in their home. Students and alumni who volunteer at home are matched with displaced people who come to the seminary for assistance on their journey through Lviv.
The third database is for those who want to volunteer to help, which ranges from providing advice to refugees in need, cooking home-cooked meals, providing toys for children or donating clothing. Many of the volunteers are seminary students.
Pyzh said the seminar does not charge people for help, but explained that those who have been helped are grateful, including a woman who left behind a small box of chocolates and 1,000 Ukrainian hryvnia, the equivalent of around US$35, with a note asking that the money be invested to help someone else.
Because the country has been placed in a “state of war”, large gatherings are not permitted. However, Pyzh said, churches across the country are responding with prayer and collecting items because they have “become a hub for the community where people can donate food, clothes, everything.”
“All this is happening mainly in western Ukraine, because we are not busy and we have no pressure,” Pyzh said. “Kiev, Kharkiv, even Odessa, I guess, and other cities in eastern Ukraine, they can’t do this because they’re under constant threat from these military actions there. But here , people are definitely open to doing whatever needs to be done.
Pyzh said that over the past three days people have aged “much more” than they have before, describing each day as a year.
“I think what our people have been through in the last three days, I’m sure has changed them completely,” Pyzh said. “All the pain, all the fear, all that kind of stuff that we go through that makes us a different kind of person. I really hope we get stronger. We understand that all we have isn’t really to us. We are kinda lucky to have what we have and so you value more what we have. And I really hope that as a result of this people will give glory to God.
How to help the seminary help fellow Ukrainians
Pyzh said believers can support the seminary with prayer and financial aid.
Regarding prayer, Pyzh specifically asks other Christians around the world to ask God in the following way:
- seek a miracle from God to save Ukraine;
- provision of resources to serve people;
- that the war ends quickly; and
- for people to perform a miracle of God, it means the glory goes to God.
The seminary is also seeking financial assistance through its US-based charity, the Ukrainian Partnership Foundation (UPF). The money received by the UPF will be used to buy food for the relocated Ukrainians, clothing and hygiene products, medicines, bedding and cleaning products, which will be used for the refugees and students. The donations will also fund diesel gasoline and cover guest expenses for families who now have to live with their students, Pyzh said.
Donors can visit the foundation’s website here and select UBTS Emergency Fund from the drop-down menu.
Aid to Ukraine can also be provided through Send Relief.