When Ukraine erupted in political turmoil earlier this year, there were many places they could have turned for help, but beyond the usual resources, this nation came to American pastors and, specifically, to the American Pastors Network (APN).
It was best said in the invitation from the Ukrainian Interchurch Council, which came to APN with the sanction of Ukrainian government leaders. Writing on behalf of the Council, which represents 20 evangelical denominations representing 10,000 churches, Bishop Valery Reshetinsky invited APN leaders to “help our government and pastoral leaders at this time of great need in our nation.” The letter continued, “It is our hope … that Almighty God hears the prayers of His people in Ukraine and around the world and permits us to govern ourselves not in corruption but through biblical principles.”
How ironic that as our own nation’s leaders run away from Biblical and constitutional principles, the leaders of Ukraine are running towards them.
APN leaders felt called by God to answer the plea of the pastors in Ukraine. To that end, we’ve been engaging with Ukraine leaders and pastors for several months, first being invited to spearhead a leadership summit for Ukrainian pastors and elected officials this summer, and now returning to help with much-needed humanitarian aid, which, in turn, is leading the way to helping the Ukrainian government draft a Constitution built on the ideals and tenets that America’s founders held dear.
APN leaders returned from the summit in June, but Ukraine’s move towards freedom continues. Following the summit, government and pastoral leaders in Ukraine composed a 14-point resolution to President Petro Poroshenko, urging the nation to move forward and incorporate the principles presented at the summit into government reform and a new Ukrainian Constitution. In response, Poroshenko formed a Spiritual Restoration Committee, of which Bishop Reshetinsky was appointed chairman.
Additionally, upon the request of Ukrainian leaders, APN will be returning for future summits focused on education and the Constitution.
What we’ve discovered is that Ukrainian pastors and government leaders are yearning for knowledge so they can apply the same moral and biblical principles for civil government and the rule of law that was embraced by our founders. Indeed, Speaker of the Ukrainian Parliament Oleksandr Turchynov sent a statement to the attendees of the June summit, emphasizing the importance of the values of the Holy Bible to the formation of a new government.
As the crisis in Ukraine has escalated, APN’s International Projects Coordinator, Dale Armstrong, has visited Ukraine many times over the past few months and has been forging relationships to grow this productive partnership. To meet the critical need for humanitarian aid, APN is spearheading delivery of items such as water purification tablets, medical kits for soldiers, QuikClot® Bandages™ that stop bleeding quickly, socks, t-shirts, soap, flashlights, batteries and more. These are all being collected though APN’s “Ukraine Initiative.”
These humanitarian efforts are crucial, and they demonstrate that churches can take the lead in meeting needs, while working with government leaders. These efforts also have a secondary objective — to open doors to the much more critical effort of forming a democratic government that is based on a Constitution with biblical principles at its core.
Newly elected Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko will visit the United States and address a joint session of Congress today. This is particularly momentous as it demonstrates not only a leader of a foreign nation who is addressing our nation’s legislature but also the president of a nation that is seeking to emulate the constitutional and biblical principles upon which our nation was founded.
This demonstrates that the longing to be free — to raise a family and to own private property without government intrusion — along with the desire to live under a government free of bribery and corruption is universal. The ‘Holy Experiment’ of self-government under God established in Pennsylvania by William Penn and detailed in the Declaration of Independence and Constitution can still work for any people and nation who embrace the biblical principles that recognize unalienable God-given rights and the limited role of government to protect those rights and enact true justice.
The experiences of APN leaders in Ukraine are far-reaching and impact pastors in churches across this great nation. First, a partnership between U.S. and Ukrainian pastors links the Body of Christ across the miles as we show concern and commitment to our brothers and sisters in Christ through the authority of scripture and complete obedience to His word. Second, our experiences in Ukraine are a great encouragement to American Christians and pastors as they become more aware of and passionate about the doors God is opening there. Third, we know from interacting with Ukrainian pastors that biblical principles are universal and eternal. And finally, our time there has demonstrated the powerful way pastors can make a difference in establishing a biblically oriented government in a country that desperately needs one.