Chaplains on the Battlefield

“No one has the right to hear the gospel twice, while there remains someone who has not heard it once.” ― Oswald J. Smith

Ukraine and Russia have been at war for more than five years now, with more than 8,000 casualties. A couple of years ago, Russia took over a part of Ukraine, the Crimean Peninsula, and made it a Russian territory. Ukrainians were kicked out of their homes. I have friends who lived there as Ukrainians who can no longer go back to their homeland because it’s not Ukraine anymore. It’s Russia. You have to have a Russian passport to go there now. A pastor friend who owned about a dozen businesses lost all of his businesses, all of his assets, and his church. Everything, in just one day because he was not a Russian citizen. The situation in Ukraine is serious, the war for this part of Ukraine still wages today, and that has created an atmosphere of uncertainty and fear that permeates the country.

In the midst of all this, I was invited to speak to 400 people at a church in a different part of Ukraine. The church is really on fire for Jesus. While I preached the message, the congregation was very engaged. People were shouting and getting fired up. I saw three people get healed from physical issues, and when I was finished preaching, these people came to the front testified. People came to the alter and got saved. It was a powerful time, a joyous time. 

But as I went back to my seat, the atmosphere of the room quickly changed from very joyous to very somber. Three gentlemen came to the front. And as the preacher was speaking (in Ukrainian, I couldn’t understand what he was saying), he laid hands on these men. Then their families came up, and he laid hands on them. And then people started crying, really crying, sobbing.

I had no clue what’s going on. I didn’t know if those people were getting radically saved or what. I had NO CLUE what was going on. So, I looked at my translator and asked him why we were praying and why people were crying. He told me something that made my heart sink down in my chest, and made me realize the gravity of the situation I was in. 

The men the preacher was praying for were volunteering to be chaplains to go to the front lines of the war between Ukraine and Russia. People were crying because there was a heavy reality that due to the war and the violence on the front lines, they’d likely never see these men again. These men would never see their families again. But these men were dedicated to bringing the gospel to their people. They knew this may be the last chance the soldiers would ever get to hear the good news of Jesus. These chaplains were literally willing to lay their lives down so that these soldiers could hear the good news.

Witnessing that scene is something I’ll never forget. It gripped me with the reality that this thing called the Kingdom of God is bigger than just being a missionary evangelist, having a big social media following, or whatever it is people are striving for. As a matter of fact, I heard someone once say that Christianity is not a ladder where we’re working our way up, but a table where we serve. We have a mandate to bring the gospel to the world. Whether by life or by death. 

It’s worth noting that our ministry work also extends to Russia, where we minister a few times per year as we are allowed. Jesus loved people, and commands us to do the same. We love the Russian people and want to see them saved as well.

Oswald J. Smith said, “No one has the right to hear the gospel twice, while there remains someone who has not heard it once.” That is the heart of Ignite Europe. We want everyone to hear the good news of Jesus. That’s why we do what we do. It’s the reason we go to hard places. So people can hear the gospel.