Meeting Challenges and Opportunities in Ukraine

Linda Gray faces daily challenges as she serves as a single missionary in Kharkov, Ukraine. Whether dealing with vehicle maintenance problems, overcoming preconceived notions about Baptists as a cult, or working with leadership in the churches, Gray knows where to seek help, where to give a strong witness, and where to cooperate for the proclaiming of the gospel message.

Almost 98% of Ukrainians would identify themselves as Christian because they were baptized into the Orthodox church as infants. But only a small percentage of Ukrainians are born-again followers of Jesus. Though Gray has been a missionary for 18 years, she has spent 13 years in Kharkov. In previous years, she worked with church women’s groups, small-group Bible studies, and English as a second language, but now much of her focus is helping to minister to more than 200,000 Ukrainians in her region who have been displaced by war.

Gray shared that the work is hard but exciting. The displaced people are struggling to survive and many seek help for daily needs in Baptist churches. Normally they would not even walk through the doors of a Baptist church, because for generations, the government and culture taught that Baptists are a cult. But in these churches, displaced people’s physical needs are met and they hear about God’s love for them. Many of them are attending Bible studies that are evangelistic in nature. Ministry among displaced people has helped them overcome the fear and skepticism connected with Baptists.

Gray strives to build relationships not only through refugee ministry but also through casual activities such as walking and visiting in parks and sharing in picnics and holiday meals and fellowships. English groups are one of the best ways she uses to develop relationships. Once a Ukrainian accepts friendship, it is a committed relationship.

Pray for Gray, as she is the only International Mission Board missionary in her city of about 1.5 million people. Pray for guidance as she plans for volunteer teams. Pray for wisdom as she meets challenges and opportunities.

Phyllis Godwin is a freelance writer.

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