Tim Adams helps us respond to the conflict in Ukraine
31 March 2022
Dear brothers and sisters
In July 2019 the theme of our IFES World Assembly was “Messengers of Hope”. Seven months later the COVID-19 pandemic brought the normal rhythms of our life and ministry together to an abrupt stop. Many of us experienced – and continue to feel – a sense of loss and disorientation. The call to be messengers of hope takes on a deeper meaning and challenge.
Two years later and another crisis fills news bulletins. The conflict and devastation in Ukraine leave us grieving and feeling helpless. It also reminds us that such suffering is an ongoing reality for millions around the world whose countries are impacted by war, oppression, poverty and natural disasters. Once again we are disorientated. There are no obvious solutions, and it is easy to lose hope.
What Does it Mean to Put Our Hope in God at Times Like This?
Psalms such as Psalm 42-43 reveal to us the inner journey of someone in the middle of a painful, disorientating and confusing situation.
At the beginning of the Psalm the writer is brutally honest about the pain. He is desperate to feel connected with God again, “as the deer pants for streams of water” (Psalm 42:1). A few verses later, the writer looks back to previous joyful experiences, “how I used to go to the house of God …with shouts of joy and praise among the festive throng”, which now feel distant and remote. Then there is one key phrase which the writer repeats three times (Psalm 42:5,11; 43:5):
Why, my soul, are you downcast?
Why so disturbed within me?
Put your hope in God,
for I will yet praise him,
my Saviour and my God.
This internal conversation reflects the confusion that we believers can feel in times of disorientation. What does it mean to put our hope in God at times like this? I love Eugene Peterson’s definition of hope in his book A Long Obedience in the Same Direction:
“Hoping does not mean doing nothing. It is not fatalistic resignation. It means going about our assigned tasks, confident that God will provide the meaning and the conclusions…”
In a crisis the person of hope takes time to reflect on God’s character, his faithfulness and his mercy to us, and brings that reflection into the crisis.
It has been amazing to see this kind of hope in action over the last weeks. In these dark days for Ukraine, the faith, hope and love of the IFES fellowship has continued to shine brightly. CCX Ukraine staff have helped hundreds of international students to get to safety, using their cars to take them to the border. Many student movements in nearby countries are giving practical support and advice, helping refugees on their journey, and offering host homes. Around the world, we have seen thousands of students and staff workers standing together in prayer, and we have received many gifts to sustain and support student ministry in the affected countries. There are so many stories of hope – and of pain. Do use the links below and on the IFES website to help you follow and respond to what is happening.
Standing Together as Messengers of Hope
We are currently in a challenging place. We cannot see where or how this current conflict in Eurasia will end, or what it will mean for our ministry in Ukraine and other parts of the region. What we know for sure is that God’s love for students in Eurasia is unfailing. For now we stand in prayer and practical support, doing what we can to help our brothers and sisters in crisis.
Whatever devastation the current conflict brings to student ministry in Eurasia, as a global fellowship we stand firm in our calling to share God’s love with students there, and, with God’s help and in God’s timing, will work together to rebuild and restore what is lost.
In our honest cries of lament for our current situations of pain and suffering, let us also be deliberate in putting our hope in God, allowing him to shape our response and lead us through. As the Psalmist reminds us, we will yet praise him, he is our Saviour and our God.
Yours in Christ,
IFES General Secretary
A Message from Tim Adams, IFES General Secretary
1 March 2022
Dear brothers and sisters
Thanks to all of you for your prayers and support of the student ministry in Ukraine during this invasion. Despite the warning signs over the last three months the sudden escalation caught many by surprise. We continue to be in deep shock and distress, at the same time as trying to assist in any way we can.
The outpouring of prayer and care for our brothers and sisters in Ukraine has been one of the few sources of light in the dark days of the last week. Amid crisis and chaos God has been present through your many messages of comfort, spontaneous online prayer meetings, financial donations and many acts of kindness and hospitality.
If one part of the body suffers, every part suffers with it… now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it. 1 Corinthians 12:26-27
In the last few days many staff of CCX and IFES in Ukraine have had to flee their homes. They are now displaced, and, in some cases, families have been separated. They are in shock and are traumatised. One friend describes the sense of “displacement, loss, grief, powerlessness, uncertainty”.
We are thankful that right now they are physically OK and have been able to move to safer locations, but our hearts break for them. Please pray for them and their families, as well as for the wider CCX Ukraine community of students and graduates. Pray that God would hold them close to him, and that their faith and witness would remain strong. Some of them have shared how the conflict has led to times of prayer and conversations about faith with their non-believing family and friends.
Although the students and staff of CCX Ukraine have been the main focus of our prayers, the war is also impacting people and ministry far beyond Ukraine.
There is fear and uncertainty across the wider Eurasia region and in neighbouring countries, where there is student ministry. We are seeing media reports of protests in Russia against what is happening in Ukraine, despite the personal danger of expressing such views. The sanctions imposed on Russia will impact daily life for many Russians and others across the region.
Pray too for the many Christian international students who have been leaving Ukraine. This morning I heard from a Polish member of staff who had been contacted by a pioneer staff in southern Africa and was able to arrange hospitality for international students from eSwatini arriving in Poland as refugees. I’m also hearing about students from Kenya and other places who have fled Ukraine and are being hosted and helped by IFES movements and churches in other nearby countries such as Romania and Slovakia.
In the midst of a terrible situation these stories remind me what it means for IFES to be an international fellowship, the family of God in the student world. Let us continue to stand together in prayer for one another as brothers and sisters in Christ.
Thank you. Please keep praying.
I urge that petitions, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgiving be offered for everyone— for kings and all those in authority—so that we may lead tranquil and quiet lives in all godliness and dignity. 1 Timothy 2:1-2
Your brother in Christ,
IFES General Secretary
If you would like to give to our Eurasia regional emergency fund, you can do so here. This will be used to support CCX Ukraine and local IFES staff, as well as neighbouring student movements who are serving those impacted or are impacted themselves.
Prayer points from Sergei, the IFES Eurasia Regional Secretary
- For the planned restart of ministry when the new academic year begins in September.
- For the involvement of new students – whether or not they are Christians; whether or not they were formally part of CCX – pray that new students come to faith.
- For the search to find new staff who will continue the work started by those now unable to continue in ministry.
- For strength and wisdom as staff approach their ministry work in a new environment.
CCX Ukraine are sharing regular updates via Facebook and their email newsletter. You can read about the ways they are helping students, as well as the testimony of their General Secretary who was forced to leave his home by the annexation of Crimea in 2014, and now has had to flee again.
In many other countries, movements are mobilising practical and prayer support. Credo Sweden has interviewed a Polish student on his experiences at the Polish-Ukrainian border. IFES Europe is sharing regular updates for prayer from Ukraine and Eurasia on Facebook and Instagram, and they’ve also collated resources to help their students, staff and supporters to pray together.