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Pursuing Peace in Ukraine

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In February of this year, we were again reminded that nothing in this world – not even the stability of nations – is guaranteed to last.

In Ukraine, the home of Irpin Biblical Seminary (IBS), TMAI’s largest and longest-running training center, whole regions and neighborhoods were turned into war zones in a matter of weeks. What began as protests against the incumbent President quickly turned violent as protesters and government forces collided.

Overnight, Ukraine’s capital city of Kiev became the focus of the world. Gunfire erupted and buildings burned. Within weeks, Ukraine’s former leader had fled the country and new elections were being planned. However, Russian forces were already moving into the region of Crimea in eastern Ukraine.

As 2014 comes to an end, Ukraine remains a nation in crisis. Ukrainian rebel forces (backed by Russia) have taken control in the east and are attempting to form a new country. This has proven disastrous for Ukrainians trapped in those regions; they remain loyal to Ukraine and they are dependent on it for support. In September Ukraine stopped paying government pensions in seceding areas and most private businesses there have shut down.

To make matters worse, electricity has been turned off in parts of the area, leaving elderly and disabled people living in tall apartment buildings unable to leave the building because the elevators don’t work. Bruce Alvord, a professor at IBS, lives in such a building … on the eighth floor.

Many IBS students have been directly affected by the rebellion. About 60 of them live in the war-torn area, and they are suddenly unable to contribute financially to their tuition. IBS has absorbed that cost, which has put the seminary under even greater financial strain.

In Ukraine, the world has turned upside down. However, God is always at work, and in the midst of the chaos, He is calling people to repent.

According to Bruce, fear and anxiety reign in the hearts of many in Kiev, and that is creating fertile ground for the gospel. Suddenly, people who had always turned away from spiritual conversations are willing to listen. People who had been trapped by the veneer of self-confidence and self-reliance are suddenly aware of their inability to control their lives.

In a recent email, Bruce sent pictures of a baptism he performed in Kiev. The sight of a group of white-clad Ukrainians, standing by a river and sharing their faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, was a powerful reminder of God’s grace and sovereignty. The world around many Ukrainians may be falling apart, but because of God’s grace, their eternal salvation is secure.

This is the role of Irpin Biblical Seminary – to prepare Christians in Ukraine to answer the hard questions of life with God’s Word. As the world threatens to unravel in that part of the world, it is all the more obvious that God has prepared and positioned IBS for such a time as this. Since its inception, IBS has graduated 1,447 students. This year, there are 380 students attending classes in Kiev – the largest group ever.

Those graduates (and future graduates) will be the true ambassadors of peace in Ukraine. Not peace as the world understands it, which is a never more than a temporary peace. The peace these graduates can bring is eternal peace with God. This is the only peace that lasts.

It is the peace that Ukrainians need most of all.