Sometimes you can see the cloud rolling in, announcing the approach of an oncoming storm. Once, while the disciples were in a boat on the sea of Galilee, that kind of storm came on (Mark 4:37). The disciples began frantically calling on Jesus, fearing the storm. In fact, the storm as a metaphor for trouble is used throughout the bible. Jesus warned His followers that they would face tribulation, but not to fear! The Lord’s words have certainly been proven true (John 16:33).
Today we are seeing the rise of a new storm in Ukraine. As we mentioned in one of our previous newsletters, we are receiving regular updates regarding the crisis situation in Ukraine and Crimea. While the international news has been focused on politics and Russian military manoeuvres, there are impacts that extend to areas of faith and freedom. We have just received reports from our sponsored pastors and churches in Crimea about the sudden persecution they are facing. We have heard that most of the christian churches (non-orthodox) there have been closed. Because the believers in that area are very poor, most of them haven’t been able to afford to buy their own church buildings. Of the pastors and churches we sponsor, one had a building, and another was in the process of constructing a building. All the other churches were renting. Non-Russian Orthodox rented churches are now illegal. There were also Drug and Alcohol rehabilitation programs which were run by these churches are also now shuttered and illegal. Reportedly, the FSB is demanding lists of congregants from pastors. We are just hearing this news in within the last two days. It is important to note that the Russian and Crimean government structures are apparently considering all non-orthodox churches and believers to be western agents. We are unsure how much of this news is true, but these initial reports are very troubling. We expect more details in the coming days and weeks.
Another report indicates that anyone without Russian or Crimean citizenship (registration) are being threatened with deportation as they are now considered foreign citizens (status). The deadline to register as a Crimean citizen was on March 18th. Beyond that date, unregistered people must leave or reside in “lawful bases” until April 19th. Those remaining can try to apply for residence status in Crimea after that from the Russian Federation.
In Mark 13:13 Jesus told His disciples to watch and pray:
He also said to the multitudes, “Whenever you see a cloud rising out of the west, immediately you say, ‘A shower is coming’; and so it is. “And when you see the south wind blow, you say, ‘There will be hot weather’; and there is. “Hypocrites! You can discern the face of the sky and of the earth, but how is it you do not discern this time? (Luke 12:54-56)
It is important in these last days, as Jesus second coming gets closer and closer, to focus on the most important things: Keeping our eyes on the Lord, Growing in the knowledge of God, and Bearing the burdens of our fellow believers. To many christians are trusting in themselves and their current circumstances. They are unprepared to face a storm. To few christians know and understand what their bible teaches. And fewer still even read the scriptures daily. It is critical that we undertake the cause of oppressed and persecuted believers of Jesus (Galatians 6:2). We all should be trusting the Lord and helping each other where we have a lack (2 Cor 8:14).
Like with Noah, in these last days God doesn’t promise to take us out of the storm, but to preserve us to the end through faith.