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What's Going On In Ukraine?

Truth Talk / Stu Epperson
The Truth Network Radio
March 4, 2022 10:00 am

What's Going On In Ukraine?

Truth Talk / Stu Epperson

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March 4, 2022 10:00 am

Stu guests hosts on the Steve Noble Show and gets a different perspective on the Russia-Ukraine crisis from Erick Mock, Vice President of Ministry Operations for the Slavic Gospel Association (SGA) - an organization working with pastors, seminaries, and churches on the ground in former Soviet nations.

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Hello, this is Matt Slick from the Matt Slick Live Podcast, where I defend the Christian faith and lay out our foundations of the truth of God's Word. Your chosen Truth Network Podcast is starting in just a few seconds.

Enjoy it, share it, but most of all, thank you for listening and for choosing the Truth Podcast Network. This is the Truth Network. What's going on in the Ukraine?

So many people are asking that question. There's what you see on the big screen on the TV, and there's what's actually happening and maybe not being reported. Well, you're in for a treat. Today on Truth Talk, I'm Stu Epperson, your host, and I'm interviewing Eric Mach with the Slavic Gospel Association. They are working with pastors on the ground, seminaries, churches, all kinds of folks.

They've been in the Ukraine for many years, and they have also served the Lord in Russia as well. Eric's going to give you a perspective you might just not hear in other places. Plus, he's going to tell us how we can pray for the Ukraine right now and all the folks that are under attack, and all of our brothers and sisters in Christ across Russia and across Eastern Europe. So stay tuned, be encouraged, and thank you to all of our prayer warriors that pray for this program, and thank you to all of our amazing affiliates, AFR and Wilkins, and the Life FM, and the folks that carry Truth Talk. Stay tuned, be encouraged, and join us right now for Truth Talk with Stu Epperson. The entire world is in prayer, is in thought, is heartbroken over the Ukraine, at least many people in the world.

I know the West is, and many people are upset that our government has allowed this to happen or has not done more. They just slapped the hand of the President of Russia, Vladimir Putin, who has invaded Ukraine and could get really, really bad. We're trying to find out exactly what's happening, and to help us navigate through that as a man who's really plugged into a ministry, that all they do is work with these amazing pastors, these Slavic pastors, these churches, these church plants, orphans, missionaries, and his name is Eric Mach. He's been a real busy guy with all of this activity going on.

Eric, our heart is broken, our heart is with you. Thank you for all you do with the Slavic Gospel Association, and you were telling us a little bit about that. Give our listeners, will you, a perspective of SGA, and then how you were thrust into 24 hours of having to report, and let the rest of us know what's going on.

Absolutely. First of all, a little bit of background, and this helps thinking the front end before we get into the conflict. SGA has been around since 1934, and so we have been working with these faithful Bible preaching, Bible teaching churches since then. In fact, just after the wall went down, we started supporting them, supporting the nationals who know their people best. They know their community. God has raised them up to be the response in this point of need in such a time as this. And so, in 2014, when the Ukrainians fought for their independence, SGA was able to work with these churches, especially in eastern Ukraine, to develop a network of churches that both we support as missionaries, to take the gospel out, to work with orphaned children, but to take aid into the east. And now, in the middle of this just horrendous conflict, just brutal conflict, we have found that the ones that are stepping up are these faithful churches, these faithful pastors, these faithful missionaries, who are running into the battle, who are taking aid in, who are ministering to people, literally walking down a street where there's burnt out tanks and burnt out vehicles, where I remember walking down a dusty road with them just in a sleepy little village, but now, even I heard minutes ago, a friend of one of our directors there was a 19-year-old running to the store to get some medicine for his mom, and a bomb dropped on the pharmacy, and so he's gone. And just the brutality that we're seeing, and at the same time, just the amazing work of God through his name. Yeah, Eric, tell us, this is a big question, I don't want to beg the obvious here, but a lot of people are asking, why?

Why is this going on? How do you reply to that? Well, in the death of my heart, I struggle with answering that question, why?

It's quite difficult. I think we have to understand the history, the relationship between Ukraine and Russia goes back centuries. You go all the way back to 988 AD, where Kiev was the center, Kiev Rus was the center under Prince Vladimir, and then you go forward, and even under the Bolshevik Revolution, they would be a claim on the Russian side of shaping the nation of Ukraine, but on the Ukrainian side, saying that they were brutally oppressed. And then after the years of communism, where Ukraine has emerged as its own independent country, there is a sense of which some would like a restoration of the geopolitical boundaries of the former Soviet Union, so it is not overtly that Ukraine has done anything per se, but their desire to be an independent country and part of the Western world, and they are kind of the buffer between Russia and the Western world, and just the confluence of all that has resulted in this horrendous response and battle for the people. So, yeah, and could get a whole lot worse, I mean, it doesn't look like they're letting off the gas pedal at all, Putin, the tanks are across miles and miles coming in, there's bombs being dropped, Eric Mach is with the Slavic Gospel Association, who has, tell us about your presence there, Eric, tell us about your relationship with this country of Ukraine, tell us about Ukraine, we're watching a country getting bombed, we're hearing all these stories, seeing bloody images on the TV, hearing about things on the radio, but give us some insight, would you?

Just take us there. Well, you know, I got to tell you, for my wife and I, I'm a missionary with SJ, and so we go over there to serve the churches, it's a beautiful country, it's an amazing group of people, faithful brothers and sisters, who proclaim the Gospel, who minister to those in need, and are really my dear friend. It is miles and miles of sunflowers, it is a people who just are unique in its culture, with a great history, dating back to World War II years of communism, and now fighting for their independence, and so I think in the midst of all this, there's a beauty to it, but I want to tell you about the faithful believers there. These are tried, tested, and true believers. Regretfully, a lot of times in the Western world, our faith is a peacetime faith, it is very rarely tested, but they know what it means to follow after Christ, under the years of communism, it would cost you your life to follow after Christ, and so now, here, in the middle of these dark days, your listeners need to know that in the midst of this, there are faithful brothers and sisters in Christ who see only opportunity. In the middle of a time of grief and suffering, they see an opportunity to be stalwart witnesses for the Gospel, and they are the ones in villages, I'm getting tons of pictures coming in, they're the villages that are surrounded by troops, see tanks coming down the lane, and they're the ones that are still going door-to-door, comforting people, taking food aid to people, and we at SGA are getting behind them, and that's the unique nature of SGA. It's not about us, we're a small, physically small organization in a sense, from a staff point of view, a very large organization over there and serving these churches, a network of 6,000 churches, and in Ukraine, 2,265 churches that we work with, so we don't need to send the Americans over, we need to get behind the ones that God has raised up for such a time as this. Yeah, so there's churches there, they love Jesus, they're brothers and sisters in Christ, and they are under fire right now, and this is one of the complexities, I was talking to my wife about this earlier today, I'm a believer in the Lord Jesus Christ, I'm a citizen of the United States of America, I look and see this war going on over there, it's not my war, but there's a very real sense, Eric Mach, that they're attacking my family, fellow brothers and sisters in Christ. How is a believer to respond in terms of a heart, in terms of prayer? Prayer is an obvious but essential response.

But then, this is what I want to talk to you on the other side of the break. How do we give? Who do we give to? Is it even going to get to them? Or is it going to be plundered by the Russians? How do we pray for Russia? The ones assaulting Ukraine right now, Eric Mach with the Slavic Gospel Association, we back buildings, depots, hospitals are being bombed, homes, villages, the Ukraine is under fire, and we are talking to a man of God who's on fire for Jesus, his name's Eric Mach, he is with the Slavic Gospel Association, I go way back with a provost family, Bob Provost, Rob Provost, they've been involved in this ministry for years, Eric, dear godly friends and mentors of me and my family, and there's just something, Eric, about these believers in the Ukraine, and I will, I think it's summarized in this either tweet or maim on Instagram I saw, where someone said, we're all talking about praying for Ukraine, and we should, but how about the real believers who are on fire for the Lord in Ukraine, and places like Communist China and Russia, praying for us, that we would wake up here in the West. Eric, why is the faith of our Ukrainian brothers and sisters in Christ such a rebuke to those of us in the West who have become a bit apathetic in our faith? We have so much, yet we just are kind of sitting on our blessed assurance a bit. Well, Stu, I think, I kind of mentioned this last time, it's about having a faith that's a tested and true faith. I think in our country, regretfully, faith has become a great thing, it's become very human-centered rather than Christ-centered. When you have to fight for your faith, when people die for their faith, it's true, it's valuable, and in fact, when we're talking about the churches in Ukraine, I had a pastor who was actually up in the Chernobyl region, and he's still there, he's counting tanks as they go through his street, and he told me once when I put my arm around him, I said, how are you?

And he smiled at me and says, why would you ask me this silly question? It doesn't matter how I am, the question is, what can we do for Christ today? And so I think in the middle of this, the Ukrainians show us what it means. It's really not just the Ukrainian believers, you have Russian believers in Ukraine, you have Ukrainian and Russian believers in Russia, different ethnicities, but one common family. Whether it's in Russia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, or the other countries of the former Soviet Union, they had to fight for their faith. And they would tell you, they pray for us, because they think it's harder to be a believer in America than it is for them. Because in America, it's a peacetime faith, and we don't know what it's like to fight for our faith, and to be passionate for our faith, so much so that if a tank is coming down the street, you're more concerned about the salvation of the tank driver than your own personal safety.

Wow. That's Eric Mach with the Slavic Gospel Association. Eric, contextualize this whole war for us. You talked a little bit about the geopolitical tensions that have existed since the Ukraine split off with some of the other nations from what was known as the Soviet Bloc, the Soviet Union. Now, the Russians are trying to come in and take it back, and sadly, Putin's talking points are being spouted and parroted by the clueless left of America, saying, well, this is their rightful place anyway, and America should not intervene. And I don't know that anyone's really calling, per se, for America to intervene, but at the same time, this is a democracy, one of the biggest, most thriving, fruitful democracies with free capital, free speech, in the Soviet Bloc nations, in those Slavic states that are so strategic right up against Europe. I mean, you got right next door Poland, you got these other countries, Germany, all through there, so the Ukraine falls, what's next?

So you contextualize, Eric, the implications of this. Should Russia have its way, and should the West just kind of stand down? And of course, Putin's talking about nuclear.

He's throwing that scary word out there. And so what about this, where is this all going? Well, from Putin's perspective, and boy, I'm not going to venture to read his mind, other than being aware of what he has stated in his speeches, is there's a sense of wanting to reform the Soviet republic, not necessarily under communist rule, but to reform that which was held in the past. But at the same time, what we see in Ukraine is something very similar to the roots and the foundation of our own country, a desire of a people to be democratically ruled, a desire of the people to be an independent nation. Sometimes that's clouded under because there is corruption in that government. But I think we have to understand, again, there is a difference between the people and the government. And in the case of the Russian people, there is Putin and his vision, and then there's this vast number of 350 different people groups in Russia who desperately do not want to see this, that are struggling. And so the people in Ukraine are a mix of Russian and Ukrainian ethnicity, Polish and Romanian, American. There's all the different people groups, and the same thing you're going to see in Russia, and actually the same thing in Belarus. And so on a people level, it's horrific because you have almost something akin to the civil war, where you have people that know each other, fighting against each other, and it's regretfully a government structure fighting against another government structure. And what we're seeing in Ukraine is they are fiercely passionate for their own independence. And so they're standing to be an independent people, not to be governed or socialized or recaptured. And I think there's a lot of implications to watching this. I liken it to watching a mugging in the subway, and everyone gets their cell phones out to picture it, rather than actually stopping the mugging. And so I think it's a difficult thing, and I am not a professor and expert in this, but I can tell you from the people that are there on all sides of the borders, they're broken-hearted to see this.

It really makes very little sense. Well, the big question is, what can we do? We're going to ask that of our special guest, Erik Mach, with the Slavic Gospel Association. They have all kinds of people. He was just there walking through these quaint villages, ministering and building into pastors who are planting churches. The gospel is awake and alive and moving through the nation of the Ukraine.

Erik's ministry is a part of it. I'm Stu Epperson, in for my good buddy Steve Noble, guest-toasting for him today in the hot seat as we talk about this war. Who would have ever thought when we planned on meeting guest-toasters for Steve, we'd be talking about a war? War is real. What happens in war? What comes out in war? Who you really are in a matter of wartime really shows, and we're seeing it right in front of our eyes, especially with modern media.

There's TikTok videos that are graphic of bodies being bloodied, dead corpses all over the streets. Ukraine is being bombed, attacked, mortared, everything like that. If you want to call with a question about this battle, if you want to call and express some concerns you have, the toll-free number is 866-34-TRUTH, 866-348-7884, to call the program to ask the question to make a comment. Maybe you know someone connected to a ministry in Ukraine. I've interviewed on Truth Talk pastors from the Ukraine. I've interviewed ministries from the Ukraine. There's an amazing Ukrainian seminary that I'm getting updates from, from my buddy Scott Reed and Dennis Lennon, Carrie Mitchell, a bunch of guys, Travis Joyner, that went over there to support and to build into Christians there, and now they are aghast and they're up all night praying for their brothers and sisters who are being much afflicted as the bombs are dropping. Eric, so many agencies, I mean, billions of dollars are going to be raised for the Ukraine through this. We don't know if pennies of those billions will ever get to them. How do you help us navigate through being generous?

So many people want to do something, but they don't want money to go to waste or to go right into Putin's coffers. Well, my friend, let me just briefly explain what we do at SGA, and that may put a lot of that to rest. What we focus on is serving the national church, and there has been a capacity to do that that's been in place for quite some time. So prior to the war, we were helping to support 104 national missionaries. We were helping reach across the land to the former Soviet Union. We were helping reach a little under 13,000 orphaned children.

In fact, during Christmas, we helped these churches reach over 50,000 kids with the true meaning of Christmas. And so prior to this beginning, we have been in a position where we have been supporting the nationals. In other words, we didn't have to evacuate Americans. We don't have to worry about that. What we do is we actually step into the fray by getting behind the people that God has raised up.

So our organization in that sense is a niche. We're very careful not to enable the churches to dependency on us, but to help them move towards independency and self-sufficiency, to help them in difficult times do what they couldn't do without us. And it is great to see how we are able to serve churches to the glory of God. Another remarkable thing about war is you learn about all kinds of people that you are family with in Christ that you'll be spending eternity with. You had no idea of these testimonies, these stories, these prayer warriors, these Bible stories. While during the break, I've been bombarded with texts and emails from listeners. One of our wonderful friends and partners, John, he says, ask Eric Mach, who's with us right now with the Slavic Gospel Association, ask him the greatest difference between what we see on TV and what's actually going on in Ukraine as Russia is invading Ukraine and it's becoming a bloody mess.

Eric, what about that question? We're seeing and hearing a lot of things on the media. What's the difference between that and what's actually happening there on the ground as you're getting real live intel directly from pastors and leaders in Ukraine?

Well, there's two parts to it. First, what you're seeing on the live stream is fairly accurate. I'm bombarded with pictures of destroyed Russian tanks, of vehicles, of bodies, of pools of blood. You see the carnage, but this is what you don't see on TV. You don't see the faithful believers who are rushing aid to their people.

You don't see the faithful believers that are literally walking up to the line giving soldiers chocolates and sharing the Gospel with them. That doesn't make network TV. It is easy for us to focus on the dark side of hostilities, to focus on the difficulties, to focus on the suffering. Yet even like it was during the pandemic, in the middle of great suffering, there was a tremendous opportunity. Through SGA we were able to help churches provide five and a half million meals, but the Gospel went out 120,000 times.

That doesn't make network TV. They're happy to look at the downside, the suffering, but they're not looking at the greatness of what God does in the middle of hardship, to glorify himself through his people. And so what you won't see on network TV is the countless number of believers who, in the face of suffering, are rising up.

And that is even true on the Russian side and the Belarusian side as they minister all around to the people. And that's the great part about what we're doing at SGA. And they can find that out at and see what we're doing, get behind what we're doing.

And I'll tell you, it's already happening. The funds started coming in on Friday. We have funds to the churches. The churches are purchasing aid where they can purchase aid.

We kind of got in advance of this wave, got some initially over. Aid is already going to refugees. We're helping in Ukraine. We're helping in Poland. And we're even hearing of refugees showing up in the country of Georgia that we're helping there. Again, we already had the relationships with the churches. We already had the financial network with them. And being aware of the banking issues, we figured out how to preposition some of the funds in advance. And so we're already moving out and getting aid to the people.

That's the other side of the story. It's the advancement of the Gospel in difficult days. That's tremendous. I just got an email from my friend Scott Reed earlier about this amazing Ukrainian Partnership Foundation, that they work with this Ukrainian Baptist Theological Seminary who is hosting hundreds and hundreds of refugees and reaching out to people. Well, they needed diesel fuel to keep their power on.

So, just a little need. And they were able to get money to them so they could continue to train these men of God in the Word of God. And they could continue to support pastors. And just like you laid out there for the Slavic Gospel Association, Eric, Mark, you have been real busy. You've been about the Lord's work. But I'm encouraged that there are... Folks, listen closely. Those of you who are generous, those of you who've recognized that it's not yours, it's his, we're stewards of what he's given us, not owners, there are kingdom godly ministries like Slavic Gospel Association. Samaritan's Purse is another one that you can give, and you know the money is going to get a bottle of water in someone's hand, or is going to help a refugee eat, or help someone get a Bible, or help a church to hang in there a little bit longer, or take in and give shelter or sanctuary to some refugees, Eric.

So there are legitimate ways to give. You just heard one from him. Eric, I guess the question is, people listening everywhere to this program, they'll hear this as a podcast. Honestly, our heart goes out to the Ukraine. We've been praying. We're going to close the show in a word of prayer. Grayson just kind of flagged me, our awesome producer. Thank you to Grayson, Rachel, the awesome team, Keith behind me here at the Truth Network, keeping this program going and on the air. I'm Stu Epperson, talking about the Ukraine.

It's what everyone's talking about. How do we pray for the Ukraine? Eric, can you give us some real salient prayer points here to guide us and direct us as we get together with other believers? And I'm going to encourage everyone to grab someone today, tonight, tomorrow morning, and just grab someone and say, hey, let's just stop a second, and let's pray for the Ukraine. Can you recalibrate us in the right direction there, Eric, quickly here?

Yeah, I'll do it really quickly. You mentioned UBTS, the Ukrainian Biblical and Theological Seminary, the USJ actually supports them as well as, or Penn Biblical Seminary. These schools train pastors to teach and preach the word, and so when we're talking about aid, we're talking about people coming to faith. So first, let us pray. Let us pray first of all for peace in Ukraine. We pray for a cessation of hostilities and for peace to come. I would pray for Putin and the leaders that have hearts of conflict to come to faith in Jesus Christ.

That is how we change these things throughout the Old Testament. First of all, God, turn the hearts of men like channels of water. Just pray that the hearts of many of these leaders who are bent on themselves become wholly sold out to Christ. And then second, there are faithful believers that are in harm's way who faithfully want to minister with the Gospel. Pray that the Lord would give them courage and strength. They would be upset if I asked to pray for their safety, and in my heart I want to pray for their safety, but pray for boldness and courage that the Gospel would go out. And then finally, pray that believers around the world will get involved and not sit back in a distance. I'm brokenhearted that I can't get over there and help out, so what I can do is we can pray for them, we can give the support aid going to their churches, which go out to the people, and it certainly does that, and we can make a difference in that regard and get the word out.

This isn't about politics, it's about people coming to faith, and God has created this hardship, so pray in the midst of the hardship that people cry out to Jesus and God turns their hearts to him in saving faith. You know, so much you just said there really encouraged me and really convicted me. I was talking to a pastor earlier today. I said, how you doing? He was having a rough day. He's preparing for his Wednesday night service, and I said to him, I said, Pastor, now I did not mean this.

Eric, you know you say things sometimes, but I don't mean them to convict someone, right? But I guess the Holy Spirit used what I said, which maybe doesn't happen that often, but I said, hey, Pastor, imagine what it would be like to be preparing for your Wednesday night service in the Ukraine as a Ukrainian pastor, knowing this could be the last service, this could be the Last Supper, this could be bomb detonates. You are all in heaven.

You bow your head in prayer, you open your eyes in the presence of the Lord Jesus Christ. And you know this pastor said this to me, Pastor Jeff, just a dear friend, God the guy, he said, Stu, he said, I really needed to hear that. He said, I didn't really want to hear that.

He's stuck at a lot of stuff, we're dealing with things. He was telling me about stuff his denomination's doing to go wonky on the gospel and other things, and he was bemoaning that, and rightfully so. But that idea, the thought that, hey, we may not have a bomb dropping on our church tonight, Eric, but there's a little verse there in Ephesians 6 that says, we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against prince of powders, against superpowers of evil that literally want to destroy our souls, and they want to shut us up from sharing the good news of Jesus.

Talk about politics, talk about war, talk about environmental things. Do not talk about the Lord Jesus Christ and lift him up, because if you lift him up, people will hear the gospel and lives will be transformed, and that's true everywhere, and that's true even right now in the Ukraine, Eric Mock. Yeah, I saw a small picture, just to make sure, down in Kiev where five or six people were gathered in a basement in a bomb shelter, worshipping. No lights, no smoke, no fancy pulpits, they were gathered together on their knees, praying and worshipping and thanking God, with bombs coming down and gunfire in the street, and they were worshipping.

And it strips all the things away. Well, will you say a prayer for us? Everyone's going to pray with us if you drive, and don't shut your eyes or bow your head, but Eric Mock, with the Slavic Gospel Association, a dear man of God, a wonderful ministry, support ministries that are advancing the kingdom, providing relief spiritually and physically to the needs in the Ukraine, pray for the Ukraine. Eric, take us out of here in a word of prayer, will you, my friend, for Ukraine?

Absolutely. Precious Heavenly Father, we come before you knowing that you are sovereign overall, that we humbly come before you knowing that you saw even the events in Ukraine from before all time, and Lord, may these opportunities and moments be for your glory. We pray for the believers there, that they would be faithful witnesses, you're true.

Disciples would be made, and many lives would turn to you. May you be glorified in all things, Father, and it's your precious son's name we pray. Amen. Amen.

Hashtag pray for Ukraine. Thank you, Eric Mock. God bless you. Thank you all for listening. Pray, seek the Lord, and share the good news of Jesus Christ, because the King is coming back.

The question is, are you ready to meet him, and who are you taking with you to heaven? So keep sharing the Gospel. Eric, thanks for all you're doing with the Slavic Gospel Association, and our prayers also are with your ministry and so many ministries serving Christ in the Ukraine and in Eastern Bloc. Yeah, thank you, Stu. It was wonderful. Yes, sir. God bless you, folks. This is the Truth Network.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-05-27 13:41:58 / 2023-05-27 13:54:07 / 12

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