Date Entered: 1992
Major Ministries: Church Planting, Leadership Training, Medical Evangelism, MK Education
Population: 45,994,288 (July 2008 est.)
Economy: After Russia, Ukraine was the most important economic component of the former Soviet Union, producing about four times the output of the next-ranking republic with its rich agricultural and heavy industry resources. Shortly after independence, the government liberalized prices and began privatization, but resistance to reform soon stalled efforts. Ukraine reached an agreement with the IMF in November 2008 to deal with the economic crisis. However, political turmoil and deteriorating external conditions are likely to hamper economic recovery.
Religion: Ukrainian Orthodox - Kyiv Patriarchate 50.4%, Ukrainian Orthodox - Moscow Patriarchate 26.1%, Ukrainian Greek Catholic 8%, Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox 7.2%, Other 3.2%, Roman Catholic 2.2%, Protestant 2.2%, Jewish 0.6% (2006 est.)
Ukraine was divided between Russia and the Austro-Hungarian empire in the 18th century, was briefly independent from 1917-1920, then joined 14 other republics to form the USSR. Second only to Russia in size among these republics, it contributed a large percentage of Soviet industry. With its rich soil, Ukraine was once considered the “breadbasket” of the Soviet Union.
In August 1991, Ukraine declared her independence from the USSR and eventually became a constitutional democracy. The Soviet mindset and especially government corruption and manipulation of business, though, were not easily discarded. Ukraine’s leaders have had difficulty in transforming a totalitarian Communist system based on command economy into a democracy with a functioning market-driven economy. As a result, the Ukrainian economy is on the verge of collapse, and is well below the standard of neighboring Russia. Salaries are roughly $300 per month, while costs soar to world market levels. Foreign debt has increased to unstable proportions, discouraging investment from western nations and companies. The local mafia has gained political power through barter, bribery and bullying. Ukraine is still very dependent on Russia for energy.
The Orange Revolution in 2004 demonstrated how weary the people were of the debilitating control of the few over the many. Nationalism had never been as strong as it was when Victor Yushchenko took his elected place as President of Ukraine. Unfortunately, hopes have again been thwarted in the years since this election. Reform is slow in coming, and Russia is not willing to let go. January 2006, Russia doubled the price of gas to Ukraine causing economic crisis, while in March Yushchenko appointed his archrival, Victor Yanukovich, as prime minister and then dismissed the whole Parliament in 2007. Disillusioned with the government and low on hope, Ukrainians carry on as they have for centuries, yet with one difference. For the first time in 500 years, they finally have the opportunity to make their own decisions. The world watches to see if they are capable.
Knowledge of Ukrainian history will help Westerners understand the people and why they think and act like they do. They come from a heritage where dissidents have been systematically killed or sent into exile for centuries. A government induced famine in 1932-33 starved millions to death. During WWII alone, as many as 10 million casualties were Ukrainian (a startling 20% of the total war loss). The resulting ethnic purging and the cultural conditioning have produced a people who expect suffering as a way of life, even believing it will have redemptive value. Apathetic and cynical toward government and change, Ukrainians have been taught to do what they are told, without question. The present generation of young teens is the first to grow up without fear of banishment for independent thinking. Caught in a deeply entangled web of corruption where truth is not told, laws are not obeyed, and authority cannot be trusted, young people and old alike still feel as though they have few real choices.
ABWE’s goal in Ukraine is to establish a national church planting and mission movement through evangelism, discipleship and leadership training. Two teams serve in the country: the Ukraine North team, based in Kharkiv, and the Ukraine South team, based in Odessa. Working with many local Baptist churches, the ABWE teams facilitate their Ukrainian partners in planting new churches. Resource and training centers are being developed across the country to help meet church planting goals. Medical care and instruction is being given in village clinics as an evangelistic outreach.
Ukraine needs missionaries who are equipped for training national leaders and have experience in local church ministries. Medical doctors, nurse practioners, pharmacists, MK teachers, children’s workers, evangelists, disciplers and church planters who will work alongside their Ukrainian brothers are also needed.