Imagine if you lived in Texas and on a day’s notice you had to leave and go to Florida.
“All your belongings, your home, your job, your friends — they’re back in Texas, but you can’t go back there because it’s too dangerous,” Russell Woodbridge said. “You have to start life all over again. Where is your hope? Where are you going to look for answers?”
This is the climate in Ukraine, where Woodbridge serves as an International Mission Board (IMB) missionary. He encounters people all the time who fled their homes when war broke out a few years ago. And in the midst of that heartbreak he and other Ukrainian believers want to help them find a hope that transcends the uncertainty of war.
“A year and a half ago, with the help of Ukrainians, we started a new church plant that specifically tries to reach these people who have been displaced and lost everything,” Woodbridge said. “We’ve seen people come to Christ and be baptized.”
Through the seminary where Woodbridge teaches he’s been able to mobilize displaced believers to plant churches among other displaced Ukrainians. He’s even seen them plant churches beyond Ukraine’s borders. One student traveled to Central Asia and led people there to faith in Christ. Another planted a thriving church in Poland.
Go to the nations
“This is what we’re about — training Ukrainians to go with the gospel to the nations,” Woodbridge said. “It’s been a joy and a privilege for me to come alongside them.”
Back in North Carolina Woodbridge’s home church feels the same way about his work. J.D. Greear, pastor of The Summit Church in Raleigh-Durham, says their partnership with Woodbridge and his wife, Ingrid, encourages the church and enlarges their faith.
“We pray, we give, we go — not because we have to, but because of what God has promised He’s going to do among the nations,” Greear said. “We get to have a front-row seat in what was formerly one of the most closed places in the world. It’s our honor to be connected.”
Woodbridge agreed. “It takes all of us — American churches, IMB missionaries and Ukrainian believers,” he said. “It takes all of us working together to reach the nations for Christ.”
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