Thank you for praying with us this week for Denys Kondyuk in Ukraine.
A sovereign republic since 1991, Ukraine is home to nearly 44 million people (73% Eastern Orthodox, 10% Catholic, 2% Protestant). In 2014, war broke out after Russia annexed the Crimean Peninsula, portending the full-scale Russian invasion of Ukraine in February 2022. In one year, the war has killed 7,000+ Ukrainian civilians and 200,000+ soldiers on both sides, while displacing 8 million Ukrainians. Since September, Russia has aimed over ten missile strikes at Ukraine’s essential infrastructure, including its national power grid, causing daily blackouts amid a freezing winter, internet outages, and disrupted phone service. Pray for war to cease and righteous peace to reign in Ukraine. Pray for the Lord to sustain our Ukrainian siblings and neighbors. Pray for His rod and staff to comfort them as they walk through the valley of the shadow of death.
Denys leads the Missiology and Psychology Departments at Ukrainian Evangelical Theological Seminary (UETS) in Kyiv. After the Russian invasion, Denys and his colleagues at UETS took up the frontline relief work of evacuating and housing the vulnerable, transporting food and medical supplies, and feeding hundreds daily – while also offering prayer, distributing Bibles, preaching the Gospel, and responding theologically to urgent questions of identity, trauma, and theodicy. Christianity Today spotlighted Denys’s wartime prayers six months after the Russian invasion.
Denys is pursuing a PhD in Theology from Charles University in Prague. His dissertation – titled “Developing Cultural Analysis through a Methodology of Theological Aesthetics” – brings together theology, Ukrainian culture, and the cinematic arts. Denys also pastors New City Church in Kyiv. In addition to supporting Denys’s doctoral studies through LeaderStudies, ScholarLeaders collaborates with UETS through the Vital SustainAbility Initiative. Denys and his wife Olga have a son, Yan.
Denys shares the following message:
2022 was a historical year for Ukrainians and for many, globally. In Ukraine, the full-scale Russian invasion that started on February 24th has affected all areas of life, including for our family.
That February, I had been editing a rough draft of my PhD thesis after a very busy month of teaching. Unfortunately, there have not been many quiet, non-challenging times to finish my writing since then.
It is ironic that President Volodymyr Zelensky, who had not been so successful in international relations before last February, has become a symbol of resistance and bravery in the past year. We saw the war coming amid all the warnings in 2021, but there was little hope for negotiation. Now, we are coming up to a full year of terrible war with Russia.
The first few weeks were the hardest, as the front line west of Kyiv was only a few miles from us. We could watch the artillery fight from our windows. Occasionally, there were street fights close to us, and we could see jets and helicopters flying overhead.
The seminary had to be evacuated. Like many other Ukrainians, we left our apartment with our backpacks and a few things, hoping for the best and not knowing where God may lead us. Luckily for us, we had prepared in case of a full-scale conflict, so we were able to stay in Polyana village in Transcarpathia for a few weeks. In May, we returned to the campus in Kyiv and continued our work. We had already resumed teaching in April, mostly online, while hoping for the best.
Most Ukrainians have gotten used to the experience of war. It is tough, but we have no choice but to go on. The current blackout challenge is more impactful, as it affects all our businesses, and it is hard to predict how costly it would be to use electric generators all the time if missiles were to destroy our remaining power plants in central Ukraine.
Ukraine is still standing, but we have a long way to go, militarily and economically. We are very dependent on international support in all areas, and 2023 will be defined by global unity and interest in Ukrainian matters. This may be a challenge, as the war draws a lot of energy and resources from almost everybody.
As I mentioned, I had been editing my rough draft, but editing requires concentration. To edit a big chunk of text, you have to keep the whole picture in your mind. The continuous war experience does not help with this.
I applied for academic leave, as it was offered to Ukrainian students. I want to return to my studies and finish editing before the final exam and thesis defense. Right now, most Ukrainian men can’t leave the country officially, as they are subject to military mobilization.
I hope that I will have a few weeks this winter for my studies, but it is not possible to predict what may happen a few weeks from now or how much the situation in Kyiv may change.
I am pastoring a local church called New City Church, part of the Vineyard family. Usually, 30-35 people come to our Sunday services. Some church members have moved to Europe, but most remain here in Kyiv. The current situation is unstable, but new people are coming almost every week. God is finding and calling people during these challenging times.
In 2022, I worked as Head of Missiology and Psychology at Ukrainian Evangelical Theological Seminary (UETS). I taught Ecclesiology, Theology, and Apologetics, as usual, while also contributing to the theological track of the Psychological First Aid program that we started in 2022. I am also General Editor of UET’s journal, and we plan to publish a volume on Church and war soon.
Currently, I am moving to the Worship Department and will be handing over my responsibility for the Missiology and Psychology Departments later this year. My job life is even busier with the full-scale war going on.
UETS has been blessed by many partners, including ScholarLeaders, who helped us continue our ministry, even though our campus was shelled and many war-related challenges remain. This year was a year of partnerships on many levels.
During the COVID lockdown, my son Yan moved to online schooling, which has continued through 2022. He is in 5th grade this year. The previous experience with online learning has helped to make the wartime transition easier. Yet, the recent blackouts have affected his studies.
My wife Olga continues to work at UETS for the Department of Development and Communication, which handles both HR and PR. Olga’s year was also busy, as communication was quite an important part of the seminary’s ministry. UETS also hired some new faculty and team members, and that was also organized by Olga.
In January 2022, my mother had a minor stroke. We were happy that the medicine helped her to continue her normal life. But then she had a heart attack in August and was in the hospital for two weeks. She was living with my grandmother, who had moved to Vinnytsia during the war. So, I, along with my aunt and uncle, had to leave Kyiv suddenly for Vinnytsia to take care of my grandmother and visit my mother at the hospital. My mother recovered relatively well, but she has had continuous problems since then and needs to take different pills daily. She still lives in Vinnytsia, and we have calls every week.
Life is busier and more stressful than usual, but God is gracious, and we are living through this time almost normally.
(1) Pray for the situation in Ukraine, and for the war to end.
(2) Pray for my studies and PhD defense. This road has to be walked to its end, and I am so close that it is almost painful to prolong my studies further. I need to finish this project and be fully present in the other areas of my life.
(3) Pray for our family, so we have the wisdom and strength to invest in our relationships as a family. A lot of stress drains emotional and mental energy from all of us.
(4) The last three years have been quite challenging. 2022 was overwhelming. Yet, God has been present. So, please pray that we may experience His grace and guidance even more in 2023.
Thank you, and may God bless you in your life and ministry.