Taras Dyatlik in Ukraine

Dear Friends,

This Advent, as we celebrate the birth of the Prince of Peace, we especially remember and pray for our brothers, sisters, and neighbors who endure war and persecution in so many places, including in the Holy Land. May we continue to find the peace that surpasses understanding in Emmanuel, our God who is with us in every circumstance, who has come to defeat sin and death, and who will come again in glory and righteousness. This year, we have again invited Christian leaders from around the world to share Christmas devotionals as we celebrate the Lord’s first coming and anticipate his next.

To kick off the series, our very own Taras Dyatlik writes from Ukraine to encourage us to hope in the Lord who illumines our darkest seasons and pursues us with an everlasting love.
 
Lying north of the Black Sea, Ukraine gained sovereignty in 1991 after the Soviet Union’s collapse. In 2013, Ukraine’s government suspended an agreement with the European Union to pursue closer ties with Russia. Several months of Euromaidan protests ensued, eventually escalating into a revolution that established a new government. A month later, in March 2014, Russia annexed Crimea and began backing pro-Russian separatists in Ukraine’s eastern Donbas region. In February 2022, Russia launched a full-scale invasion of Ukraine. Join us in prayer for peace in Ukraine, for all who face danger and deprivation, for the hundreds of thousands who have lost loved ones, for the 8 million displaced within the country, and for the 6 million refugees (mostly women and children) scattered abroad.

 
Taras serves as Engagement Director for the Vital Sustainability Initiative at Scholar Leaders. Drawing on over 25 years of experience in theological education and ministry across Eastern Europe and Central Asia, he provides strategic guidance to strengthen evangelical theological institutions in the region. Taras also assisted relief efforts in Ukraine through the Project for Ukrainian Refugees in Europe of Overseas Council-United World Mission, in collaboration with Scholar Leaders. Through this initiative, Taras worked with 14 seminaries and Christian organizations in Ukraine and Moldova to provide direct relief – including food, medical aid, and Bibles – to those in need. He also ministers at The Rock, a church in Rivne, Ukraine.

Preparing medical kits for paramedics in Ukraine

Taras holds a Bachelor of Theology from Donetsk Christian University, which has remained under Russian occupation since 2014. He earned his Master of Theology and Religious Studies from the Evangelical Theological Faculty in Belgium. In addition to serving as a preacher, seminary professor and dean, theological resource developer, and theological education consultant, Taras also helped his father run an underground Christian publishing ministry during the Soviet regime in Ukraine. Read his 2021 Global Insights: Speaking of Pain and Waiting. Taras and his wife Natasha have two married children. 
 
Taras shares the following devotional and prayer requests:

Dawn Undefeated: Finding Hope in God Who Pursues

As the bitter winter air carries the echoes of war in Ukraine, we seek flickers of light and hope amid the encroaching darkness. In our hearts, we yearn for the distant melody once sung by choirs of angels over Bethlehem’s hills, proclaiming peace and goodwill for all. But does this ancient message still resonate with us today? Even as chaos envelops our homeland, we find solace in the unchanging nature of God, who has walked with humanity since the dawn of creation.

The story of Christmas begins with a God who comes, not expecting open arms but intent on relentless pursuit. From Eden’s garden to Bethlehem’s stable, God continually inserts Himself into humanity’s brokenness, pain, and chaos. He comes to Adam and Eve, even as they hide from Him in the garden. He comes to Cain, the brother-slayer. He comes to Noah, who is about to face a global flood. He comes to Abraham, calling him to leave his home and embark on a new journey. He comes to Moses, speaking from the burning bush and leading the Israelites out of slavery. He comes to the prophets, revealing His word to the people. He has walked alongside humanity throughout history, offering guidance, mercy, and redemption.

Ultimately, He comes to us as Jesus Christ, transforming a scandalous pregnancy into the luminous nativity that shapes history. The epicenter of peace is found not in palaces but in a simple trough. Through unlikely characters – a wavering priest, an obscure girl, a carpenter – the glory of heaven quietly lands. And it is the outcast shepherds who first catch a glimpse of Hope’s arrival. This King, who traded heaven’s splendor for earthly poverty, understands the depth of human brokenness. His birth signals to all who suffer: You are seen, known, and within reach of His rescuing embrace.

At Christmas by Georgy Yakutovych (1965) (Angelus)

Christmas reminds us that God always takes the first step into the chaos and darkness we create. The stories of the Bible carry a unifying theme: While humankind runs, God pursues; while humanity hides, God seeks; while humanity wages war, God offers peace. No earthly power or even full-scale war can dim the flame of God’s steadfast peace and love. Evil may momentarily obstruct the dawning light, but shadows must give way to the brilliance of the Son.

While political schemes and threats of tyranny seek to block peace, no barriers or weaponry can overcome the King who has traversed cosmic realms to make damaged souls His home. The promise of salvation and restoration, spoken by prophets and echoed in angelic proclamations, overrides the schemes of man. It resonates across two millennia, proclaiming a singular and enduring reality: The Light of Christ shines unwaveringly for all who embrace His dawn.  

In the ongoing darkness that engulfs Ukraine, the unwavering presence of Emmanuel – God with us – persists relentlessly. He intimately knows not only our pain, darkness, and brokenness, but also our anger, loneliness, loss, and hunger for justice. We are never abandoned, for He walks beside us, ready to lift us when we stumble or to lift our souls before His throne of grace when life leaves our bodies. 

Let us attune our ears to the gentle voice that pursued Adam in exile, guided Moses and Israel through parted waters, and declared favor through so many messengers before His incarnation. Even in our present, this cry resounds: “Glory to God in the highest, peace on earth to all people.”  

Annunciation by Kateryna Kuziv (2020) (Art & Theology)

Let us embrace the profound reality that we are fervently loved by the Creator of the universe who sacrificially gave His life to claim us as His own. In this truth, we find enduring security for all eternity, even amid full-scale war. The radiant light does persist through darkness. The Eternal Flame’s relentless pursuit remains undiminished. Let this assurance fill our hearts with peace and joy as we celebrate the unyielding love of God during this Christmas season. 

Let us remember that the God who stepped into the chaos of human history continues to step into our lives today, entering into our chaos, pain, darkness, and brokenness. Amid the challenges of war, let us find comfort in our steadfast God, our constant anchor in the storm and unwavering guide in the darkness. May we hold fast to the assurance of His enduring light. And as we step into a new year, may we walk forth confidently in His unchanging strength and guidance.

With wholehearted reliance on the God who entered the chaos and pain of human history and engages with our lives today, let us stride forward, strengthened by a light undefeated by darkness. Take heart. The dawn will undoubtedly come. Merry Christmas from Ukraine.

Prayer Requests

1. Pray for peace and an end to the full-scale war in Ukraine, that violence and fire may cease, and that a lasting resolution and reconciliation may be achieved.

2. Pray for the safety and protection of all individuals affected by the war in Ukraine, including civilians, soldiers, and humanitarian workers, that they may be shielded from harm and find refuge in dangerous times.

3. Pray for wisdom and guidance for the leaders and policymakers involved in the conflict, that they may seek peaceful solutions, prioritize the well-being of the people, and work toward a just and sustainable resolution.

Supplies for Ukrainian refugees in Moldova

4. Pray for the provision of humanitarian aid and resources to those impacted by the war, that basic needs – such as food, water, shelter, and medical care – may be met for refugees, internally displaced people, and vulnerable populations.

5. Pray for healing and restoration of the physical, emotional, and psychological wounds inflicted by the war, that individuals and communities may find strength, resilience, and hope in the face of adversity.

Taras Dyatlik

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