IMB and Send Relief leaders pray for Ukrainian Pastor Michal Baloha after hearing about his church’s relief efforts for the Ukrainian refugee crisis. Baloha pastors Bible Baptist Church of Warsaw of which many members are Ukrainian. (left to right: Jacob Boss, Michal Baloha, Jason Cox, Paul Chitwood) IMB Photo

LVIV, Ukraine (BP)—Russia’s increased attacks across Ukraine forced the Ukrainian Baptist Theological Seminary (UBTS) to hold classes in basement bomb shelters, UBTS President Yaroslav Pyzh said in a new video.

“Several days of our session, our students went in bomb shelter,” Pyzh said in the video.  “We are lucky that we have basement, and we are lucky that our building allows us to have sessions even when we have a raid siren. Russia is escalating conflict and bombing Ukraine all over the places.”

Though Russian strikes continue, students at Ukrainian Baptist Theological Seminary continue to meet for classes in the building’s basement.

UBTS, with a pre-war enrollment of about 1,300 students in all class levels, enrolled 450 new incoming students in fall sessions, Pyzh said, thanking supporters whose generosity has allowed UBTS to continue serving the battered nation.

Southern Baptist giving through the Cooperative Program, which supports the infrastructure of the International Mission Board and Send Relief, continues to allow direct donations to make their way to where they are needed most.

Donations through Send Relief, the Southern Baptist compassion ministry, and monthly donations from numerous Southern Baptist churches continue to aid UBTS, allowing the school to waive tuition through the war, participate in humanitarian aid and support rebuilding efforts.

Southern Baptists also continue to support those who have fled the war, including refugees in eastern Europe and elsewhere, including the U.S.

Send Relief Vice President of International Ministry Jason Cox commended Southern Baptists for their continued support, sharing updated numbers that encompass about 40 percent of Southern Baptist work done to date to help refugees fleeing the war, the North American Mission Board told Baptist Press Oct. 17.

“Through our IMB (International Mission Board) missionaries and these Baptist partners, Send Relief has, so far, been able to facilitate 72 relief projects in 19 countries,” Cox said. “We’ve received reports from 27 completed projects, with others still ongoing, that already, 600,000 people have been impacted.”

More than 1,100 people have professed faith in Christ through the work, Cox said.

“Southern Baptists have made this possible through an incredible outpouring of generosity,” Cox said. “To date, more than $12 million has been given towards the Ukraine crisis through Send Relief and IMB. This is in addition to the ongoing support of Southern Baptists through the Cooperative Program, without which we would not have Send Relief and IMB personnel on the ground in the first place to respond to crises like these.”

Send Relief President Bryant Wright also commended Southern Baptists for their continued support.

“The response from Baptists on both sides of the world to the Ukraine crisis has been inspiring,” Wright told Baptist Press. “From the beginning of the war until now, Baptist churches, conventions and seminaries in Ukraine and in surrounding nations have led out in welcoming and caring for displaced Ukrainians in the name of Jesus.

“Through our cooperative efforts, from Southern Baptists in the States, through Send Relief and the IMB to Baptist partners in eastern Europe, God is moving in powerful ways.”

Russia reenergized its assault on Ukraine after Oct. 8 explosions heavily damaged a bridge Russia built to the Crimean Peninsula that facilitated Russia’s attacks on southern Ukraine.

The war that Russia began in February has killed more than 6,306 and injured at least 9,602 civilians in Ukraine, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) reported in its Oct.17 update on civilian casualties. Included are at least 400 children who were killed and at least 723 children injured, OHCHR said.

Pyzh describes the work of UBTS as critical during the war that has displaced at least 400 Baptist churches.

“In the midst of the challenges in this war, the importance of the work of UBTS is tremendous,” Pyzh said in the video update. “Because one of the most critical outcomes of this war is what I call a leadership vacuum. We lost a lot of churches; we lost a lot of leaders. And I know that in future we will lose even more. So our work in equipping and developing leaders (is) becoming much more critical.”

Pyzh shared the story of a new student from Chernihiv in northern Ukraine who had never before pastored a church but has been called to the ministry forefront during the war.

“We have a lot of people, a lot of opportunities, big building, and I have no clue what to do,” Pyzh quoted the student who also said, “That’s the reason why I’m at UBTS.”

About 2,300 evangelical Baptist churches were active in Ukraine before the war, according to the All-Ukrainian Union of Churches of Evangelical Christian Baptists.

“In future, if you rebuild all the buildings, buildings without leaders mean nothing,” Pyzh said. “So thank you for helping us to invest in leaders. Thank you for supporting us and please, be with us through this difficult time.”