Michael Gott sees ‘holy desperation’ in Ukraine

Ukrainian troops are massing at the Russian border outside the city of Kharkiv in eastern Ukraine. Russia already has annexed Crimea, and there are worries other parts of Ukraine will be next. (BP Photo by Charles Braddix/IMB)

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Email

KIEV, Ukraine (BP)—The Ukrainian crisis has kindled an interdenominational prayer movement in the nation, said a Baptist evangelist who ministers there and has accepted an invitation from Ukrainian Baptists to preach on a national day of mourning in Kiev.

michael gott200Texas Evangelist Michael GottUkrainian Christians believe only God can protect the nation from Russian control in the midst of upheaval that led to the ouster of President Viktor Yanukovych in February, said Michael Gott, a Texas-based evangelist who has been ministering in Ukraine nearly 40 years. He has served as evangelist for several mission trips involving the Singing Men of Texas.

Gott, who spends up to six months a year in Eastern Europe, observed the revolution has caused “an amazing thing” in Ukraine. His latest trip to Kiev was in February and March.

“The churches, the Orthodox Church, the Catholic Church, the evangelicals, the Baptists and the Pentecostals are now having prayer meetings together, asking God to intervene in their nation’s history—and it is an atmosphere of holy desperation,” Gott said.

ukraine streetpreaching425Multi-denominational public prayer gatherings are taking root in eastern Ukraine for unity and peace. A local pastor in the city of Donetsk shares God’s Word on the corner of a major intersection as a crowd of Christians gather to pray. (BP Photo by Charles Braddix/IMB Photo by Charles Braddix/IMB) “They are saying: ‘God, if you don’t help us, we’re down the tubes. We’re facing a collapse of our whole nation.’”

Gott is scheduled to preach an April 27 sermon commemorating the estimated 100 people killed during protests that ousted Yanukovych from power. Details still are being finalized for the event expected to draw up to 50,000 Ukrainians and to be televised nationally, the result of the new government declaring the service an official religious and cultural event, Gott said.

ukraine riotpolice425As pro-Russian demonstrators stormed the Donetsk city administration building in eastern Ukraine, outmanned anti-riot police stepped aside and let the demonstrators take over. (BP Photo by Charles Braddix/IMB)“They want me to preach a message on this special day,” het said. “It is a national day of mourning for all of the people that were killed by the snipers during the Ukrainian revolution when President Yanukovych was removed from office and he ordered snipers to come out and shoot people. Roughly 100 people were shot, and they’re going to have a time when the nation comes together to mourn the horror of all of this.

“Because I’m going to be there preaching a rather large evangelistic event, I was invited to speak. The Ukrainian people not only want to do this memorial for these people who died, but we’re going during their Easter celebration, which adds a dimension to this, and it’s one of the reasons they expect the crowds to be so large.”

ukraine sign425“Pray here for Ukraine,” the sign reads. A Christian holds the sign for drivers to see as they drive past a prayer tent at a busy street corner in Donetsk in eastern Ukraine. Christians gather at 6 p.m. every evening to pray for their country. (BP Photo by Charles Braddix/IMB)Vyacheslav Nesteruk, president of the Baptist Union of Ukraine, and several other Baptist leaders invited Gott to preach after he already was scheduled to tour western Ukraine with the Arkansas Master Singers April 21–May 2.

Gott will arrive in Kiev ahead of the choir to meet with Baptist leaders and celebrate Easter with Dom Evangeliya (House of the Gospel) Baptist Church, led by Pastor Vitaly Kozubovsky.

“This invitation came to us from the Ukrainian Baptists themselves,” Gott said. “We’ve been going there for many, many years, and they asked us to come.”

ukraine donetsk425A scene reminiscent of events in Crimea has unfolded in Donetsk, a city in eastern Ukraine. The regional administration building has been taken over by Russian supporters, replacing Ukrainian flags with Russian emblems of power along with a banner that reads “the Donetsk Republic.” The entrance has been barricaded by a wall of tires wrapped in razor wire in an attempt to hold back any efforts to retake the building. (BP Photo by Tom Long/IMB)The trip still could be cancelled if the political climate changes in Kiev and western Ukraine, Gott acknowledged.

“The fact is the western part of Ukraine is pro-American, it’s pro-European, it’s pro-Western. And so, we have had to, almost within 72 hours, reschedule our whole itinerary,” Gott said. “And yet this could be cancelled if there was a military invasion of Ukraine.

“Initially, we were invited to come to Donetsk, which is on the Russian/Ukrainian border, and it got so hostile there, and so inflammatory … that very quickly we had to contact some of our other bishop friends, and they said, ‘Yes, come to western Ukraine,’” he said.

“So, we were closed out of Donetsk, simply because they were fearing there would be demonstrations by these pro-Russian people during the concert. So we’re going to the western part of Ukraine, western Kiev, to do concerts in the major cities.”

ukraine kharkov425Just feet from a towering statue of Lenin, up to 200 people gather each morning in Freedom Square in Kharkiv, a city in eastern Ukraine, to pray for God to move amid the latest round of political upheaval. (BP Photo by Joy Burnett/IMB) Gott will preach at each of eight concerts scheduled for the choir, which is travelling under the auspices of the Michael Gott International Evangelistic Association.

“At a time when most people fear going to Ukraine, because of the possibility of war and the possibility of more … violent reaction on the street, here is a choir from the state of Arkansas that wanted to go with us and do evangelistic concerts in a country at a moment like this. I think is a real tribute to all of them,” he said of the choir.

“We will be in the largest halls in several cities, and then we will be in the largest churches and some of the largest halls in the city of Kiev, the capital.”

His evangelistic event at a Kiev church in March drew more than 400 professions of faith in Jesus, despite ongoing tumult with Russia over the Crimean peninsula and elsewhere in Ukraine, Gott said.

“Even in the midst of that revolution, while it was all taking place, we were seeing an incredible response. Ukrainians desperately are aware that they need God with a sense of desperation. They are desperate to find God in this crisis mood of this hour,” he said.

God is creating good from the tragedy, Gott said.

“I know this much: Thousands and thousands of have come to Christ since these troubles started,” he said. “I know that many people have turned to the Lord during this time, and they’ve fallen on their faces before God, and they’ve asked him to be real in their lives. … Even in this difficult time for Ukrainian history, I believe God is working out his purpose and that good can come of this.”

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Email

Care to comment? Send an email to our interim opinion editor, Blake Atwood. Maximum length for publication is 250 words.