“Ukraine can be this city on a hill”

Religious lawmaker seeks to build permanent U.S. ties to Ukraine

By JOHN KEREZY, eyeoncleveland.com founder (EDITOR’S NOTE: As the Russian war against Ukraine enters its fifth month, this feature provides some perspective and thought about long-term ways to help ensure a better future for Ukraine.)

HINCKLEY, OH JUNE 22 — Pavlo Unguryan is on a mission, not just to help save Ukraine, but to rebuild it in a way which would make it a global missionary center for Eurasaia.

“Look at the map. There’s no Christian nation between South Korea and Ukraine,” Unguryan says. “Ukraine is known as the breadbasket of the world, and it’s among the top five nations in producing sunflower oil, grain and corn. It’s also the spiritual breadbasket of the world, and that the reason why the devil hates it.”

As Russia’s brutal and inhumane invasion of Ukraine reaches its four-month milestone, Unguryan has taken temporary residency in the Washington DC area as an unofficial ambassador-at-large to the U.S. He’s traveling across the country, meeting with Ukrainian Americans, speaking at churches and community centers, and urging members of Congress to press for sending better weaponry to support the Ukraine military striving to repulse the Russian invaders.

L to R: Vladimir Gabyak, Pavlo Unguryan, Roman Skalsky. Gabyak and Skalsky are two of the leaders of the relief efforts for Ukrainians at Slavic Full Gospel Church in Broadview Heights, Ohio

Recently Unguryan came to Pittsburgh and Cleveland to speak to churches and meet with Ukrainian Americans. Eye on Cleveland caught up with him for this story.

“Ukraine in all of its history has been the front line to protect Western civilization. The name Ukraine, in the Slavic language, means border. For many eras, going back to the Mongolian empire and the world wars, Ukraine has been a battlefield, keeping Europe from Eastern aggression. Ukraine needs help to stop this aggression, and if it doesn’t (stop), then the war will continue on the European continent.”

SPIRITUAL WARFARE AGAINST COMMUNISM

Born in 1979 in Moldova near Odesa, Unguryan grew up in a Christian family committed to spreading the Gospel.  “My grandfather was a missionary,” he says.  “My first experience with evangelism was when my father took me to a park and brought a portable radio with him,” he recalls. “He found a station in Europe, maybe it was Voice of America or Radio Monte Carlo, where they were broadcasting programs about the Gospel and he played it in that park.

“It was absolutely illegal,” Unguryan recalls. “Units of the KGB had special antennas which would block signals coming into the (so-called) Iron Curtain between the West and East. But my father is a brave man. He’d just put the radio on the chair in the park, and many people would gather around and listen to the Gospel message. If he saw police coming, he’d just change the channel and suddenly music would come out of the radio.”

Pavlo Unguryan

Unguryan accepted Christ while he was earning a law degree from Ukraine’s National University Odesa Law Academy. He went to work in government, heading the office for strategic planning at the Department of Environment and Natural Law Resources in Ukraine. At age 27, he was elected to Odesa City Council in 2006.

But Unguryan’s real calling was for God’s kingdom.

“My first meeting with the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association was in 1991, and I helped with a big evangelism event in Moldova. Years later I was invited to attend a Congress for the Gospel in Amsterdam, where 12,000 Christian leaders around the world gathered,” he recalls. “I met with Billy Graham and others, and they asked us to help with evangelism events among the Baptist Union, the Pentecostal Union, to help create evangelism events.

Since 2011, Unguryan has worked as the coordinator of Ukraine’s National Prayer Breakfasts. He was one of the organizers of the 2007 and 2015 Franklin Graham Festival of Hope, held in Kiev (2007) and Lviv (2015). The former event drew more than 100,000 people to the three-day festival in Ukraine’s capital.

“(At the time) I was director of Youth Ministry for the Ukrainian Baptist Association, and this Ukrainian Baptist Union was the largest in Europe, with around 40,000 young people,” he says. “We had two huge Festival of Hope flags planted on two of the largest mountains in Ukraine. We had bicycle paths created to the Festival stadiums. The gospel message also went out by satellite to hundreds of churches all over Ukraine during the three days.”

All of this became possible as a result of the fall of the former Soviet Union in 1991, when Unguryan was just a young teenager. “The evangelism explosion then was a miracle,” he recalls. “Millions of Christians all over the world prayed, and took action, and that helped bring about the end of the Soviet Union.  That led to fast-growing body of Christ in Ukraine. We went from about 800 churches to more than 3,000 churches. We also sent missionaries from Ukraine to Russia, even to its most far-away places such as Kamchatka.

“I have been on mission trips to Russia, and to places such as Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan. I also went as a missionary to Afghanistan,” Unguryan says. “We understand how important (spreading the Gospel) is in places such as Russia and the Muslim nations. We (Ukraine) can send missionaries there, but the devil doesn’t want it.”

MESSAGE OF HOPE FOR UKRAINIAN AMERICANS

Unguryan is chairman of the Inter-Factional Parliamentary group “For Spirituality, Morality and Health of Ukraine” which unites more than 100 present and former Ukrainian lawmakers. In this capacity and in his unofficial role, he has important words of gratitude and hope for Ukraine churches and Ukrainian Americans.

“Thank you. You’re appreciated for your compassion, for prayers, for humanitarian aid, for doing mission trips (back to Ukraine) and for helping refugees arriving here,” he says. “God bless you for your help.

“We really need the humanitarian support, especially for widows and orphans. But also recognize that Ukrainians here can be a great bridge between conservatives in American and Ukraine,” he adds. “Help us to build partnerships between universities, businesses, elected officials, and local governments between here and in Ukraine, especially in conservative states and areas.

“Ukrainian Americans can be leaders for building, for investing, and for economic development in partnerships with local universities, hospitals, businesses, and the arts and culture here and in Ukraine.”

MESSAGE ABOUT A PARTNERSHIP WITH THE UNITED STATES

Unguryan understands governments and how they establish priorities, having been elected and serving for two terms in Ukraine as a member of its Parliament.  He also served as a member of the Ukrainian delegation to the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe. He has a vision for United States-Ukrainian relations from a Godly perspective.

“Americans think America first, we get that,” he says. “ But follow Jesus’ example, as it says in Acts 1:8, when Jesus told his followers to spread the gospel first in Jerusalem (the U.S.) then Judea and Samaria (Ukraine and other place) and then to the ends of the earth.

“The United States is the most strategic missionary city in the world. It is THE city on a hill. But Ukraine too can be this city on the hill in Eurasia, bringing the Gospel and hope and a bastion against communism.

“Let’s start partnerships please, between churches, between governors and Ukraine territories, between businesses, between educational centers,” Unguryan says. “Base these on Biblical values. This is critical, because the U.S. can provide an example for Ukraine on how to build a country with a strong foundation and to be successful.”

WAYS YOU CAN HELP

For nearly two decades, Cuyahoga Valley Church in Broadview Heights has been sending Disaster Relief Teams to Louisiana (2005 Hurricane Katrina), to Staten Island (2012, Hurricane Sandy) and to tornado and flood victims and “lesser” disasters in Florida, Tennessee, Kentucky, and other locations. Now it’s taking a big step by sending its first-ever international Disaster Relief Team to Poland next month. The Team will be there July 18-25, with a primary emphasis on ministering to Ukrainian refugees and building a playground at a Refugee Center in near Warsaw. Disaster Relief – Ohio and SBC Disaster Relief – NC are combining resources to put together an eight-person team for this effort.

The cost for the trip will be roughly $2,500 per person. CVC’s Sam Lupica is spearheading this effort. Some of those going are young adults who can use financial support to make the trip less of a financial burden. Here’s a link to donate if you can help: 

https://cvcmissions.gomethod.app/!/?fbclid=IwAR2xSYb1kNPM_-SsFKnwe2CSTX94zRWWunfCM3W-ILyIUq9_UgPKgSpOLks#/25879/poland-trip-july-22/donate

Also, Slavic Full Gospel (SFG) Church continues its life-saving efforts in Ukraine. More than 30 members of SFG have been part of in-person relief/rescue teams delivering first aid kits, medicine, and food supplies displaced persons, as well as bulletproof vests to Ukrainian civilians called up in territorial defense to help save their nation.

Recently, SFG has been a center for receiving and sending large quantities of food, medicine, and other relief supplies donated by a variety of U.S.-based relief organizations, such as Ohio’s Impact With Hope. SFG has paid to send four 40-foot trailers (the type you see on the interstate highways) filled with these relief supplies. SFG trucks the trailers to ports in Connecticut, where they are put on overseas ships to Gdansk, Poland. Then they are trucked again to Refugee Centers in Eastern Poland and Western Ukraine.

To help SFG’s relief efforts, click on the link below:

https://sfgchurch.churchcenter.com/giving/to/ukraine-aid

NOTE: Watch eyeoncleveland.com for more Ukraine relief and rescue stories. You can reach Professor Kerezy at john.kerezy@tri-c.edu

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