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Pastor José Almarza Encourages the Church in War-Torn Ukraine

‘Impact’ is a new FEIC website feature designed to show how FEIC member churches make a difference in their cities, nations, and the world. In this story, we feature Jose Cano, pastor of All Nations Christian Fellowship in Spain, who recently made a mission trip to war-torn Ukraine.

As José Almarza visited groups of believers in villages surrounding the city of Zaporizhzhia, Ukraine, he was surprised to see the peaceful spring day interrupted by a Ukrainian fighter jet rushing to intercept a Russian rocket hurling toward its target.

Shocked as he was, he soon realized that such encounters were a daily occurrence in Ukraine.

“Air raid sirens warned residents to take shelter every day and night we were there,” says the pastor of FEIC member church All Nations Christian Fellowship in the Andalusia region of Spain. “Strangely, this has become all too common to Ukrainians. Many just ignore the alarms and try to live their lives as normally as they can.”

José made the two-day trip to Ukraine by air, bus, and train with fellow Spanish pastor Gerardo Arias. They stayed at ‘Christ The Only Hope’ church, a Pentecostal fellowship in Zaporizhzhia, a city in south eastern Ukraine.

The two pastors were invited to minister in three churches during their visit, thanks to three previous trips made by Pastor Gerardo over the past two years.

Stopped on the Streets
José said that he and Pastor Gerardo made the trip to show the Ukrainians love and support, and to remind them that the Lord is watching over them and helping them through this time of tribulation.

“We were received with great love and hospitality,” he said. “They are so grateful for the help they are receiving from many parts of the world. And they are particularly touched when foreign people travel there in times of war to show them that we care.”

The Ukrainian government has passed a new law requiring all men 25 years and older to enlist in the army. This law even includes pastors and church elders who have shouldered the bulk of caring for their communities materially as well as spiritually.

Even José was stopped on the streets of Zaporizhzhia by Ukrainian soldiers, hoping to enlist him in the national army. After seeing his Spanish passport, they moved on.

You Could Only Imagine
Other memorable moments:
* During one of the village outreaches, the team met by a monument in memory of those who gave their lives in the Second World War fighting with Russia. The irony was not lost on José.
* The team participated in outreaches led by the church to bring homemade meals to the poor, many of them elderly. “You could only imagine the suffering they have experienced during their lifetime,” said José. “The Second World War, communism, their efforts to become a democracy … and now this war!”
* José said they were invited to preach everywhere they went. “What a privilege and what a responsibility – to bring words of encouragement, hope, and forgiveness without sounding triumphalist or insensitive to their sufferings, fears, and anger.”

José is thankful to his wife and All Nations Christian Fellowship for supporting his desire to bring comfort and hope to Ukraine.

“l am also thankful to those who prayed for us,” he said. “We have increased our material support for Ukraine and particularly to the Christians there. And we have a renewed motivation to pray for the people in Ukraine as well as in Russia.”

Please Pray
José asked the pastors In Zaporizhzhia how the church could pray for them, and this is what they said:
* Pray for Ukraine to be delivered from Russian troops.
* Pray that God would make Ukraine grow spiritually and economically.
* And pray that God would stop evil – and Putin.

“Here in Spain, I have met some Christians who believe that they are not supposed to pray for the end of wars because Jesus said that there would be wars in the end times,” said José. “But I believe that we are obligated to pray – especially for countries at war: for the kingdom of God to come, for Christ’s name to be glorified, and for evil to be defeated.”

“As I pray, I am reminded of 2 Thessalonians 2:7,” says José. “For the mystery of lawlessness is already at work. Only he who now restrains it will do so until he is out of the way.”

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