Stories from a Digital Theologian In Ukraine

by Peter Phillips, Premier's Head of Digital Theology


Before the Russians invaded, Sergiy Tymchenko was head of the Realis Institute. He still is. But his life has been turned upside down by the Russian aggression. In fact, much of Sergiy's life has been dominated by fighting the Russians. When Ukraine was part of Soviet Russia, as a Baptist pastor, he fought for freedom of expression and ran an underground church with his wife, Irina. He has many stories to tell of how they practised their faith and shared the Good News during their lives under the Soviet machine. And his stories of praying on stage during the Maidan protests, of being on the frontline during the final riots, of his support for protestors and civilians...

Students and staff of Digital Theology in Kyiv
Sergiy (right front in maroon jumper) with staff and students on the Kyiv Digital Theology course, 2019

I got to know Sergiy when he invited me and some colleagues over to Kyiv to teach Ukrainian students about Digital Theology (цифрове богослов'я - tsephrovre bogoslov'ya) back in 2019. We had a fantastic time over our visits and continued during lockdown on Zoom. Indeed, the Realis centre began pursuing validation for their own Digital Theology course through the EuroAsian Accreditation Service. Sergiy took his Masters Degree and Doctorate long ago through Denver Seminary and knows just about everyone in the world, it seems!


But just before the war broke out, he and his wife decided to leave Kyiv for Poland. But Sergiy almost immediately came back to Kyiv, landing as the airport was being attacked. Since then he has been rescuing people - as he is over 60 this is his service to his country. He travels from Slovakia to Kyiv to Poland to Kyiv with friends and pastors sharing the good news and God's love for all people.

Sergiy sent me a couple of stories that about his latest travels and gave permission for them to be shared, please pray for him and those he works with:


"Irina D. was a next-door neighbor of my wife (she is also Irina, of course!) when they lived in the Volgograd region. Last 33 years she lived in Chernihiv, often spoke with my wife on the phone, and once or twice visited us in Kyiv. Both Irina D. and my wife were Russians, both married Ukrainians, and both didn't know that the Russian army one day will bomb their Ukrainian neighborhoods. Two weeks ago the situation in Chernihiv became quite grim. The city was systematically bombed, the bridge connecting Chernihiv with the highway to Kyiv was destroyed, and the pedestrian bridge was also damaged. Those who made attempts to cross the bridge or take a boat were shot. There was no water, heating, or food. I told my wife that I'll do whatever I can to save Irina D. from the Russians.


When I came to Kyiv with the first big truck of humanitarian help two weeks ago, it was unloaded in the storage of an organization that provides support for the territorial defense units. I had a chance to speak with one of the leaders of this organization and told him about my concern for Irina D. As a result, a special rescue operation was designed. We had to wait for the right time. About a week later Irina D. together with a few other people was rescued by three CUVs that drove at a crazy speed on a half-broken pedestrian bridge and through the open field to safety. I drove her (and a family of other survivors) from Kyiv to Slovakia and on the way, Irina told me that she wants to start a new life. We prayed together. Please pray for her as she is making the first steps of faith."


A woman arrives in Kyiv, safety...
Irina arrives in Kyiv below church of St Andrew (picture edited evidently)

"The other story is still unfolding. My nephew 'D.' was in the Bucha local hospital when the war came to this town located 10 miles west of Kyiv. All these 40+ days of war we hoped to hear that he is alive. Finally, just two days ago, we learned that he is alive, but was shot and couldn't move. The bullet damaged his spine and he was unable to move his feet. He was brought to Borodyanka which was also later occupied and heavily bombed. He was without food or help, laying in the dirt for a long time. After the Russian invaders left the area, D. was brought to another nearby clinic. He was weak, wounded, paralyzed, and had an infection. However, there were so many wounded people that nobody was paying much attention to him. These last two days we have been working on bringing him to Kyiv where he could find better treatment. Please pray for him, for the restoration of his health and his faith."


Please pray for Sergiy and the many other people of faith who are supporting the people of Ukraine and seeking safety and protection from Russian aggression.