“We will need to plow - namely, to plow for the development of our state”

“Shalom to you! My name is Mykola Romaniuk, - this is the introduction to the pastor's blogs . 48 years ago I was born in Boryslav and brought up in a Baptist family, from the age of 18 began an independent search and knowledge of God. Studied German in Drohobych and theology in Odesa, where eventually I got married. For the last 24 years I have been living in Irpin, where I am the senior pastor of the Irpin Biblical ECB Church and recently the Chairman of the Association of Evangelical Christian Baptist Churches in Kyiv and the Kyiv region. My wife and I have two sons, a daughter, a daughter-in-law, a grandson and a granddaughter. I feel my calling to know God personally, to help others in this.
“Shalom to you! Glory to Ukraine!” – this could be the beginning of his address now. In his own sermons, the pastor sounds firm. He acts just as firmly - many Irpins were evacuated by his team. Now the church team provides food and essentials for locals and residents of nearby cities and villages.
Next - a conversation with pastor Mykola Romaniuk.
- Have you already returned to Kyiv from the Rivne region, where you left?

– This week my wife and I are in Irpin. Your call found me in Pereiaslav.
- How is Irpin?
- Scary! Bombed, devastated! Blast-scarred beyond recognition!
(Already after our conversation, information was made public that 71% of the infrastructure was destroyed).
– What was your reaction when you learned that the Russian occupiers fired on the Irpin Bible Seminary?
– When you live in conditions of war, you see what is happening, then my only request to God was and is – so that only people do not suffer.
- When do you think it will be possible to return to the city? Do you intend to continue living there?
- If God willing and the Russians no longer take Kyiv, then in a month or two or three the city will gradually begin to return to normal life. Because while it is suitable only for thrill-seekers. However, the team of our church initially from the onset of war serves there - for the survivors. We replace each other and do not stop good deeds. In addition to serving Irpin, the team began to deliver food packages to the surrounding towns and villages. Also in Bucha, Hostomel, Vorzel. Although the Bucha direction has become a “tourist” destination for journalists, bloggers, and volunteers, there are areas and streets of Bucha where aid does not reach.

And yes, we are waiting for the opportunity to fully return to Irpin.
– Pastor Mykola, what was your reaction to the war in the first days? And now? By the way, can you get used to war?
– Reading the news, I understood that the war could start. However, I did not want to believe in the latter. Therefore, when everything happened, I felt mental and physical pain (pain in the muscles), devastation. Now I have internally mobilized, although there are things that have not yet recovered as they should: it is difficult to deal with theological issues, to write. I have not yet got used to the war: it seems that now is a difficult and exhausting period, which will soon end and it will be possible to rest.
Do you think soon?
- Don't know. (thinks). No, not soon. In this case, watching the unfolding of events, I am a pessimist. I believe in our Viktory, I pray for it, but I understand that God's miracle is needed, because we are dealing with an enemy, more numerous and stronger than us. That is why I pray for God's miracle.

– Your answer to the flock to perhaps the most frequently asked question “What is going on?” Do you call the fact that we “pass through the valley of the shadow of death” a test? Something else?
“There is evil in the world. Evil is irresistible, unpunished always grows. Because man is evil and sinful, his nature is corrupted. So there is no other way how to punish, limit evil. So Scripture teaches - reread Romans chapter 13. What was not punished in 2014 (Russia's attack on Ukraine, the creation of pseudo-republics, the annexation of Crimea) grew, strengthened and rioted with incomparably greater violence, rudeness, and on a large scale.
- Where did the war find you?
- The war caught me in the USA. I immediately changed my tickets. Actually, there were no planes to us anymore, so I flew to Krakow, a friend took me to the Ukrainian border, and from there to the Lviv region, where my family was. So, on March 5, I got to Irpin, and then left for the Rivne region. Wife and daughter – did this before - I asked them. I went to Irpin to ours, however, when I arrived, Russian tanks came in, and we took out the team and the Irpins as much as possible.

– Pastor Mykola, long before the war there were “prophecies” about the conversion of Russia, which would allegedly leave Ukraine. When the intelligence of the partner countries talked about a possible Russian attack, did you believe in war? By the way, do you believe in these prophecies?
– I deliberately avoid any dubious texts. I have seen so much speculation on the prophecies! Due to the fact that most of the so-called "prophecies" heard and read are not biblical, speculative, and sometimes just a bad tradition of political analytics, I dissociate myself as much as possible.

- The war is getting worse. From this, our emotional states can naturally experience fluctuations. Protestants, in particular, must have the skills to stand in faith in difficult life circumstances, they say, but my Savior is Alive! (She herself, a Catholic, learned this from you). And how can faith coexist here, which is the realization of what is hoped for and the certainty of things not seen (Heb. 11:1), and the will of God, which teaches us to trust the Lord, somewhat humbles?
- You asked a good serious set of questions to which there are no simple answers. My spiritual and life experience says the following: often a person wants to do what he wants, and he needs the Lord more as a confirmation. Studying God's will and this topic, I would say that in many matters God has given us freedom: do what you want and do not look for a theological basis in this. In the context of our situation: if you want to go abroad, go abroad, if you moved to Western Ukraine and you can find a job there, get a job... It is God's will not to deal with sin. All.

What are some other opinions on this? (thinks). Everything that we cannot change must be accepted as God's allowed circumstances. For example, it is not in our power to stop the war, which means we accept it as God's permission and learn to live with it, think about how to help ourselves, organize ourselves and others ...

Each situation aims to show our wounds, fears, pains, unbelief and, as a result, repent, purify, work on ourselves. Actually, what we cannot change challenges us. My first two sermons after February 24 are devoted to the lessons of war. By the way, there are still war lessons on my list that I will voice.
– The well-known pastor from Slaviansk Petro Dudnyk wrote on FB, they say, “we know that for those who love God – those who are called according to his decree, everything works together for good” (Rom. 8:28). But how it helps us now, he could not explain. And it's fair.

- Certainly. The Bible does not say that war is good. However, any life situation has an educational aspect. This war showed: the kindness and generosity of Ukrainians who opened the doors of their own homes for compatriots from the north, east or south of Ukraine; greed, extortion of those who raised housing prices; traitors who are ready to kill compatriots for 2000 hryvnias, marking places for the enemy; very frightened Westerners who moved to Poland or to another place, although, as they speak "missiles did not fly to their place" or almost "did not fly" to them. In other words, even in such circumstances there is a benefit to a thinking person.
"GOD'S COMMANDMENTS DO NOT OPPOSE Armed Resistance to Invaders"
- Do your worshippers serve in the Armed Forces of Ukraine? Territory defence units? Can a modern Christian take up arms? What about the commandment “Thou shalt not kill!”?
- The fact is that the commandment “Thou shalt not kill!” concerns our neighbors, neighbors whom we dislike, hate. It is about private life and relationships around people. The Hebrew Biblical language has different words for describing murder in war and domestic. Therefore, the Holy Scriptures represent God's commands - go to conquer, protect or execute to death. That is, does not deny the use of weapons.

It must be understood that Ukrainian Protestants, namely Evangelical Christians-Baptists and Pentecostals, were influenced by European Anabaptism, which is pacifist in nature. "Baptism" means christening . "Ana" is “rebaptizing”. These were Catholics who began to be baptized at a conscious age. In fact, some of them, especially the Dutch and German Anabaptists, were radical pacifists. And they had an ideological influence on Ukrainian and Russian Baptism. The historical heritage began to be revised - 2014 helped Ukrainian Baptists to rethink a little and some even then went to serve in the Armed Forces of Ukraine. This year, it seems, even more have joined the Armed Forces of Ukraine and Territory Defence Units. And even those who do not take up arms are ready to join the Armed Forces of Ukraine - to work in the rear. Obviously, there remains a percentage of those who would like to get rid of the army at any cost. However, every Christian denomination has enough such people. And so the members of our church serve both in the Armed Forces of Ukraine and in the Territorial Defense Units.

– The reaction of the clergy of the Russian Orthodox Church to the war is expected. Have you received letters of apology, words of support/solidarity from Russian Protestant bishops/pastors you know?

- From three. True, only one wrote heartily, sincerely, that he was ashamed that he was a Russian, ashamed of Russia, its leadership. I wrote back, "Thank you." My mind and heart responded to this letter. The second wrote in a veiled way, although I know his pro-Ukrainian position. The third letter was never opened. I have no soul for the messages of famous people like this, who know about what is happening in Ukraine, but cannot / do not want to call a spade a spade.

Literally a week after the start of the war, the Mirt newspaper, which publishes the St. Petersburg publishing house of the same name, published an appeal by several dozen pastors and seminary teachers, in which the war between Russia and Ukraine was called a war and condemned. This did not go unnoticed by us, but such conscious people in Russian Protestantism are an insignificant number.

– My FB feed demonstrates that few even Christians are ready to pray for their enemies
(“... I tell you: Love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you and pray for those who persecute you, Matthew: 5 :44). It is obvious that the topic of forgiveness will be a complex and lengthy process. And this is precisely the field of activity for the Churches. What are your opinions on this.
“I think this is an important process. It will be necessary to teach our people to forgive when they are not asked for forgiveness. But I will be a very categorical opponent of serious dialogues with Russians, Russian Christians, unless they repent of what they have done.

Scripture says so: there is a time to love and a time to hate. And in time of war there is also a time of peace. In times of peace, we will talk more about love. Although I would advise you to watch your heart so as not to accumulate hatred excessively. Hatred poisons and does not even allow good to be done. It is better to give it to God. This is what King David did when he asked God to punish his enemies.
And I also have a negative attitude towards swearing. In my opinion, if the Russians cannot defeat us on the battlefield, then they defeat us linguistically. For the swearing is exclusively Russian by birth. This is another version of the Russification of Ukraine, also in a quiet way, as they say. The Bible denies swear words, because swearing is also the poisoning of the soul.
– Pastor Mykola, what are you praying for in this war, besides Viktory?
– For the outcasts – those who have lost their relatives, loved ones and property. They have received wounds that only God can heal, but such people should not be left alone. This is a catastrophe! We need a circle with whom they will talk about what happened, they will cry. It is better if they are in church communities where they can experience pain, suffering and grief. And I pray every day for Viktory over the enemy, for a miracle of God.

“Did all your worshippers survive?”
All but one, unfortunately. 26-year-old minister Anatolii Berezhnyi helped one family to cross the ill-fated Romaniv bridge, and was hit in the back by mortar fire. A woman with two children died immediately, one man and he ...
– What advice do you give to your worshippers who have gone abroad? In some places people have an expectation that everything is owed to them because they are refugees. Some of them could definitely stay in the “rear” inside Ukraine, but they believe that they can build a better life somewhere, which is often an illusion. As the pious milkman Tevye Tevel said from the work of the same name by Sholom Aleichem: “God, they say, it’s good everywhere where we are not. But, Lord, where is it good, how are we everywhere?..” By the way, pastor Mykola, will you encourage parishioners to return to rebuild Ukraine?
- Somewhat answered this question when we touched on the topic of God's will. Therefore, every person has a free choice. And I try not to judge. I have a negative attitude only when men of draft age make efforts to illegally leave the country.

I advise people who have left at least three things. First: be ready to return home or decide to move anyway. Second: learn the language and get acquainted with the culture of the country where you moved. Third: work as much as possible. There is no official work - to clean the yard, the room, the house of the hosts who sheltered. It is very important to be useful during such a forced departure!
- You were born in the west - in Boryslav, Lviv region, studied in Drohobych and in the south - in Odesa, serve - in the center of the country. In your opinion, this war accelerated historical processes and finally created Ukrainians as a political nation, after which there will be no more language manipulations, opposition of the East and West of the country?
Critical moments shape a nation. As we know, the Jewish nation found itself in the wilderness, leaving Egypt, when, miraculously through God's intervention, it received freedom instead of slavery. For Ukrainians, the 1919-1920s were very important. The First and Second World Wars gave rise to the Sich Riflemen, OUN, UPA. The Orange and the Revolution of Dignity contributed to the formation of civil society. And now, no matter what we say, Putin helped many Ukrainians understand why they are Ukrainians and united us. Therefore, very valuable processes of the nation are taking place now, although they are painful and tragic.
And we will have to plow. It is to plow for the development of our state! Starting with work in the rear! Create families, give birth and raise children, start businesses, make them profitable, successful, cherish Ukraine!
Interviewed by Nadiia TYSIACHNA, photo by Mykola ROMANIUK
The interview was held with the assistance of the Peace and Development Foundation