Area Ukrainian, Russian pastors pray for peace

The deadly rock-paper-scissors of war, power and fear found its own enemy Saturday evening as a dozen men and women of God met to pray in the Proctor District home of a Tacoma pastor.

Faith, hope and brotherhood prevailed as Dean Curry, pastor at Life Center, welcomed Russian and Ukrainian colleagues who preside over congregations in the South Sound.

They gathered only days after Russia subsumed Ukrainian Crimea, weeks after blood ran in the streets of the Ukrainian capital, Kiev. But rather than discussing politics and trading recriminations, the pastors shared their common love of God.

They may have originally come from Russia or Ukraine, but for nearly two hours on Saturday night, they proclaimed a universal destination of faith.

“We don’t have any problems between East and West Ukraine,” said Michael Zhovner of Tacoma’s Good News Church. He is also aligned with the Ukrainian Alpha-Omega Youth Ministry.

“Politicians use this to divide people,” he said, speaking of the conflict that matches an independent Ukraine with neighboring Russia.

“We are not opposite to the Russian people,” Zhovner said. “We love Russian people. Religion was outside of the conflict, but at the same time we support the people. Church members have stood between the police and the demonstrators in Ukraine.”

“What they need is love toward each other,” said Curry, who often welcomes church leaders into his home for prayer and fellowship.

“For the people who have hatred in their hearts, we want to pray for them,” he said.

“We ask that peace will be present,” said one pastor, as he and others stood in a circle in the Curry living room.

“Regardless of our heritage, regardless of our nationality, we are brothers and sisters,” said another.

And he repeated, “Let there be peace in Ukraine.”

Translators switched among Russian, Ukrainian and English as the prayers continued.

“There are so many nations that look to Ukraine,” said the fifth pastor to speak. “Lord have mercy on (Russan President Vladimir) Putin and open the eyes of people who support him. Bless the new government in Ukraine to make wise decisions.”

Curry then spoke of an “invisible and indestructible” love that exists within all churches in the troubled area, whether Pentecostal, Baptist, Catholic or Orthodox.

“We pray that there be a renewal of brotherly love,” he said. “We pray for wise counsel. May peace abound.”

Vasiliy Stupin, likewise a pastor at Good News Church, noted that Saturday’s gathering represented “a little bubble of people who are united in Jesus,” whose hearts may be in their native Russia or Ukraine, but whose souls are resident elsewhere.

“We want to have peace,” Zhovner said. “We pray about that, we talk about that,” he said. “We don’t talk about politics, and who is bad, who is good.”

He offered his thanks to the American people for their support. He said he hopes the Ukrainian government will find a diplomatic solution that returns a breakaway Crimea to its Ukrainian home.

But he admits, “Nobody knows what Putin is thinking. We do not want to be enemies of the Russian people.”

What will actually happen in the region?

“Only God knows,” he said.

“Part of our mission is unity,” said Curry after the meeting. “These pastors represent thousands of people” in their congregations.

“This is a multiplication exercise,” he said. “We want to emphasize the unity of spirit between Russia and Ukraine. If you can get people praying, talking and laughing together, it’s a good thing.”