A Ukrainian soldier carries his copy of the Gospel of John, in his tactical vest, over his heart. Photo courtesy of The Gideons International in Canada

Gideons work with partners to distribute Bibles in Ukraine

“This is a rare time of openness and an urgent time of need that we must seize.”

KIEV, UKRAINE—The Gideons International in Canada is committed to bringing hope to the people of Ukraine. Through a partnership with Russian Ministries, The Gideons are distributing thousands of copies of the Gospels of Luke and John amid the fear and uncertainty in the embattled country.

“When you turn on the news, there is constantly another war, crisis or terror attack,” says Peter Marshall, president of The Gideons International in Canada. “We want to respond to that, so we work with our partners on the ground to get Scriptures into the hands of these people.”

When protests started in February, The Gideons heard through its partners about a tremendous opportunity opening in Ukraine. They put out an urgent appeal for funds, and as of mid-September they had provided 50,000 copies of the Gospel of John and 200,000 copies of the Gospel of Luke to members of School Without Walls.

“School Without Walls is an Eastern European ministry that gathers students from local churches for discipleship, to learn leadership skills, and for their main objective, which is evangelism,” Marshall explains. “The students took to the streets where the protesters were to share the gospel and distributed the Gospels of John that we gave them.”

The response the students are seeing is tremendous. Marshall says the uncertainty has softened people’s hearts and they are putting their hope in Jesus.

Ukrainian soldiers read copies of the Gospel of John as they wait by their tanks. Photo courtesy of The Gideons International in Canada
Ukrainian soldiers read copies of the Gospel of John as they wait by their tanks.
Photo courtesy of The Gideons International in Canada

One of the workers reported that prior to the conflict, about 20 per cent of people would listen as they preached. Now, he says more than 80 per cent of protesters listen and accept a copy of the Gospel.

At the protests, the worker says he was “amazed that no one was apathetic toward God and the gospel. Having previously shared the gospel all over Ukraine I had often seen an indifference toward the gospel. This is a rare time of openness and an urgent time of need that we must seize. Thank God for those who made the Scripture distribution possible.”

Marshall explains that when the Soviet Union fell, the wall in people’s hearts against religion remained. But in uncertain times, people are afraid and they wonder who they can trust. He says the people are recognizing that the Church is sympathetic to them and carries a message of hope.

“We are receiving feedback from soldiers too. A lot of these young guys who have gone to the battlefield are scared to death. It’s quite powerful for them to have a Gospel of John in their pocket to read about where they can put their hope and to help guide them day-to-day.”

Even the students distributing the Gospels are finding new hope. One student, Karina, was hit by the government motorcade as a child and disabled. She had just started university when the riots broke out and everything shut down.

No longer able to continue her schooling, Marshall says she “found purpose in going to the streets to share the gospel. She is leveraging the opportunities in front of her to get the Good News out.”

On September 4, The Gideons reported on their Facebook page that Karina and her team had personally shared more than 20,000 Gospels of John in Kiev’s Maidan Square, a central rallying point for the protests. The post says she prayed with countless protesters who decided to follow Jesus and she helped connect them with local churches.

“We have a sense of urgency about this,” Marshall says. “We don’t know what is going to happen in Russia or Ukraine, every day it is changing. It’s so important to get the Scriptures into these people’s hands.”

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About the author


Senior Correspondent

Craig Macartney lives in Ottawa, Ontario, where he follows global politics and dreams of life in the mission field.