NI missionaries in Ukrainian city report panic as explosions threaten Gospel hall

Prayers are being said around the world for two Christian missionaries from Northern Ireland as their city in Ukraine comes under attack from Russia.

By Mark Rainey
Friday, 25th February 2022, 4:00 am
Updated Friday, 25th February 2022, 4:23 pm

Timothy and Rhoda Sloan, who were well-known at Gospel halls across north Antrim and Co Londonderry before they left for Norway in 1992, have been living in the Ukrainian city of Lutsk since 2004.

The couple have been posting appeals for prayers on social media - saying they expected to lose their internet connection due to Russian cyber attacks.

They report people panicking as the situation becomes more grave, and it also appears they are in physical danger with Timothy reporting on Thursday morning that explosions were rocking the city.

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NI missionaries Timothy and Rhoda Sloan. Facebook image

Just before 4am UK time yesterday, explosions were reported in the Ukrainian capital of Kiev, not long after Russian president Vladimir Putin announced that a military operation had begun.

As the news spread, UK foreign secretary Liz Truss tweeted: “I strongly condemn the appalling, unprovoked attack President Putin has launched on the people of Ukraine.

“We stand with Ukraine and we will work with our international partners to respond to this terrible act [of aggression].”

In a Facebook post on Thursday that was widely circulated, Mr Sloan said: “Six large bombs went off this morning in Lutsk just as I was going to the Gospel Hall at 06.50. I rushed back to the apartment and got Rhoda. We are safe and will open the Gospel Hall for all who need us.

Missionaries Timothy and Rhoda Sloan who have vowed to stay in Ukraine as the Russian invasion continues. Facebook image

“We are safe. Please pray. People have started to panic but God has not given us the spirit of fear but of power and of love and of a sound mind.”

Earlier this week, Mr Sloan circulated a message warning of the “dreadful consequences” of the Russian actions.

He posted: “This is quite possibly our last means of correspondence for some time. War is imminent and the consequences dreadful.

“A state of emergency has been declared and this will be followed by martial law.

“Young Ukrainian men from 16 years of age are being called up to serve in the military and Ukrainians are being given the right to carry arms.

“A major cyber attack is happening just now as we write which has affected Ukrainian banks as well as government websites.

“Ukrainian citizens are being asked to urgently leave Russia and our local currency is in free fall.”

Speaking in the Commons on Thursday, the prime minister promised the “largest and most severe package of economic sanctions Russia that has ever seen”.

Boris Johnson said: “This act of wanton and reckless aggression is an attack not just on Ukraine, it’s an attack on democracy and freedom in eastern Europe and around the world,”

Lutsk is situated 220 miles west of Kyiv (or Kiev) and around 60 miles from the Polish border.

Mr Sloan also said it was they duty to remain with their congregation.

“Rhoda and I are not leaving – how can we? As an elder in the assembly my responsibility is to shepherd at all times,” he said.

“It would be a terrible testimony to get up and leave the Lutsk believers. We have been preparing for this day. Rhoda and I have bought in generators, fuel, food etc as we would like to turn the Gospel Hall into a place of shelter to accommodate and feed the assembly believers who will face many a hardship.

“God is about to give us a great opportunity to show our Christian faith practically and reach out into our community with the Gospel.

“Rhoda and I may have to move out of our apartment as we are close to the Lutsk military airfield.

“As we close the military jets can be heard overhead and we covet your prayers! We are not any braver than you – but confident we are where God would expect us to be. Daniel 4:17.”

Writing in the Assembly Testimony magazine in 2005, Mr Sloan fondly recalled his childhood in Aghadowey and attending Coleraine Terrace Row Presbyterian Church, and later worshipping at a “tin hut at Ballylintagh Gospel Hall”.

Having married Rhoda in 1982, the couple settled down in Garvagh and “moved to the local assembly at Killykergan” and also had links with the assembly at Moneydig.

Their appeal for prayers has been widely circulated on Facebook and other social media platforms.

It is not clear if the internet in Ukraine has been compromised but the News Letter has not yet been to contact the couple for an update on their situation.

Meanwhile, the Church of Ireland as issued a series of prayers under the heading ‘Prayer in a time of war in Ukraine”.

One of the prayers opens with the lines: “O Lord our Governor, whose glory is in all the world, we commend to your merciful care the people and government of Ukraine that, being guided by your providence, they may dwell secure in your peace.”

Both the World (WEA) and European Evangelical Alliance (EEA) organisations have also called for prayers, as well as calling for an “immediate ceasefire”.

Bishop Dr Thomas Schirrmacher of the WEA said: “We are gravely concerned to yet again witness armed conflict that will inevitably lead to tragic loss of human lives, including innocent civilians who only desire to live in peace. We call for an end to the hostilities, an immediate ceasefire and respect for Ukrainian territorial integrity.”

EEA general secretary, Thomas Bucher said: “We see no justification for these actions and are deeply distressed by the death, destruction, chaos and misery that will result.”

“The invasion of Ukraine is both unjustified and unprovoked.”

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