In Glendale, California, a Russian-American congregation of almost 100 members is embracing community and unity amid these especially challenging times.
Within this diverse church family exists 15 nationalities, including Russian, Ukrainian, Armenian, Georgian, Belarusian, and more, worshiping together each week.
Services are in Russian, yet members and visitors from many countries share greetings from their families and unite in prayer for their well-being and safety.
Anatoliy Gurduiala, the senior pastor of the congregation since 2010, is Ukrainian. In a recent sermon, he emphasized what Christians need to do during this time. He encouraged those in attendance to remember that our citizenship is in heaven, as Paul reminds us in Philippians 3:20. As Christians — citizens of heaven — we must bring light to other people's lives.
Gurduiala revisited the story of Elisha and the Arameans in 2 Kings 6:10-23. He also touched on the challenging message of Matthew 5:44 to love our enemies. Although we are not perfect today, we must strive to love even those who are hurting us. "That's what makes Christians different," Pastor Gurduiala noted. Nationality doesn't matter in a church family — we are all God's children.
In closing, Gurduiala turned to Galatians 5:20-22. There are times when we think that we have not sinned because we didn't kill or commit another "big sin," but fostering a spirit of disunity is also sin. The message of selfless Christian love, even in the midst of pain, is an important and timely one for the church today.
Throughout the service, as members shared, prayed, and fellowshipped together, a sense of deep, unified support for the people of Ukraine was evident.
Members shared personal stories of what their families are experiencing as the war continues and the dangers they face each day.
Our hearts are with this congregation and their families who are suffering during these unthinkable times. May we continue to lift up the members and families of this church in prayer, as well as our brothers and sisters everywhere who are affected by this tragic war.
— This article originally appeared on the Southern California Conference website.