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Can prayer stop a convoy?

During a prayer service in the Northwest, an executive presbyter is moved by the deep faith of Ukrainian immigrants

by Paul Seebeck | Presbyterian News Service

LOUISVILLE — Experiencing prayer with Ukrainian immigrants in Spokane, Washington, was so powerful recently for the Rev. Sheryl Kinder-Pyle that she felt compelled to share her experience with others.

In her weekly communication with the Presbytery of the Inland Northwest, the executive presbyter wrote that praying with people from Ukraine “was incredibly personal.”

Praying with the Slavic people and others in the community of faith at Pacific Keep Church in Spokane, which is led by pastor Boris Borisov, made the humanitarian crisis brought on by the Russian invasion more real to Kinder-Pyle.

“It brought it home for me, because we prayed so very specifically,” Kinder-Pyle told Presbyterian News Service. “They have such a deep faith.”

The Rev. Sheryl Kinder-Pyle

As they prayed for those they knew — including grandparents and friends, some fleeing and others staying to fight — Kinder-Pyle said the praying community eventually cried out for the convoy of Russian trucks to become frustrated.

“The mystery of having that actually happen the very next day was a powerful reminder that when we say, ‘We’ll pray,’ we need to believe in that power ourselves,” she said.

During the service, people also prayed for those in orphanages, both those working there and the children staying there. They also prayed for all the oncology patients at a hospital in Kyiv, including a woman with leukemia who had walked two days to reach the Poland border.

The Rev. John Sowers

For the Rev. John Sowers, senior pastor at First Presbyterian Church of Spokane, it felt like “a holy privilege” to be at the prayer service.

“It was as if I was invited as an honored guest into a family gathering where they were sharing their heart-wrenching fears and hopes,” he said.

Psalms of lament were read during the prayer service, first in Ukrainian and Russian, and then in English, by Pastor Boris Borisov, at left. (Contributed photo)

As the crowd sang the final song in Ukrainian, Sowers found that even though it was beyond his understanding because didn’t know the words, the song was both beautiful and meaningful. Watch the video.

“It was sung in faith to a God who hears and acts,” he said. “The service was a powerful testimony to their living faith. When you see injustice through of the eyes of people experiencing it, it becomes deeper and more real.”

During a Zoom call this week, Kinder-Pyle was sharing her experience of praying with the Ukrainians with a group of executive pastors, when the Rev. Brad Munroe, executive pastor of the Presbytery of Grand Canyon and Presbytery de Christo in Arizona, asked, “Is our compassion limited to those who look like us?”

Afterward, Munroe shared this meditation on Joel 2 with Kinder-Pyle and others in the group. The meditation is about sadness and the acknowledgement of suffering, “which is a path,” he wrote, “to empathy and an acceptance of the cross, where Jesus meets us all.”

“It really made me pause and wonder how have I responded to people in Afghanistan, to people of Guatemala, to the people of Congo who are suffering?” Kinder-Pyle said.

Witnessing Slavic people praying so specifically — and fervently believing in the power of prayer — impacted Kinder-Pyle.

“Being present and praying with those who suffer changes us. It makes me want to think of them more often, to hold them and lift them up more fervently,” she said. “So, I encourage us to broaden our compassion for all of God’s beloved.”

Pastor Boris Borisov

Kinder-Pyle and Sowers met Borisov when the Slavic pastor joined them on a Whitworth University-sponsored trip in 2019 to the Mexico-U.S. border.

“Boris and Alex Kaprian [who was also at the prayer service], pastor of Pilgrim Slavic Baptist church in Spokane, were very concerned about how the refugees were being treated,” Kinder-Pyle said. “We wanted to see the crisis firsthand.”

A Ukrainian-owned coffee shop in Spokane that donated 100% of its sales to people in Ukraine last Friday raised more than $20,000. Some people waited in line for more than an hour for their cup of coffee. Click here to give to the PC(USA) response to the humanitarian crisis in Ukraine and Central Europe

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