HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (WHNT) - Local churches and mission workers who have established connections in Ukraine say they are closely monitoring the ongoing crisis there, which threatens to uproot sister churches in the eastern part of the country.
The crisis hit a new level Tuesday after Ukrainian military units traded gunfire with pro-Russian groups for the first time. Several government buildings in eastern Ukraine remain under the control of guerilla forces loyal to Russia. Intelligence officials said approximately 40,000 Russian troops have massed at the Russia-Ukraine border.
"This has been a real problem for our churches that are there," said Huntsville resident Jack Parker, who has led summer mission trips to Ukraine almost every year since 1990. "There is some oppression. There are people who are being called in and interrogated. That's what we're hearing."
Parker has played a hand in planting several different churches in eastern Ukraine, and usually brings two to three dozen people from various Southern Baptist churches around Madison County on the summer mission trips.
"Some options are in play to remove some of our folks from danger," said Parker. "This is the same playbook Russia used in Georgia and in Crimea. Nobody has stopped it yet...I don't see this ending well."
Parker said he remains in contact with the Ukrainian churches on a daily basis. Several members have reported skyrocketing food and gas prices in the last few days, with many too poor to flee elsewhere.
"This church in Ukraine has been through oppression and repression for years and years and years. But faith has stood the test."