Ministry to widows from Ukraine

The war against Ukraine is leaving in its wake thousands of widows. As a result, Churches in Ukraine, Russia, and the countries receiving immigrants will have ministry opportunities that place them closer to what first century believers faced. It seems like it would be wise for these churches to prepare by looking closely at New Testament instruction concerning care for widows (particularly in I Timothy 5). 

In the early Church, believers were reminded that “God our Father accepts as pure and faultless devotion to widows in their distress” (James 1:27). The first major conflict in the church focused on the needs of widows (Acts 6:1-7) and the way it was handled led to the spread of the word of God and to “a rapid increase in the number of disciples, including a large number of priests who became obedient to the faith” (Acts 6:7). 

The model followed in Acts 6 is important. Initially, the spiritual leaders will need to be more involved until they can mobilize the people to minister effectively to the needs of widows. Not all leaders can or should focus the same amount of time on this part of ministry. People in the Church (as was practiced in the early church) can be appointed to maintain personal contact and fulfill ministry to those in need.

Widows (particularly in the early church) were not merely women whose husbands died, but women who lost their husbands and the material support and provision provided by a husband or a family. Most widows had no access to social welfare programs or life insurance. Their needs were so great that they included “daily distribution of food” (Acts 6:1). Parallels to these needs will likely be part of the consequences of the war in Ukraine. 

The women who fled Ukraine took only their children and a couple of suitcases of earthly belongings. Their husbands remained to fight against the invasion of Russia. Thousands lost both their husbands and the physical remains of their lives in Ukraine. The church in Russia will also include more widows due to the deaths of many Russian troops.

Ministry to widows presents specific and pressing need for spiritual comfort for all. But not all widows have identical needs and circumstances. Church leaders will need wisdom in clarifying needs and mobilizing their churches for effective ministry. The apostle instructed Timothy to “give proper recognition to those widows who are really in need.” Leaders had the delicate responsibility to understand and relate ministry to “the widow who is really in need” (I Timothy 5:3, 5). 

Specific instruction was given to a woman who is a believer and has widows in her care. She is exhorted to “continue to help them and not let the church be burdened with them, so that the church can help those widows who are really in need” (I Timothy 5:16). Discernment will be needed. Resolve to follow these instructions will likely be challenged by accusations of lacking compassion. The goal of the instruction, however, is to wisely guide care and compassion in ways that encourage shared responsibility.

The Church in other parts of the world can pray and look for ways to help with this special need. It is good for us to remember that “God our Father accepts as pure and faultless devotion to widows in their distress” (James 1:27).

With prayer,

Steve Cornell

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About Wisdomforlife

Just another worker in God's field.
This entry was posted in Church Leadership, elders in the Church, Local Church, Widows and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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