Humility holds diverse Church together


Humility holds diverse Church together


My interview to Karen L. Willoughby


VANCOUVER, Wash. – Despite the war raging in Ukraine half a world away, Russians, Ukrainians, Moldovans and others from the former Soviet Union living in the Portland-Vancouver metro area worship together at Revival Church in southeast Vancouver.

And they do so peaceably.

“We just humble ourselves and remind ourselves we are citizens of the Kingdom of God,” Pastor Mykhailo (Michael) Cherenkov told the Northwest Baptist Witness. “This helps us reconcile so painful divisions and tensions, cultural and national differences, maybe even political barriers don’t separate us.”

The U.S. government in the late 1980s created several “hubs” for various refugee groups. Eastern Europeans were most welcomed in Sacramento, Calif., Seattle, Minneapolis-St. Paul, and Portland-Vancouver.

Today, perhaps 80,000 Eastern Europeans make this area home. The street on which Revival Church is located even has a Slavic name: Chkalov Drive.

Restarted in 2007, Revival Church today averages about 500 people in two Sunday morning worship services, one in English; the other in Ukrainian and Russian, which most Ukrainians know.

Something is going on seven days a week at Revival Church, starting with prayer at 7 p.m. every day of the week. Native language school takes place on Mondays. Age and gender-specific Bible studies, music (band as well as age-specific vocal and worship groups) and fellowship, including one group specifically for newly-arrived refugees, fill up the week. Many also are hands-on in missional work.

“Our church members participate in different community services and ministries, mostly helping the new migrants,” the pastor said. “Recently we have hosted dozens of refugees from Russia and even more from Ukraine. Our ministers provide shelter, food, legal services” and more.

Border officials routinely call the church people, asking for help resettling refugees, the pastor added.

“Our people love to make short trips to Mexico” to minister among the Mexican people, Cherenkov said. “And we have several groups last year that went to Poland, Ukraine and Moldova with food, medicine, generators and to do church planting.”

Ukraine is close to his heart, the pastor said. He grew up in the eastern part of the country, the Donetsk region where most of the current battles and destruction take place.

“In that whole region there is no water at all,” Cherenkov said. “Russians destroyed all the dams and the machinery to make water running to the homes, the whole critical infrastructure.”

Revival Church distributed “fresh water, bread and the gospel,” when members were there in the spring of 2023, the pastor said.

Cherenkov moved from his native Russia to Ukraine as a toddler. His Russian father was a “prisoner of conscience” in Russia for five years because of his Christian endeavors.

Cherenkov graduated with bachelor’s, master’s and Ph.D. degrees from Donetsk National University and then made his second doctorate in Kyiv Institute of Philosophy. After 20 years’ experience in international missions in post-Soviet countries, as well as many books including A Future and a Hope: Mission, Theological Education and the Transformation of Post-Soviet Society, written with his friend, British theologian Joshua Searle, published in Portland by Wipf and Stock Publishers.

He moved to Vancouver in 2021 to help with Revival Church and was elected as its senior pastor. He is still involved in different global mission projects with Global Trust Partners, Light in the East, and Dnipro Hope Mission, with specific focus on Ukraine.

Cherenkov speaks of the war in Ukraine with first-hand knowledge of the situation there.

“Putin wants to restore the Soviet empire,” Cherenkov said. This includes Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Estonia, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Latvia, Lithuania, Moldova, Russia, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Ukraine, and Uzbekistan.

Ukraine became the first of those nations for Russia to attack as part of its plan to re-acquire all the lands of the former Soviet Union.

“Ukraine was independent, democratic and free,” the pastor explained the reason Russia invaded Ukraine. “Other countries – Central Asia (the “stans” countries,) Belarus, Georgia, Armenia – were already under strong Russian influence in terms of economic ties and military presence. Azerbaijan was protected by Turkey. Baltic countries entered NATO. And Moldova was protected by Ukraine geographically and politically.

“So, Ukraine as a freedom beacon and a gateway to Europe was the main target.”

Ukraine, the largest country in Europe, lost its Eastern provinces, the Crimean peninsula and its Black Sea ports there in 2014, when western allies, fearing an expansive war with Russia “demanded to not fight back,” Cherenkov said. “They were so scared by Russia they asked, ‘Please don’t fight. Just give up.’”

Russia is feared because it has nuclear weapons, and now alliances with China, North Korea, Iran and state-sponsored terrorism, the pastor said. If Ukrainians are unable to stop the Russians, the other Eastern European countries will fall, “first, Baltic countries, and then Poland,” Cerenkov said.

For many Russian people, the war in Ukraine is a holy war, the pastor said. Russians believe western Christianity is far removed from the “pure” Russian Orthodox Church.

“They blame the Reformation [led by Martin Luther in 1517] for corrupting Christianity, so they protect the original Christianity and fight to protect it,” Cherenkov said. “Defending Russian Orthodoxy and its lands, the Russian army, mercenaries and security services target evangelicals in the occupied territories of Ukraine because they believe any Baptist in Ukraine is kind of a western spy. They insist, if you were born Russian you have to be Orthodox. If you are Baptist, Pentecostal or Catholic, you are a traitor and enemy of the people.”

Ukraine needs the help of America, NATO and other western allies just to survive and then to protect others from the global nuclear Armageddon, as “Russians have nukes and love playing them,” Cherenkov said.

“They threaten the whole world. … In order to survive, you have to push back, and you can’t survive alone. Ukraine needs full support from Western allies and maybe even some Peacemakers [who protect civilians and actively prevent conflict] and of course NATO. But Europeans are still so scared, even after Russia crossed the last red lines. They were simply not prepared for such a scary scenario.

“They [Western allies] provided some help but not enough to survive and push back Russians,” the pastor said. “They are still very careful and not confident in what to do.”

Cherenkov knows what to do at Revival Church. “It is time to remind ourselves and others about our mission in the context of war and war rumors. Time is too short, Christ is coming soon, and we have to finish His Great Commission.

“It is time to develop our church as an international community of peace and solidarity, truth and love” he said. “We have to keep our unity. That’s not easy. This war divided people deeply. We don’t want our church to be just a Russian, Ukrainian, Slavic or American church. We need much more. We need a home for every nation, refuge for everyone. To serve all those traumatized by war we have to train more young preachers, counselors, and other pastors.”

The next two years are critically important for Revival Church as the pastor identifies and prepares “the next leaders I can trust and empower to lead us into the future.”

Cherenkov said he wants to be confident Revival Church is in good hands so he can take six-month stretches to serve in Ukraine.

“I want our church to be missional not just locally but globally,” the pastor said. “I want our church to remain in unity. Unity in church is a sign of God’s presence and it is the best evangelistic sermon to the world.

“Unity between Russians and Ukrainians, and between older Soviet and younger Americans, is hardly achievable. And when we see it happen, we know it is God’s miracle.”

Cherenkov requests prayer “for our congregation and our unique situation as we serve the younger, Americanized generations and older people who are religious refugees from the Soviet Union, as well as new war refugees from Russia and Ukraine.

“Don’t forget about the war in Ukraine. Pray specifically for divine intervention in the Ukraine war, and for our relief efforts as we support a network of Ukrainian churches.”

The Revival Church’s pastor also asked Witness readers to spread the word locally about the church as it seeks to minister to a growing international congregation, and about the needs in Ukraine.

The website has a “donate” button for those willing to add to the “Support Ukraine Fund.” It’s near the bottom of the home page.