Q&A with Rev. James Krikava, Eurasia Regional Director
The Rev. James A. Krikava serves as director of The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod’s (LCMS) Eurasia region and as associate executive director of Eurasia and Asia operations for the LCMS Office of International Mission. In this role, he supervises LCMS work throughout Europe, Russia, the countries of the former Soviet Union, southern Asia and the Middle East. He also works with the LCMS Africa region on collaborative projects and with the Synod’s partner churches in Eurasia and Asia.
Ukraine has been in the news a lot lately. What is the Synod doing there?
A: The LCMS has worked with the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Ukraine (ELCU) for about four years. The bishop of the ELCU is the Rev. Serge Maschewski, who studied at Concordia Theological Seminary, Fort Wayne, in the 1990s. Maschewski led the churches of the ELCU out of a Lutheran church body in Ukraine — affiliated with the liberal German state church — when the German state church ordered them to accept women’s ordination and the LGBTQ agenda. In the last two years, the German state church, in cooperation with others, carried out a coup against the ELCU, taking over the ELCU headquarters in Odesa and seizing its bank accounts. Maschewski, his wife and their two sons were removed from the building by force.
What is the current situation in Ukraine, and what is the LCMS doing to help?
A: The situation is grave. Before the coup, we had missionaries teaching English in Odesa and Dnipro, but they had to leave the field for health reasons. Another missionary family was slated to go to Odesa but had to be diverted to Bucharest, Romania. Now, with the invasion of Ukraine by Russia, we won’t be able to send missionaries there any time soon, but I am in daily contact with Bishop Maschewski. Funds from the LCMS are supporting the ELCU as it provides for the spiritual and physical well-being of its members. In addition to food, shelter and medical care, the church is providing helmets and body armor for pastors who are now ministering to the sick, elderly and wounded under fire. Our partner churches in the area are also helping. About 4 million refugees have escaped from Ukraine, and up to 6 million are predicted. The outpouring of prayers and gifts from the people of the LCMS has been miraculous.
What is the church’s role in situations like this?
A: It is the same role as always, except under extreme conditions: bringing God’s people His gifts of Word and Sacrament. I talk to people in Ukraine every day via video. They are starting to look ragged. Their fear is more noticeable. Still, their faces express the depth of their conviction and faith.
What else would you like to share about the Synod’s work in Eurasia?
A: Our missionaries deserve an A+. First there was COVID, then persecution not only in Ukraine but against our partner church in Finland, and now this war, which is affecting so many. But our missionaries are doing well, and the Eurasia region is growing, in spite of the crosses before us. Theological education has taken a quantum leap forward with the Livonian Lutheran Project. Church planting is on the rise, especially in the Balkan-Mediterranean subregion, which includes Romania, Bulgaria, Greece, Italy, Spain and Portugal. Perhaps many are realizing the emptiness of a faith based on human reason rather than the Word of the Lord, which endures forever.
Managing editor of Reporter and staff writer for LCMS Communications.