Dirk Smith, vice president of Eastern European Mission, which sends Bibles to Eastern Europe, describes Ukraine as the “buckle” of Europe’s “Bible Belt.”
ORLANDO, Fla.—A Christian group that sends Bibles to Eastern European countries has a report from the field: The war in Ukraine is a “spiritual war,” and the Bible is bridging divides between groups that have hated one another for centuries.
About 10 years ago, Ukraine came to Eastern European Mission and asked for Bibles to put in the public schools, Dirk Smith, the mission’s vice president, told The Daily Signal at the National Religious Broadcasters Convention in May.
“They shared with us, and we met with this group of people, all different denominations, all different faith backgrounds, and we felt this real spirit of unity,” Smith said. “And they said, ‘We’ve decided that if we’re going to get our nation back to a biblical and Christian worldview, we’ve got to start with our kids, and we’ve got to go back to the basics and just teach the Bible. So, we’re going to set aside all of our different traditions, put aside our icons, everything else, and we’re just going to teach the Bible.’”
“‘But we’ve got to have Bibles, and we can’t get them. We have nowhere to get them. Can you help us out?’” Smith recalled the Ukrainians asking. “And we said, ‘If that’s what you want to do, yep. We’re your people. Absolutely.’ So we partnered with them.”
By the time Russia invaded Ukraine in late February 2022, Eastern European Mission had put Bibles in “a little over three-fourths of the public schools in Ukraine.”
Smith said the Russia-Ukraine war “is very much a spiritual war.” He called Ukraine “the buckle of the Bible Belt of Europe.”
“So, as a result of what they’re doing in their public schools, we’re now putting Bibles in the public schools in Croatia, in Romania, in Bulgaria, in North Macedonia,” Smith added. “It is growing and it is spreading. God is using them and their faithfulness because as this horrific war takes place, they’re fleeing and they’re moving, but they’re sharing the Gospel, not only with their mouths, but really with their hearts and their attitudes.”
Eastern European Mission does not just send Bibles to Ukraine, however. Smith noted that the ministry prints Bibles in Russia-aligned Belarus and sends Bibles to Russia as well.
“There’s definitely evil in Russia. [Russian President Vladimir] Putin is evil, no question about it,” he said. “He and his regime and all those that support him are evil, and it’s straight up evil. But the Russian people don’t want this. They don’t want this war.”
He recalled visiting St. Petersburg and Moscow in 2019 and he called the Russians “beautiful people.”
Eastern European Mission began in the 1960s, when the Soviet Union prevented Bibles from entering its territory. Smith said the ministry printed Bibles the size of cigarette packs and smuggled them past Soviet officials who were watching for “guns and Bibles.”
Smith shared inspiring stories about the Bible breaking down barriers between people.
“I’ve sat around a table with Orthodox priests, Catholic priests, evangelical, Protestant, Pentecostal, all locking arms and all saying, ‘Let’s work together. We’ve got to do this. We’ve got to get Jesus out there,’” he recalled. “It’s happening in Ukraine. It’s happening in Croatia. I mean, literally, every nation I go to, we have meetings just like that.”
He said the meetings seem like God fulfilling John 17, a passage in which Jesus prays for unity among his disciples.
“The divisiveness comes from Satan,” Smith said. “I think Satan invented denominations. I mean, we have got to come together around Jesus. They’re doing it. They’re doing it over there and it’s powerful. It’s extremely powerful what’s happening.”
Listen to the podcast below.