Baylor professor, Temple church with ties to Ukraine react to Russian invasion

Published: Feb. 24, 2022 at 7:33 PM CST
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TEMPLE, Texas (KWTX) - Although Ukraine is about 6,000 miles away from Central Texas, some Central Texans have connections to the country; making the recent Russian invasion even more impactful for them.

Temple Bible Church in Temple has strong connections to Ukraine. The church has been partnering with churches and a seminary in Ukraine for 30 years, according to lead teaching pastor Chase Bowers.

Many of the church members have visited Ukraine and their Ukrainian friends have visited them in Temple.

“There are families in this church including mine that would say some of our dearest friends in the world are in Ukraine,” said Bowers. “We exchange things like Christmas cards and birthday presents.”

Now they exchange text messages-- the Ukrainians updating their Texas friends on the ever-evolving situation there and the church leaders in Temple sharing words of encouragement.

“One family that because of Russia’s history they are thinking that its best that they get out of the country but the overwhelming majority of them will stay and be with their congregation,” said Bowers.

For Baylor University professor Serhiy Kudelia the war is destroying his home, Ukraine, where he was born and raised.

“My mother is there, my wife’s parents are there, friends obviously. Many of them woke up to the sounds of bombings,” Kudelia said.

He says as a Ukrainian he’s devastated by latest events and as a political scientist with expertise in Ukrainian politics he says much of the western world is unaware that years of the Ukrainian government ignoring the interests of different Russian speaking ethnic groups within the country gave room for Russian President Vladamir Putin’s invasion.

“One of the reasons [Putin] was so aggressive in the last couple of years was that he wanted to change the political structure of the state, make it a federal state and provide autonomy to some of these Russian speaking cities or regions,” Kudelia said. “I think we should talk a little bit more about the need for the Ukrainian government to be more open minded about different ethnic groups that live in Ukraine and more willing to adopt more policies that benefit those ethnic groups.”

Kudelia also urges Americans to reject the notion that the situation in Ukraine is a mere distraction.

Kudelia’s employer, Baylor University, says it has a handful of Ukrainian students on campus. Baylor says it is has reached out to those students to offer continued support and guidance. That includes assistance with finding a counselor if they feel anxious or overwhelmed and answering other questions about how the conflict is impacting them.

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