Pastor Anatoly Kaluzhny: God will bless Ukrainians in full measure! Ukraine will be a great country
According to him, a great spiritual warfare is going on now. As long as we are on the team of the conqueror Jesus Christ, we are destined to gain a victory.
Anatoly Kaluzhny is a senior pastor of the New Life church in Kyiv, a bishop, a head of the Council of Independent Evangelical Churches of Ukraine. Since the beginning of the war, his church has evacuated more than 2,500 people and is taking care of them. It distributes foodstuffs, delivers medicines to hospitals and military units in the war zone.
“Ruins and broken vehicles all around. It’s terrible”
- Anatoly Ivanovych, did you leave Kyiv?
- The first time was about a month and a half after the war due to a lack of transport for evacuation. I went to Poland (I'm 60+ years old) along with the drivers and took the buses. The second one was after the liberation of Kyiv oblast. One of our pastors survived the occupation in the village of Sosnivka near Borodyanka. As soon as the Russians were defeated, my wife and I went there. He was not in touch all these days. Diesel fuel, blood, hastily left by the Russians stolen things underfoot, ruins and broken vehicles marked with "corpse" stickers. It’s terrible.
This pastor lived with his family in Gostomel. Due to ongoing shelling, it was impossible to leave for Kyiv, but he and his wife were able to reach their house in Sosnivka. Since he was suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, I decided to send him to Germany, where they were ready to help.
- Anatoly Ivanovich, since 2014, during the Revolution of Dignity and the beginning of the war in the East, you have been trying to build a dialogue with Russians from Christian circles. Did you expect a full-scale invasion?
- My late father-in-law said very accurately about the Russian Federation. The colonel himself. He went through the German-Soviet war from the first to the last day. In Soviet times, he converted to God. He experienced persecution and abuse. So, he kept telling us that Ukraine has no greater enemy than Russia.
You must be blind not to see that they have been preparing for this war for a long time. When Putin became president, it dawned on me, because I had problems with KGB in Soviet times: published literature underground, communicated with the Western mass media... Life is not enough to share. So, I told my Russian friends, if your president is from KGB, then nothing good will come of it. KGB school destroys people - takes away the human likeness, integrity, suppresses adequacy and destroys the conscience... In response, I heard about how Gorbachev was not like that and Yeltsin - weak, but Putin - promising ...
I remember that at the international conference in Cape Town (South Africa), my friend said in his speech that churches are controlled in Russia, an atmosphere is deliberately created in which they cannot serve normally... The Russian delegation made a fuss, demanded to sign documents that Putin - democratic, ensures compliance with rights and freedoms, but the speaker slanders him. Even then, KGB returned to the old Soviet methods. Only that the name has changed to FSB.
“Only one Russian called and apologized”
- By the way, here is a question that is often raised in our information space, especially on Facebook. Can we talk about good Russians - do they exist?
- I have a lot of Russian acquaintances, and only one called and apologized, saying, I'm sorry, it's a shame for the country. It was a friend from Tatarstan - he is a Tatar.
For myself, I tentatively divided Russians into: those who consciously cooperate with FSB (mostly these are leaders of the first echelon - heads of denominations, bishops); those who are under the enormous influence of Russian propaganda and it’s hard to convince them; those who understand that something is wrong, but they do not have enough information, because the work of Internet resources is limited, and it is dangerous to dig deep.
I can add that Russian propaganda is a spiritual and destructive thing. This is a strong addiction. And I am suspicious of Russian liberals. All Russians have this stamp of lack of freedom, lies, and addictions. More than one generation will pass until they see things clearly. Or they will not see at all.
- Since the time of the Maidan in 2013-2014, there have been prophecies about repentance and conversion of Russia, they say, this will happen through Ukraine. Do you believe it?
- In the 1990s, Protestant churches in Ukraine planted more than a thousand churches in Russia - several thousand missionaries went there. However, already in the time of Putin, many of them returned, because it was impossible to perceive the narratives there. By the way, even then the Russians were spinning this flywheel against Ukraine.
I know many Ukrainians who nevertheless remained there as ministers. During the Revolution of Dignity, I invited some to Kyiv. We all had experience of working underground and it was, in particular, about how to act in the Russian Federation, despite the restrictions and propaganda. Upon their return, FSB met and warned each one of them...
If you come across a Russian somewhere in the West, in the company of another Russian, they won’t talk to you openly. If one on one - maybe.
As for Russia in general, in my opinion, it is like the northern prince Rosha, about whom the biblical prophets Ezekiel and Isaiah wrote. Perhaps the antichrist will arise from there. We can see in the Goebbels propaganda machine; tendency to shamanism; the raped Church, which performs the same role as under Hitler during the Second World War, is an instrument in the hands of the Russian state.
I am sure that as long as Russia exists within the limits that it is now, with the political system, the social contract between the state and the people, it is very dangerous.
And although, probably, God will still give humanity time. However, Russia is a complete disaster for everyone - in terms of its worldview, values, lifestyle... A country that, having stopped in development, was lost in time.
“First of all, it’s a spiritual warfare”
- The war has been going on for four months already. The emotional state of many, even of Christians who know how to hold on to their faith, naturally fluctuates. What about yours? You’ve been addressing the Christian community about the victory of Ukraine, global changes, the great victory of good over evil.
- I believe that this is primarily a great spiritual warfare. This is evidenced by the fact that we still exist, stand, and fight. The whole civilized world is praying for us. The whole civilized world is on our side. After all, as long as the Church exists, we are on the team of the conqueror Jesus Christ. In other words, we are destined to gain a victory!
To be honest, I am not a fan of president Zelensky. However, when Kyiv was practically surrounded, he invited the heads of Churches to Sophia of Kyiv to pray for Ukraine! I think that now the head of state is also destined to a firm and clear position.
My attitude towards any government is simple. As Christians, we should be somewhat in opposition to it. You can say to be her conscience. To be a light to the world, as it is written in the Holy Scriptures. Because who will tell the truth, about mistakes and weaknesses, if not us?!
We will win, we will mourn over the dead, and then we will talk about the time before the war (the mistakes that were made and led to deaths), the war itself and the period after it.
- Protestantism, especially charismatic, likes to talk about prosperity, the power we have, our successes, arguing that we are children of God the Father and everything belongs to us. And in your address to Christians, the topic of the price of our victory in this war was raised. So, in Christianity, the price is paid while we are "melted down like gold"?
- I am for a healthy, balanced Church! Faith is precious. I preach about it. I always paid a high price for it - starting from school, I was persecuted, dismissed from educational institutions, put under pressure...
If we once thought that we gained independence so easily in 1991, it turned out to be incomplete, not final, and now we continue to pay for it.
Jesus Christ knew who He was and was ready to pay a great price for our salvation. We too must know who we are, our purpose and be ready to pay the price, which we are doing: we are finally forming as a political nation, East and West together - now in fact. It's not just like that - here and now, God is doing something so that we become one and indivisible.
“How will I bless Russians who do evil?...”
- My FB feed shows that few, even among Christians, are ready to pray for their enemies (“But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you”, NIV Matthew 5:44). Even you said in your last sermons that it is difficult to bless your enemies, in this case - the Russians. Obviously, the topic of forgiveness will be a difficult and long process...
- Everything becomes clear when we look at God. Even He cannot forgive a person if he does not ask for forgiveness, does not realize his guilt, does not repent. Imagine if today Russia realized its crime, admitting it to the world. Moreover, when the tax collector Zacchaeus repented, he chose to give four times the amount to those whom he had wronged. “But Zacchaeus stood up and said to the Lord, “Look, Lord! Here and now I give half of my possessions to the poor, and if I have cheated anybody out of anything, I will pay back four times the amount.” (NIV, Luke 19:8). Then you can think about forgiveness.
And now how will I bless the Russians who commit evil? All I can do is leave the judgment in God's hands. And to protect family, friends, society, the state from the onslaught of the enemy. I grew up in the Baptist Church, so I was a pacifist. However, it has not been for a long time. The Church is worth something when it can protect someone or something. When we talk about democratic values, they need to be protected. In addition, what about the biblical “Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” (NIV, John 15:13).
As soon as the war started, I turned to our brothers in the Teroborona (territorial defense forces) and got a machine gun with cartridges. I think it is better to die with a machine gun in my hands than on my knees in front of the moskals (Russians). After one of the younger guys joined the Teroborona, I handed over the weapons.
“God was looking for a nation that He would act through. He found us”
- Anatoly Ivanovych, you have a nice avatar on Facebook where you play the trombone. I read that you like jazz. This is already the fifth month of the war. People adapt little by little. Some civilians feel guilty, they say, in the East and South of Ukraine there are battles, shelling and rocket attacks on the capital, border villages and towns in the North and even in the Center, as recently in Kremenchuk. And they are trying to arrange life in relatively safe regions in the rear. What do you say to that?
- I had it for several months. Two months to be exact. I felt like a compressed spring inside: I didn't sleep, I didn't eat normally. For example, I really like to spend time in the bathhouse as it’s a way to relax and communicate for me. However, I couldn’t. Once a church member of mine came, whose son serves in the “Azov” regiment. And he says that his son and his friends are going to the East after Bucha and it would be good to have them attend the bathhouse. We went there to bathe and prayed all together, then I prayed with everyone. Now I keep in touch with them. I rejoice when I feel that they are strong in spirit. After that meeting I was a little relieved. I realized that it is impossible to live with such tension...
I have a hobby - beekeeping - I have several beehives. It helps me switch things up a bit. Although many bees died due to the explosions, they were alarmed by the noise and flew to the snow. By the way, Ukrainians are very similar to bees. They work just as hard. But when danger comes to their home, Ukrainians also, all as one, become soldiers.
The question is often asked: why did God allow this war? In my opinion, He is aware of what has been happening in Russia, what problems it creates for the world and the enslaved peoples. That is why God was looking for a nation that He would act through. He found us, simple, not rich, but loyal and persistent. I am convinced that with His help we are able to nullify and defeat such a rush, audacity, lies and injustice. A great blessing awaits you and me! Ukraine will be a spiritual, wealthy and influential country. And I’m not speaking pathetic. The Lord has such a character - to bless those who are faithful to Him and are not afraid of death.