Abigail Rist lived in Kyiv, Ukraine, for most of her life. Her dad oversaw pastoral leadership at Kyiv Theological Seminary. 

Jessica Wiebe also grew up in Kyiv, from first grade on, in a missionary family. 

Both young women’s parents are American, and their families are now in safe locations as Russia continues its brutal attack against the sovereign nation. And both are currently students at Cedarville University in Ohio. 

Abigail and Jessica have been able to share about life in Ukraine with fellow students and professors, helping them understand the lifestyle and many concerns of the 44-million Ukrainians - and pray for Ukraine. Students and professors alike are eager to know more about the country and its people.

We talked with Jessica and Abigail separately and obtained considerable insight and heartfelt thoughts that are available to you in our individual podcasts below. In a sense, both young women are in a position to act as information ambassadors to Americans who are very concerned about the war and the brutal things happening at the hands of Russian forces. 

Here, we’ll share excerpts, with some of their heartfelt thoughts about this tragic situation:

“I pray for people where I lived (in Ukraine) who don’t know Christ that they, through this, would be able to hear God’s word - and God’s already answered that prayer. There have been quite a few people from the neighborhood that I grew up in who have come to my home church and have heard the Gospel simply through the circumstances that Ukraine is in,” shares Jessica Wiebe. “People are, they’re desperate for safety, for stability – and they’re looking for answers, something that the government, the president, the military, can’t provide.” Answers to life that can only come from knowing Christ.

Jessica appreciates that at Cedarville, “Our professors send messages or email letting me know how they’re praying for me and my family.” 

When Russia attacked, for Ukrainians, “Their world was turned upside down, so I would say my world was turned upside down and I was just heartbroken.” Abigail Rist shares that on the Cedarville campus she and other students with a Ukraine story are being encouraged. “So many people are asking questions. So many people want to know what’s going on. They want to know how they can help. They want to know how they can pray and it’s just powerful, powerful, knowing that people care, powerful knowing that peoples’ prayers are effective, and people really do have a heart for Ukraine, even if they know very little about the country.”

Abigail has been able to make contact with many friends she knows back in Ukraine. Some have fled, but “a lot of my friends have joined the reserves and are fighting” the invasion. 

Abigail prays that the Russian people can learn the truth about the situation. “They’re being fed lots of propaganda and fake news about what’s going on. A lot of it is they don’t know what they don’t know. I pray for the truth be what’s seen, that they would hear and see the truth and that believers who are already there would be able to reach them and in some way they would understand what’s really going on.”

The Russian government has perpetuated a false narrative that Nazis are controlling Ukraine, a propaganda throwback to the days of WWII when the U.S.S.R. (Russia) was invaded by Nazi troops resulting in the loss of millions of civilian lives, in addition to soldiers’ lives. Recently, Russian state television even showed old black & white video of Nazis from that era to support the "denazification" campaign created by President Putin. The bogus claim became even more incredible due to the fact that Ukrainian President Zelenskyy is of Jewish heritage. 

Below are the two podcasts where Abigail and Jessica share their thoughts and hearts. Good listening.

Andrii Fedorov hugs his son Makar as they reunited at a reception center for displaced people in Zaporizhzhia, Ukraine
[Photo Credit: AP/Francisco Seco] Andrii Fedorov hugs his son Makar as they reunited at a reception center for displaced people in Zaporizhzhia, Ukraine
Natalia Pototska cries as her grandson Matviy looks on in a car at a center for displaced people in Zaporizhzhia, Ukraine
[Photo Credit: AP/Evgeniy Maloletka] Natalia Pototska cries as her grandson Matviy looks on in a car at a center for displaced people in Zaporizhzhia, Ukraine