Still in the midst of preparing to officially open, the new AG World Prayer Center in Springfield, Missouri, opened its doors early to receive ministers, missionaries, layworkers, and others as they gathered together to unite in prayer for Ukraine.
Carley Touchstone, a former New York pastor and now missionary associate with AG World Missions has become one of the key leaders of a local prayer movement for Ukraine. Working with Builders International as a Project Champion, which is building churches and ministries in Ukraine, and with a background in ministering to Ukrainian immigrants, Touchstone has a close and personal connection with the country and its people for 30 years.
“A Ukrainian friend of mine in Springfield, Dima Maftey, called me shortly after Ukraine was attacked and said we need to pray for Ukraine,” Touchstone says. “I was in Florida at the time, but advised him to hold a prayer meeting in the Square in Springfield.” In a quickly organized event, Maftey saw about 300 people gather the next afternoon for prayer.
However, with the fighting escalating, a few days later on March 3, a larger event was held at Central Assembly in Springfield, with nearly 1,000 attending. Local Ukrainian church leaders, as well as those from the Romanian and Slavic churches, were among those who led in prayer.
“We are going to do a second Sunday of prayer in the Square, but then rain was forecast,” Touchstone says, “So, I contacted AG Assistant General Superintendent Rick DuBose (who oversees the AG World Prayer Center) to see if we could use the center on Sunday night, as Central was not available that night. He opened the doors for us.”
In early March, prayer meetings were planned for Wednesday evenings at the World Prayer Center, but Touchstone says that starting this week, DuBose has given him permission to keep the facility open from 7 p.m. to 8 p.m. every weekday for prayer for Ukraine and Russia.
Touchstone says that the evenings won’t have any speakers, but will focus on prayer, and will continue indefinitely. However, Touchstone is working with Maftey and Vlad Muzichuk (both youth leaders in the Ukrainian church) and other leaders to invite missionaries, former missionaries, ministers, city officials, and those connected to Ukraine to come and lead in prayer. He says they also hope to continue to have periodic “Prayer in the Square” events.
In addition to praying for peace and for the millions of Ukrainians displaced by the fighting, Touchstone understands what the future holds and is already exploring options for how Springfield-area churches can respond.
“My concern is for the Ukrainian people,” he says. “There’s a humanitarian conduit that started in Ukraine and has filtered into Eastern Europe, and one day, in the not-to-distant future, additional immigrants will be coming to us because of this refugee crisis. I want to be prepared for them and I want the Church to be prepared for them.”
Touchstone hopes that his actions will inspire other churches and ministries around the country to not only organize regular prayer events, but to also begin to prepare for the likely influx of refugees from Ukraine.