Log in Subscribe

Local missionary: Ukrainians like family

Sunday is ‘Pray for Ukraine Day’

By DAWN HANKINS - dhankins@t-g.com
Posted 3/26/22

President Joe Biden headed to Europe this week. In Bedford County, Christian missionary Steven Flippo is working with others to distribute ‘Pray for Ukraine’ T-shirts.  

This item is available in full to subscribers.

Please log in to continue

Log in

Local missionary: Ukrainians like family

Sunday is ‘Pray for Ukraine Day’


President Joe Biden headed to Europe this week. In Bedford County, Christian missionary Steven Flippo is working with others to distribute ‘Pray for Ukraine’ T-shirts.  

The Ukrainians have become a part of Flippo’s extended family. The local realtor was scheduled to return to Eastern Europe in May, but that won’t happen.  

He follows everything through social media messages—most that simply say, “Pray now!” He says he and friends are doing that very thing, he says.  

His personal missionary journey began in East Tennessee with Appalachian Outreach. Calvary Baptist then took a trip to Ukraine. He decided to dedicate his life to the land of Ukraine.  

“This may sound strange, but I almost feel like they are my responsibility,” says Flippo, who’s made the return trip about five times. “I feel like if we stopped supporting, God would raise someone else up to continue supporting this ministry. But, we would miss the blessing.”  

About the Ukraine  

Ukraine is the second largest by area in Europe after Russia, which it borders to the east and northeast.  

Ukraine officially declared itself an independent country in Aug. 24, 1991, when the communist Supreme Soviet (parliament) of Ukraine proclaimed that Ukraine would no longer follow the laws of USSR and only the laws of the Ukrainian SSR, de facto declaring Ukraine’s independence from the Soviet Union.  

Flippo travels through the missionary programs at Calvary Baptist and Rover Baptist, where he’s a member. His wife, Ceal, has been on one trip.  

He and others typically visit as a part of the “Cumberland Gap Baptist Association.” He’s also been associated with Corryton, Tenn., Bethel Baptist Church and their work in country.

“How it all started . . . we first had a missionary come to Calvary and speak,” says Flippo. “They were building churches over there, at that time. Calvary made a donation to help build three different churches in Ukraine. Since that time, we’ve found that the biggest way to reach people in Ukraine is through the children.”  

The Victory Baptist Academy alumnus explained how the recent turmoil began, at least how he understands it. He fears for their safety.  

Flippo says when the talks commenced about Ukraine joining NATO, that caused the current turn of events.  

The country is now being taken over by Russia, which seems of late to be on a mission to apparently reassemble the Soviet Union.  

“So many of those countries have joined NATO . . . in 2014, they had a very Russian-minded president. When he turned down joining the European Union, that’s when the people kind of revolted . . . forced him out of office. The Ukrainian president that is there now is very western-minded and would love to join the European Union and join NATO . . . .”  

But there’s something he’s learned about Ukrainians; they’re willing sacrifice everything to save their independence. They won’t leave. He was last on the soil with his Bible 2 years ago.  

“They are [were] happy,” Flippo recalls. He described Ukraine as a “beautiful” country and people.  

“You know how the Bible talks about how a Christian is suppose to be a ‘peculiar people;’ they stand out? It seems like in America, it’s hard to tell a Christian from a non Christian, because they’re all doing the same things. A Christian in Ukraine; they stand out . . . so devout and so sold out to their faith.”  

Those on the front lines  

He mentioned the dedicated work of pastors and friends still there. One, simply known as “Nina” can still be found on Facebook feeds including videos and photos of people hovering in safety, praying, asking for relief to their situation.  

Flippo quotes missionary “Nina,” of Shepativka who recently said, “It may sound strange for you to hear this from me, but I thank God for war, because it is the key to seeing many lost souls saved today. Sorry, but sometimes, we people, come to God only in times of hardship.”  

“Nina,” runs the Inspirational Center in Shepativka, where it’s not unusual to see fighter jets shot down, he explains. A church fund is making it possible for “Nina” to help those in need.

Sew Sudberry steps in  

Felisha Sudberry, owner of Sew Sudberry of Shelbyville, also wanted to help people like “Nina,” but especially bring awareness to the dire situation.  

She’s busy right now selling blue T-shirts, which feature the logo, “Praying for Ukraine.” She can be found on Facebook.  

“We have it posted on our website at Sew Sudberry. com. I actually have a tab in the menu that says, ‘Pray for Ukraine.’ Click that and purchase online.” Each shirt is $25.  

Flippo added that this is a legitimate funding endeavor with all proceeds being used to support Ukrainians. He said this endeavor is properly vetted, because of scams already out there.  

“This is not just support resulting from the war that broke out, this is rooted from nearly two decades of support for Ukraine,” said Flippo.  

Churches pray, help pastors Supporting Ukraine is something Rover Baptist and Calvary Baptist members feel committed to continue.  

“We typically send the money for our pastors and children’s camp around the end of May, the first of June,” says Flippo.  

“With the fear of this war coming, we decided to go ahead and send the funds over—just in case we had trouble getting the money there. We sent it . . . the invasion took place the very next day.”  

The churches are currently sending a nice donation a year, with funds also going to the children’s camps at two different churches in the Ukraine.  

“It’s kind of like a Vacation Bible School here except those camps are for a full week, all day; they get a hot, cooked meal. It’s a whole lot different.”  

He adds, “I try to put myself in their shoes. I can’t imagine. So many of them are just taking what they can carry and walking west.”  

The local businessman recalls that it’s about a 12-hour drive from Kiev to Poland.  

“To think . . . just taking what you can carry and start walking in that direction, not knowing if you’re ever coming back. That would be tough.”  

Griziv is another “home away from home” and he has some strong ties there. “So many people in that village are literally like family.” He also has contact with pastors feeding and clothing the people in the urban settlement of Poninka.  

“All of them right now are taking in refugees. That’s what they’re doing daily.”  

There’s a strict curfew, he says, so pastors are trying to help.  

“There are so many people just commuting— even walking—just heading west toward Poland.” Flippo is certain this turn of events in eastern Europe is no surprise to God. It’s-of-biblical proportion, he explains. “Even in prophecy ... you’ve got the ties with Russia, China and Iran. And we’re seeing all those players today.”  

The mission field— the opportunity to share the love of Jesus—is wide open for those seeking refuge from a world of sin, according to Flippo. “None of this is a surprise and if anything, it should be kind of exciting, for a Christian, to be living in a time that we’re living in.”