Matias Toivainen is 23 years old and comes from Helsinki, Finland. He is in Ukraine a lot to spread the gospel and give humanitarian aid. Together with his team, he sees tens of thousands of people start to follow Christ in Ukraine, sometimes whole villages at a time. This is the first part of our interview with him.
His ministry ‘Arm of Grace’ focuses on preaching the gospel all over the world, raising missionaries, and equipping the church to do the same. They are often in Ukraine to tell the people the good news and to give humanitarian aid.
Matias and his team work very closely with other ministries. In the beginning, their mission was almost completely run by Awakening Europe. Now, they work together with many different ministries, including House of Hope from Germany and with evangelists from the Christ for all Nations community. “I and my team are just a part of this picture, there are many organizations and leaders involved in the same mission.”
Called to go to Ukraine
Already on the second day of the war in Ukraine last February, Matias was on the phone with people who wanted to take action. “We realized the Lord was calling us to go,” he says. The following day, Matias was in Ukraine.
They started their work in Ukraine by scouting and examining the situation. Then they went to the borders, to see what the needs of the people were and meeting those needs. “Whatever they needed, some of them needed clothing, some of them needed food, a ride, or housing. So we were just meeting the needs. And right away, we started to preach the gospel.”
More and more missionaries came to the borders. “We were just preaching the gospel at the border, everyday, from morning to night, and in around ten weeks we saw 19,000 people come to Christ. Many times in tears, many times hugging their Bible. These were very real encounters with God.” They also gave the people Bibles and basic discipleship.
“It’s definitely time to preach the gospel, the harvest is ripe.”
Matias tells about missionaries running into people in refugee centers across Europe. Some of those people would still recognize them and tell them that they still prayed, believed, and went to church. “So it was a very real move of God, and we realized it’s definitely time to preach the gospel, the harvest is ripe.”
Training local evangelists
In August, Matias and his team gave a training for local evangelists. This was also done in collaboration with ministries like Christ for all Nations, House of Hope, and Solid Rock Mission. “We gathered around 60 Ukrainian young people, we taught them to just preach the gospel, in a very simple way, gather the attention of a small group of people, preach the gospel, give an altar call, pray for the sick, and see the souls come into the Kingdom.”
After a week of training, they took the young evangelists on a tour around Ukraine. “We went from city to city, from village to village, and we put into practice what we learned. We saw the kingdom of God come.” During that time, they saw more than 10,000 people come to Christ.
Matias has seen entire villages come to Christ at once, especially in places where the fighting was still intense. “We do our best to meet the needs we can, such as food and other essential supplies. But our main focus is to preach the gospel and to offer the hope of Jesus.”
Matias and his team have also been to Kiev, the capital city of Ukraine. There, they started going to schools. “We went inside, introduced ourselves and our work, built a relationship with them, and then we were allowed to share.” They see many students come to Christ, sometimes even full classrooms at once. “Sometimes the teachers right along with them, praying to receive Jesus.”
“Now you came, and you offered us the hope of Jesus. And the students are smiling now.”
“One teacher told me: ‘These students are smiling now, but not many months ago, we were all crying under these desks when our school was being bombed as our city was captured. But now you came, and you offered us the hope of Jesus. And the students are smiling now.’ It is a very special time and place to be representing Christ.”
Matias explains that they want to raise up local people to continue what they are doing. “My work is a very small part of a full, big movement that the Lord has raised up.” In the winter, Matias is going back to Ukraine to train more evangelists to preach.
“The will of God is the safest place to be”
A lot of places where the team has done outreaches are getting bombed. “And some places that used to be safer are now under attack.” Matias and the teams work a lot in very dangerous places. “It’s a very different reality.”
But even though it is dangerous, Matias is not afraid. “There’s a very special grace that the Lord gives when He gives a call and an invitation to go. I remember when I was 15 years old, and I told the Lord: ‘You are such a good Shepherd, that I will follow you from the meadows to the jungles with a smile.’ When He calls, the will of God is the safest place to be.”