All you need is love! At least that was the hope Monday night at St. Paul's United Methodist Church during a prayer vigil for Ukraine and Russia.
The three-month-old war has led to more than 9,000 civilian deaths, with some Ukranianian estimates at more than 24,000 killed. Ukraine's armed forces suffered at least 4,000 dead, while the United States estimates Russia's death toll is now more than 10,000.
And with that in mind, more than 50 people gathered at the Methodist Encampment church to pray, fellowship and sing in support of not only Ukraine but Russia. The vigil was the idea of the leaders of Hunt United Methodist Church, Barnett United Methodist Church, Kerrville First United Methodist Church and St. Paul's.
"Recognizing that we're a community of faith, drawing together to pray with and for the people of Ukraine and all of those countries that are supporting Ukraine," said Rev. Glenn Luhrs, who leads St. Paul's congregation. "We're praying for the people of Russia and we are in prayer for ultimately peace as well."
The service features prayers from Hunt's Rev. Paul Harris, Barnett Chapel's Rev. Maurice Washington, First United Methodist's Donna Magee and Luhrs.
"Love everybody, regardless of how they look, sound, and what country they come from — just love them," Washington said.
Washington's sermon set the tone for the evening, heavy on Christ's sacrifice and redemption and using those lessons to assess what's happening in Ukraine.
"We have to use a word we Christians don't like to use — hate," Washington said. "We have to hate. We don't hate people. We hate the evil. We hate the evil. We have the greed of the president of Russia, who sent his evil against their neighbors. They are the same basic culture that they are. I don't understand it. We hate the grab of power. We hate the lies that are told to the Russian people about why they are going into Ukraine. We hate the bigotry and the racism. But we still love."
First United Methodist's Magee built upon Washinton's words but offered a point about the Russian side. Magee drew from 1 Timothy 2:1-2 — a verse where the Apostle Paul gives direction to Timothy.
"I urge you, first of all, to pray for all people. Ask God to help them; intercede on their behalf, and give thanks for them. 2 Pray this way for kings and all who are in authority so that we can live peaceful and quiet lives marked by godliness and dignity."
Magee's message was direct that while it was hard to imagine praying for Russian President Vladimir Putin, she said the answer was in 1 Timothy 2:3-4: "For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour; 4 Who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth."
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