It was June 6, 1944, and little did the American people know, but the D-Day invasion was already underway in France.
President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, speaking on his radio program called the "Fireside Chat," led the nation in prayer — a prayer uttered by a man who obviously knew God.
Like many of our presidents, President Roosevelt was a man of deep faith — genuinely converted, fully devoted and a man who believed that God would help all nations who rose up against an evil tyrant like Hitler.
It is my prayer that the same tremendous encouragement that was given to our country that night by his prayer will give courage to the Ukrainian people all over the world today.
That night, President Roosevelt prayed:
"Almighty God: Our sons, pride of our Nation, this day have set upon a mighty endeavor, ... Lead them straight and true; give strength to their arms, stoutness to their hearts, steadfastness in their faith. They will need Thy blessings. Their road will be long and hard. For the enemy is strong. … They will be sore tried, by night and by day, without rest until the victory is won. The darkness will be rent by noise and flame. Men's souls will be shaken with the violences of war."
"Some will never return," he said. "Embrace these, Father, and receive them, Thy heroic servants, into Thy kingdom."
"And for us at home — fathers, mothers, children, wives, sisters, and brothers of brave men overseas — whose thoughts and prayers are ever with them — help us, Almighty God, to rededicate ourselves in renewed faith in Thee in this hour of great sacrifice."
"With Thy blessing, we shall prevail over the unholy forces of our enemy. Help us to conquer the apostles of greed and racial arrogancies. Lead us into the saving of our country, and with our sister Nations into a world unity that will spell a sure peace…a peace that will let all of men live in freedom, reaping the just rewards of their honest toil. Thy will be done, Almighty God. Amen."
When I first came to Elmira, New York, in 1986, I had the privilege of meeting Pastor John Bedzyk, the pastor of a large church there. He told me that when he was a young man, there was a small group of Ukrainians that had been meeting in Binghamton, New York, and that God's Spirit was being poured out during powerful services.
His mother, together with John, his brother and his sister would make the hour and a half trip to the Ukrainian church frequently to enjoy God’s awesome presence.
Later Brother John, as he was known, started his own church in an old shirt factory in Elmira. The church eventually grew into the Elmira Christian Center, having at one time one of the largest bus ministries in the country and running a K-12 Christian school.
I thank God that each of my three children graduated from Elmira Christian Academy. As you trace the story of this one man who was radically converted to Christ and filled with God's Holy Spirit at this Ukrainian church in Binghamton, New York, you would learn how he touched thousands of lives for Christ during his lifetime.
May God call our hearts to pray diligently for our Ukrainian brothers and sisters. The battle that the modern-day Ukrainians face seem insurmountable and the sacrifices that they are being called to make are enormous. However, I pray that their faith will be strengthened as we join in prayer with them.
Rev Nolan J Harkness is the President and CEO of Nolan Harkness Evangelistic Ministries Inc. since 1985. He spent most of his adult life working in youth ministry. He also felt the calling of Evangelist/Revivalist and traveled as the door was open holding evangelistic meetings in churches throughout the Northeast. His website is www.verticalsound.org.