It was a couple of days after the war began in Ukraine that Tommy Iceland, an Iceland-born, Sweden-raised, and now Nashville-based songwriter, was prompted by God to record a new version of “Whom Shall I Fear (God Of Angel Armies).”
Iceland knew a new version of the song needed to be made and feature a Ukrainian worship leader. Through mutual friends, he was connected to Mark Sergeev, a worship leader and youth pastor of Melitopol Christian Church located in south Ukraine. When they first connected on March 1st, Iceland knew he was the voice to use for the song.
"I got a hold of Mark through Instagram. He responded and said they were currently hiding underground because the Russians were bombing his city," said Iceland. "Honestly, I didn't know if he was going to survive the night. He was there with his wife, his three children and some people from his church."
The next morning Tommy was able to connect via the phone with Mark, and he said he would be happy to sing the song. Continuing to hide in the church basement, which also stored recording equipment, Sergeev was able to record the vocals.
"The positive thing in the midst of this was that they had recording equipment in the church. They had a studio there, but currently, all the children were sleeping in the studio because that was like a bunker," said Iceland. "Mark was able to record it a couple of days later, but before he was able to get me the vocal files, the Russians jammed the internet," said Iceland.
Tommy didn’t hear from Sergeev for a couple of days, but miraculously, two days later, the song file arrived, and the song was able to get finished.
Then, in the middle of the night on March 9, Sergeev was abducted by the Russian soldiers and was under threat of being killed.
"They had stormed the church and broken through the doors in the basement. At that point, we didn't want to do anything. I didn't want to pursue and release this song because I didn't know what Mark's situation was or if it would mean danger to him if we did," Iceland explained.
Mark ended up being released the next day. With potential danger to Mark's life, Tommy asked him if he still wanted to go ahead with the release of the song.
"He said it was really important to him to share hope around his country and the world," said Iceland.
"His faith and bravery have inspired me so much. What they're going through is unimaginable. The way that he is just desperate to get the gospel of Jesus out at any cost inspires me so much," said Iceland.
The final touch on “Whom Shall I Fear (God Of Angel Armies)” includes an additional verse written by Iceland and sung by nine-year-old Kate Zarubaiko, also from Ukraine and whose family has fled to Sweden.
"I put that in the song, and I just broke down in tears hearing her vocals. It's just so special hearing a child's voice. I can't imagine what it's like fleeing, evacuating your country, escaping war as a child.
Today on Connections, Tommy shares how the song came together and how you can help the people of Ukraine.