We spent day 7 in meeting with different ministry organizations. We met first with a Baptist Mission who are doing a great work in what is called the “Gray Zone.” The UN and Unicef are just a couple of the agencies that are using this organization to bring supplies to war zone. They deliver food packages and provide medical care to those who are impacted by the war. We were told of one of the volunteers was taken captive by the Separatist in the early days of the conflict. His car was stolen and he was beaten terribly. These are some of the danger that face these brave people; whose desire is to show the love of Christ to those who are in need. Check out their web page for further information. The web address is… www.aidcenter.org.ua
After meeting with this agency, we then met with the staff of LOR. This is the Ukrainian mission that DMI has been associated with for over 20 years. Most of the Staff of LOR had to relocate to the city of Zaporizhzhya after the war started. There we met with Vadim Churbukin, his wife Irena and several others. Here they continue to sponsor 2 rehab ministries in the city. They have 4 other rehab centers located in other villages. We met and had lunch with the rehab center for women. We heard the testimony of these ladies who expressed their praise and gratitude to God for intervening in their lives. DMI has been greatly blessed over the years to have helped support not only the Rehabilitation ministries, but also the Prison ministries of LOR [Light of Resurrection] Mission. Day 7 ended with a 500 km [311 miles; 7 hour] ride back to Kiev. We rejoiced in the goodness of the LORD as we traveled home.
We saw our mission team travel west to the city of Zhitomir to visit with Pastor Andre Malov and wife Tanya. Andre is part of the LOR Staff. He covers the western part of the Ukraine for LOR; checking on the needs of pastors, churches and different Rehabilitation ministries. There at Andre’s home, we had the great blessing to visit with an old friend, Pastor Vasiliy Derkach, wife Olga and their family. One of the first churches that DMI helped was Pastor Vasiliy’s church in the city of Ugledar in 1993. DMI helped to raise funds for the building of their church. It was a great reunion between Pastor Vasiliy and Pastor Pat McCoy. Please pray for this dear man and his wife. Pastor Vasiliy has MS and his wife Olga is battling a debilitating disease as well. Her testimony though was very moving. Despite their health problems, she praised God for His goodness to them both. No matter what happens, she proclaimed to us… “God is good.” What a great couple of days we had meeting with our Brothers and Sisters at LOR and also Pastor Vasiliy. Please keep these brothers and sisters in your prayers.
Our time is fast approaching to leave for home. We miss our families and will be glad to be back home. But we will miss our families here in the Ukraine. Thank you to all who have helped in the support of this ministry over the years. Through God’s grace and the kindness of many of you, DMI has been able to help meet the needs of many people here. There are still many needs that we feel burdened to meet. If you would like to help or receive more information about this ministry, please check out our web page: www.disciplingministries.org. If you feel led to give a contribution, please know that it will be graciously accepted and will go to help with the ministry of the gospel in the Ukraine
Today our mission team visited the church in Slovyansk where we worshipped together with our Ukrainian Brothers and Sisters. What a wonderful experience! Thoughts of Ephesians 4 –where Paul writes of the oneness we have in Christ became a reality. “There is one body, and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling; One Lord, one faith, one baptism, One God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all” became real for us; especially when we sang together the hymn, “It Is Well With My Soul.” After being treated to a wonderful lunch at the church [imagine that at a Baptist Church!!], we visited in the afternoon a Women’s Rehabilitation Center and a home for orphan young women who had to leave the State Orphanages. Pastor Oleg and His wife Anna are the leaders of these amazing ministries. These two are amazing people whom God is using to help so many people. We finished our day by traveling to the church at Kramastorsk. There we met with the brothers of the church including the two pastors of the church. They told of their ministry to refugees and their support for both the Women’s Rehab center and the orphanage ministry for young women. The church also is helping its poorer members to pay for the heating of their homes. This city is in a depressed state due to the war. Unemployment is high. Please pray for the ministries in these cities. They are doing so much work with people with so few financial resources.
We have a lot of traveling to do tomorrow. Please keep our team in you prayers.
Day 6 of our trip took us to the village of Toretsk. This place is in the so-called “Gray Zone.” It is called that because it is close to the front lines of the war in the East. This village was under Separatist control until the Ukrainian Army seized control and drove the Separatist back to the current front lines. There we met with Pastor Maxim and his wife Lena. Maxim told us that he was chosen to be the pastor by the church even though he did not want to be a pastor. But soon he was ordained and took the leadership of the church. It is a church of about 80 members. We met with Pastor Maxim and several of the deacons and their wives. Not only are they enduring the constant threat of artillery shells exploding near them, but also the city is in much economic distress. Despite these problems, the church is still ministering to the people of the area. They have a drug and alcohol rehabilitation ministry and there are 4 locations in the area where they have home Bible Study groups meeting. We went to see one of the homes where they have such a Bible Study meeting. It was a home that was slightly damaged recently by an exploding shell. What a display of faithfulness by Pastor Maxim! Please pray for him that God will continue to protect him and the church from the present danger of the war.
After enjoying a delicious meal at a home of a church member, we then drove for a number of hours to the city of Zaporizhzhya. We will stay there for the night and then meet the LOR staff tomorrow. Continue to keep us and the church in the Ukraine in your prayers. Dos Vedanya!
[Pictures: Church at Toretsk; Pastor Maxim & wife Lena; Church meeting]
It is difficult put into words what we have experienced today. God has blessed us to see the wonders of His grace and mercy. Our mission team visited a drug and alcohol rehabilitation ministry in the city of Kharkov. There, we heard the testimonies of men who were in bondage to their addictions. Here, 12 men live together in a rented house under the leadership of several Pastors. The men study God’s word and work together to overcome their addiction problems. We have witnessed the reality of the passage of Scripture found in John 8 where Jesus said, “…If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed; And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free” (verses 31, 32). Several gave their testimonies of how the truth had set them free from their addictions. One man told of the many years of heroin use. He told us how God had used the ministry of Pastor Dennis and Pastor Sergei to help him beat his addiction. The men sang several songs and the joy on their faces as they sang was so touching to see.
This rehab ministry is under the leadership of Pastors Dennis and Sergei and the church in the city of Kharkov. Both Pastor Dennis and Pastor Sergei, along with their church in the Lughansk region, left their homes when the war broke out in the eastern part of the Ukraine. Since re-establishing their lives in the city of Kharkov, they return occasionally to their former city in the war-torn east where a new church has been planted and a Rehab ministry started. Pastor Dennis has a great heart for this ministry to those addicted to drugs as he himself as once addicted to drugs. Please continue to pray for these brothers and their families as they continue to minister to the people in the Ukraine. Praise be to God for His love, mercy and grace!
At the end of another day, our mission team has experienced more blessings from the Lord. We began our day of ministry at a village not far from the Russian border. There we met with Pastor Vadim and his family. Pastor Vadim has a similar testimony as many of the other pastors we have met during our travels in the Ukraine. He is a former drug addict who also spent two separate terms in prison for a total of some 15 years. It was the last time in prison that the Lord opened the prison doors of his heart. After his release from prison, Vadim went back to his home village. There he began to minister to his mother who was gravely sick. Others from the village then began to come to him seeking spiritual help. Soon Vadim was ordained and became a pastor to the people of the village.
The church in the village is new. There were 30 to 40 people present for a specially called meeting. Seven are members. There were 18 people who are with the Rehabilitation center; 5 women and 13 men. We also met with a refugee family that recently left the Lugansk area in Eastern Ukraine because of the fighting near their home. There was also a lady there who gave a testimony of how in Soviet times the government persecuted her family. They did so because they were Baptists. In an effort to end the line of her father, the authorities shot and killed her grandfather who was a pastor and who refused to deny his faith. Her father was sent to a Siberian prison camp where he was subsequently executed. Several of her brothers were murdered. Other men of the family changed their name to survive. Today, the family name continues on with her sons who took their mother’s maiden name. She praised God for His goodness to her and her family.
After eating lunch with the village church, we then visited with Pastor Sergei and Pastor Anatoly at the church in Kharkov. This church housed many refugees when the war broke out in the east. After 2 years, they still minister to these people by giving them food packages. During the past two years, some 70 tons of food have been dispersed and some 7000 refugees have been helped by this church. When the refugee crises occurred, many donated funds to DMI to help meet the needs of the people who had to leave their homes because of the fighting. This church in Kharkov received most of the funds that were donated.
Our day of ministry ended with meeting Pastor Dennis and Pastor Sergei. The Board members for DMI voted to help these Brothers with the purchase of an apartment for each of them. Due to the outpouring of donations, we were able to give each $5000 towards the purchase of a home. These Brothers are doing a great work both in Kharkov and in the city in Lugansk where they had to leave because of the fighting. Please continue to keep them in your prayers. Our Lord has been good to us these past days. We look forward to worshipping Him tomorrow with more of our Ukrainian Brothers and Sisters.
[The pictures are of the church in the village; Pastor Pat McCoy and the lady whose family was persecuted; and the refugee family from Lugansk]
Day 2 saw our ministry team travel about an hour south of Kiev to visit a city where many refugees from the east established new homes. There, we visited Pastor Igor, his wife Natasha and their 3 children. Pastor Igor and Family were refugees who left the Lughansk region after the outbreak of the war. The city they lived in was in the middle of the shelling from both the Separatist side and the Ukrainian side. Pastor Igor came to a church without a pastor and worked with both natives of the city and refugees. The church was revived with a strong outreach to refugee families, non-Christian men and young people. How wonderful to see the providence of God in bringing something good out of something bad!
After the visit with Pastor Igor, we traveled to a village to meet with an amazing Christian lady. Aunt Katia [that’s what we called her] is a successful business lady who has a heart for ministering to people in hopeless situations. She kept a refugee family in her home for many months until buying a place for them to live. She has helped other refugee families to secure homes. She not only has a concern for their physical needs, but she expressed a great concern for their spiritual needs. She was asked what her great desire was for the near future. She said she desired for there to be a church to be established in her village. We prayed to that end that the Lord would be gracious in answering her prayers.
We then traveled to a home where a Bible Study group was meeting. A devotion was given and prayers offered. We were thankful to meet new Brothers and Sisters in Christ. It was a great day.
Please pray for safe travels for our ministry group. We begin 5 straight days of travel.
(The photos are of Pastor Igor and family; Home Bible Study group and Refugee family.)
We spent the afternoon meeting with an amazing Brother in Christ. Pastor Alexi gave us a testimony of his life experience. When 10 years old, his mother died. He told us how his family struggled in the years following her death. The State threatened to take him and his siblings to an orphanage. Despite the hardships, Pastor Alexi and family stayed together. At the age of 15, the youth ministry he was involved with visited an orphanage. This would have a profound impact upon his life. After moving to Kiev from Russia, he entered a Christian University and soon after was ordained to the ministry. In the years since his ordination, Pastor Alexi’s heart has remained with the orphans.
He told us of the problems for orphans who must leave State orphanages when they turn 15 years old. These children have no place to go and the odds are that they will become drug abusers; many will commit suicide. Pastor Alexi and his church provide two apartments that house a total of 13 of these children. His ministry is in a suburb of Kiev that is known for its high crime rate. They provide tutoring as well as ministering to their spiritual needs. They also provide another place that young people can go that is open 24 hours a day. There is a great need here for financial help. Please pray for this ministry that is called “Open Doors.”