By Brother Sasha:
As you may have noticed I like visiting people. But being honest with my dear readers, – not everyone. There are people whom I have visited I find very difficult to minister to.
One group of people are those who are moaning all the time. You may find them among Christians and non-Christian. They would complain about how hard their life is. They blame everyone for everything bad that is happening to them. They often say nobody loves and cares for them. I found them to be a very difficult group of people to minister to.
Another group of people is probably even more difficult to me. I need to be wise in describing them in order not to hurt anybody’s feelings. I do not know what would be the proper term in describing them – maybe “super-spiritual people” will be a proper term for them.
What do I mean by that? There are certain people among Christians, who think of themselves as the only people on earth who know and practice “real” religion. They believe they are bearing the perfect knowledge about God and all the doctrines. You come to them and you may see how they evaluate you to see if you are good enough to dealing with them and help them. Their normal voice turns into a different “spiritual” tone when they pray. They are concerned about your dress. If you wear a shirt with the short sleeves, it is bad and you get into big trouble if you do not have a tie on. Even worse is if you are wearing jeans.
Here in Ukraine we have group of churches who left the Baptist Union in 1961 in protest to the state’s interference into church affairs. They are known now as “non-registered”, “separated” or “underground Baptists”. That was a healthy movement in the Soviet times. Many faithful ministers of the Gospel from that group of churches have spent years in prison for their position of not dealing with the state on any church affairs including official incorporation of the congregations.
When freedom came in 1993 these people remained independent and by now they consider the churches which are registered/incorporated by the state to be churches and Christian organizations which have withdrawn themselves from the truth of the Gospel. They are very strict and you rarely will see a smile of joy on their faces. The first question they would ask you is “are you registered or not.” If your answer is “registered” in most of the cases they would treat you as a pagan. The second question they would ask for sure is about how many children you have.
I remember years ago, when I first visited such a family. At that time, they were in great need and desperately needed some support with the clothing and food. This family had 8-9 kids, I do not remember exactly, and I found them living in a poor house. I started my conversation with the Mom of the family and with some of the kids and that was nice. We had a good conversation which lasted a good long time until the father came home. He asked me about my church affiliation, which is a “registered church” and about my family, I have 2 children. He left the room without shaking my hand. Over the next several years, I have been visiting that family delivering food, money, winter boots, and clothing. However, the father of the family has never appeared to see me. It was tough and unpleasant for me, but we’ve become close friends with the Mom and with the kids from that family.
I had no peace when was getting ready for my last week’s trip. Our staff members sent me some information on the families I would be visiting and I was about to cancel my trip because I expected these families to be from those I have been speaking about. At the prayer meeting with some of my friends I prayed for my heart to be free from prejudices and for God to lead me in my ministry to the people I was going to see.
You know what? God in His mercy answers the prayers of His children. The toughest expectations turned in one of the best visits I have ever had. They are refugees from Eastern Ukraine who are trying to start over in Zaporizhya region of Ukraine. They belong to the “non-registered” church group. I drove up to the house they rent and I met a smiling man who is the father of the family. He invited me to come into the house and the first question he asked was if I would eat some boiled corn on the cob with them. You can feel a wonderful atmosphere in the family by how kids are behaving. They look in your eyes and whether they talk or not to the stranger in their house.
I would say, the warmth of their house is something which is really rare nowadays, even among the Christians. Right away I felt as if I were at home. I was treated as brother in Christ in spite of the differences we have in our church backgrounds.
No moaning, no complaining, just sincere gratitude to the Lord for everything they had before having to move and for what they have now as they begin a new life. In Eastern Ukraine they had a big house, inherited from Misha’s parents. They had to leave it behind. We talked about their dream to build a big greenhouse, where they could plant flowers and make their living out of it.
We talked about the upbringing of the children. They said the strict prohibitions without love shown daily to the children will never work. The reasons for prohibitions need to be explained in love. Only God may prevent our children from falling away from His grace.
So, my time with this dear family was a breath of a fresh air. It is our hope and prayer to assist this family with the funds of $4,000.00 for the construction of a green house and for the bulbs and seeds they’ll need for it.
In the afternoon of that same very day I had another meeting with the couple named Nickolay and Lyudmila. They live in a camp for refugees in a type of a container which is very small and very hot. Their house in Donetsk was near the airport which is completely destroyed now by all the military fights taken place there. Their house came under artillery shelling and was burned out and destroyed. They lost everything.
Lyudmila is a church member and God deals with Nikolay in a very special way. Because of everything which has happened to them he had a stroke. His speech and walking abilities are damaged and they spent most of their little money for medications. Would you imagine a man under such circumstances smiling and joking? But this is what Nickolay is all about. I enjoyed a good talk with both of them and I may say that the Lord is nearby this dear man. They need some help. The biggest need is to help them to rent an apartment and pay for the medications. It will cost $1080.00 for 6 months. The rest of their income is from Lyudmila’s work which is a yard-cleaner.
The next day I meet with Lena and her son, Egor. The rest of the family, her husband and 3 kids, were gone somewhere else that day. They also are from Eastern Ukraine and Lena was in the Baptist church since childhood. It was another talk on how the Lord works in people’s hearts. I did not expect it, but the conversation got turned into the testimony of Lena’s experience with Christ. She was in the church for many years, but deep inside she knew she doesn’t know Christ. When people witnessed to her about their closeness with Christ it sounded unreal to her.
She was concerned about her spiritual state and had no rest in her heart. She prayed and in her prayers she was confessing that she does not really know the One through whom she was praying. Her husband had the same experience and they started their searching. They visited one church after another, listening to different preachers. But nothing has happened to their souls. One preacher was preaching a “take it easy” approach for life. Others were saying you need to fulfill the Law, but nothing brought that peace which they were looking for. She was overwhelmed with despair because of her state. She had a fear of death, the fear of meeting with the Lord she personally does not know.
When the war came they had to run away from the city they lived and after changing several locations they got to the small village where they all live now. They live in a rented house which is under renovation. When they moved to this area they found a good Baptist church with a good preacher who was preaching to her heart. In this church, after being the church member for over then 20 years the Lord gave her a true conversion. She is ready to talk about her Savior for hours. Indeed, it is the first love of God she is experiencing now. Honestly, I have not seen such a happy person in a long time. Everything she says and wants to say is about Christ her Savior. We did not even have time to talk about specific needs of this family. Isn’t this amazing?
Her story is just another proof of God being at work in the hearts of sinners, even the sinners who are respectable church members for many years. We all need to know Christ and that is above everything else.
Later on, I figured out about the material needs of this family – they need $1,000.00 for renovating their house and it is my hope we all together will be able to assist this family too.
The meetings I had on this trip once again reminded me of that lesson I learned a long time ago. The ministry is not about what I do for people, but more of what God is doing with my heart. I may truthfully say to you that the Lord worked greatly with my heart on this trip and I’m thankful for His work with my soul and I wish the same for your souls.