UK assembly workers’ involvement in service for the Lord in what is now West Ukraine has a long history. In the pre-war days, when it was the Ukrainian Area of East Poland or Greater Hungary, the Hines, MacGregors, Griffiths and Schneidrooks worked there. During our recent visits, we have met with several older believers who remember those workers and hold them in high esteem. They also speak very highly of Fred and Ruth Kelling (GLO) who visited Transcarpathia, particularly Khust in the last years of communism and were a great source of support. In recent times Paul and Sally Thomas visited the area until Sally’s illness made it impossible. More recently I responded to the call from believers in the Volyn, Ternopol and Cherkassy Regions to lead discipleship and teaching programmes and Mark Davies (GLO) and others have agreed to partner in this work. We are doing this under the guidance and leadership of church leaders in the areas we work.
We are indirectly building on the foundations laid in the past. The fruit of these earlier ministries among the Ukrainian people was considerable and the leaders of the ministries we are working with today came to Christ under the ministry of those led to Christ as part of the partnership in service of Ukrainian and UK servants of God. It is a joy for the Philadelphia Trust/ GLO bible teaching partnership to lead a consecutive bible teaching and discipleship programmes in a number of areas for those, who in recent years have come to faith.
The three provinces in the North West of Ukraine, L’viv, Volyn and Rivine are known as the “beloved strip of Ukraine.” They have seen great blessing over the past 20 years, many have come to Christ and the influence of these regions on the Gospel is enormous not only in Ukraine but further afield in Russian speaking areas such as Russia itself, Kazakhstan and Georgia. West Ukrainians do not speak Russian as their mother tongue but are normally bilingual in Ukrainian and Russian.
In addition to the bible teaching programme we regularly observe many significant outreach opportunities there and help with some of them. Especially those involving the teaching of English and the use of professional skills and competences.
Significant Outreach Activities
Drug and Alcohol Abuse Programmes
Substance abuse has reached epidemic proportions in Ukraine and groups of believers in various areas seek to minister to this need and use it as an opportunity for witness. Undoubtedly the most successful programme we witness is in the Lutsk area. The ministry is led by Jura Tsymbol who joined the original programme as an addict when it was led by Pavlo Myronuk, a very successful church planter. Today more than 100 people who went through the programme in the last 15 years have come to faith and are members of several local fellowships in the area and some are elders, pastors and bible teachers.
Ministry among the Severely Disabled
Sergey and Natalia Bolchuk were originally commend by the believers in Lutsk for an outreach ministry among drug addicts and alcoholics in Central Ukraine. Not long after the they had settled into their new region they had a terrible accident which left Natalia a quadriplegic. They returned home for care and support. It appeared that their life of ministry was over however as they prayed about the situation the Lord clearly called them to a ministry among the disabled. They shared their vision to help disabled and prayed for guidance. Others joined them in recognising the need and opportunity and a ministry was established to care for severely disabled people. All of those it now reaches have been disabled because of an accident and they now care for broken bodies, broken families and broken lives. Many have come to Christ and although disabled in body have total freedom in Christ.
Using Education as an Evangelistic Tool
Education is used for three distinct outreaches in West Ukraine.
- In a school set in up Lutsk for primary and secondary age children.
- In English language programmes run by Ukrainians with our support for adults.
- An in-service training programme for teachers
Currently we are involved in helping in these programmes in the Volyn, Ternopol and Cherkassy regions of Ukraine.
Is another opportunity to demonstrate the love of Christ. There are many areas, especially in the country districts where medical services are poor. A group of German Christians have responded to the need by taking over and funding a cottage hospital. The doctor they support, Orest Kulenych, a very fine Christian not only runs the hospital but is the local GP. Doctors are very poorly paid in Ukraine and normally expect and get huge bribes to carry out medical treatment. As a Christian Orest refuses bribes and looks to the Lord to support him and his family.
The government is determined to stamp out corruption and plan to change how doctors work. Doctors will become responsible for running their practices much as they are run here in the UK. They will also have to organise their own training programmes and one of the Trustees of the Philadelphia Trust, Johnson Samuel who is a Consultant in Respiratory Medicine and Director of Postgraduate Medical Education in Essex and a trustee of the Philadelphia Trust will be discussing and planning a training conference and other events with Orest during a planned visit in November 2017. These will be great witness.
Responding to the War Situation in East Ukraine (Donbass – Lugansk and Donetsk Regions)
The believers in West Ukraine are responding to the serious problems and using them to witness for Christ.
Meeting Medical Needs
We are in contact with a group of Christian medics who travel regularly to the Donbass with a mobile clinic to provide medical relief to those who live on the Ukrainian side of the front line. One of the team Katya, who we know well, wrote of her experiences. “The team of volunteer health workers and representatives of the church, provide free medical consultations, preach the Word of God, conduct educational work on healthy lifestyle and the prevention of common illnesses. Where possible, the organization provides humanitarian assistance to low-income families, orphanages, elderly homes, as well as people affected by natural disasters. After a medical examination, every patient in the clinic has the opportunity to listen to the preaching of God’s Word, talk with a Christian counsellor, and receive free literature.”
Supporting those on the “Front Line”
“Warm the Soldier” is a Ukrainian Christian organisation based in Kiev which helps at the front in
two ways. It provides for the needs that the soldiers have and organises repair teams to go to places
where shelling and bombing has damaged properties. We praise God for this ministry and our
opportunity to support it. It is a great witness to Christian love.
Army Chaplains is another organisation we support. Brothers from evangelical churches in West Ukraine and Kyiv go to the front line and minister to the needs of soldiers physically, materially and spiritually. Mark and I met Yaroslav a student in Lutsk, who comes originally from the Lugansk Region. He regularly breaks his studies for three months and goes to the front line to provide support for the soldiers. In a recent meeting, he told how 6 soldiers were baptised after coming to faith at the front during his last visit.
“Help Now” is another organisation involved in support for those in the Donbass. They regularly run aid convoys into the area with food and other essentials. They also run a resettle centre in Cherkassy and place the many refugees to come to them in suitable accommodation and provide them with
food and clothing. The trustworthiness and reliability of the Christians caused the city council to give them free use of a building in the centre of city to co-ordinate aid and to pay all utility bills. They were told they had the responsibility to look after the expected 7000 refuges, however so far more
than 26,000 have arrived. Only 5 % of those who have used the service are believers. All of them are treated the same and this ministry is a great witness.
There are other ministries to the front line that we cannot report in detail because it would endanger believers there. We have very close contacts who organise the transport of large amounts of food into the region which believers there use to run soup kitchens. There focus is on the aged
whose families have fled the fighting.
The Philadelphia Trust and the GLO Teaching Partnership are regularly in Ukraine supporting the ministries there and seeking to introduce others to the ministry. Our focus is training the trainers in bible teaching and the opportunity to use education as a tool for the Gospel. In November 2017, not only is Johnson Samuel accompanying us but Tamas Madarasz a professor from Miskolc, Hungary and Stephen McQuoid.