Challenger

Challenger Update

Here is an excerpt from our most recent Challenger publication.

Summer camps provide a wonderful way to introduce children, teens, and young adults to the Gospel! Camps lift young people out of their routine and provide a wholesome atmosphere where they enjoy nourish- ing food, fun games, God-honoring music, Bible teaching, and handcrafts — all with adult leaders who reflect God’s love for them. We can’t thank you enough for your prayers and donations to make summer camps possible, but let us share quick peeks at some of the camps. This year, combined reports indicate 1,019 souls repented of sin and accepted Christ as Savior!

“My name is Julia. I’m 17. This summer I served in a camp with disabled children. My ministry was leading games. In order for this to be fun and interesting for them, I tried to prepare games accord- ing to their abilities. With great joy I observed each camper. A few moments were difficult for them, but then my team would assist them. Even the grandmothers and moms who accompanied them would get involved. This camp united us and created camaraderie. In the end, when you see a tired smile, your heart just rejoices at their joy.

“It’s so painful and hard to be in their situation. How thankful I am to God for my salvation and health.

“Thank you very much for your financial blessing, that I could help such kids at least a little bit and have a share in their difficult lives.”

More pictures and stories from this summer’s camps are featured in the Challenger.

Challenger Update

Here is an excerpt from our most recent Challenger publication.

Recently one of BIEM’s dear friends, Pastor Peter Rumachik, passed away. This Challenger includes a special tribute to his life. For the rest of the article, please read the Challenger!

If you were asked to name just one Christian from our time who had lived an exemplary life for God despite great pressure, which one would you name? For many believers around the globe, the choice would be Peter Vasilievich Rumachik.

On January 29, this faithful servant of God (and long- time friend of BIEM) passed to his eternal reward at the age of 87. But who was Peter Rumachik? What makes him so respected among believers? Let’s glorify God by taking a brief look at how He led in Peter’s life.

Early life

Peter was born in the Soviet Union in 1931, the period when Stalin’s atheistic government was already working to strangle the church and eradicate faith in God. Because his mother was a Christian, Peter heard the Gospel from a young age. He and his closest childhood friend Victor regularly met to read the Bible together.

So, even as a boy, Peter believed in God, and he understood the only way to Heaven was by God’s grace through faith in the Savior, Jesus Christ. Yet, he saw the reality as the atheistic authorities imprisoned active Christians, confiscated Bibles, and seized places of worship. Understanding how difficult life could be for a Christian in the Soviet Union, at age 16 Peter made a decision about becoming a child of God. “Not right now, and not even in my youth or when I’m middle aged, but I’ll follow the path of Christ when I am per- haps 50 or 60.”

However when his best friend died at age 18, Peter realized he had no guarantee of living to old age. He could die any time. Three months later, cutting through snowy woods, he knelt in the snow and prayed, putting his trust in Jesus Christ. In 1948 he was baptized.

Becoming active

Peter once recalled, “From the very beginning of my turning to the Lord, I believed deeply in my Savior, loved Him, and strove to serve Him in any way.”

The period from 1955– 1960 became particularly memorable for him. During those years he played an active role in preaching and assisting to start a house church in the Moscow suburb of Dyedovsk. By the end of the 1950s, the authorities had fined Peter and the other preachers multiple times. In 1961 the authorities began conducting searches of their homes. The authorities brought criminal charges against Peter and four others: starting an illegal church, holding crowded meetings in a home, allowing children to be present at church, and for disobedience to the VSEKhB (the government-registered and controlled group of Evangelical Christian- Baptist churches). He and the others were put on trial and punished by being exiled to Siberia’s primitive Krasnoyarsk region.

Continued in the Challenger.

 

Prayer Request

BIEM church planter Vitaly Bilyak and a team of dedicated children’s workers have launched a new orphanage ministry in Ternopil, Ukraine. They have made several trips to a nearby orphanage and established good rapport with the director. Now that a ministry team is in place, please pray for this monthly outreach to the nearly 150 needy orphans.

Challenger Update

Here is an excerpt from our most recent Challenger publication.

In October, BIEM’s newest secretary, Lauren, traveled to Ukraine with members of Mt. Tabor Baptist Church in Lebanon, Indiana. Here she shares impressions from that trip.

I can honestly say this trip has been the answer to a long-held dream. I went to Ukraine for the first time when I was twelve, and have dreamed of going back ever since.

While I loved many things about this trip — the Ukrainian countryside, traveling, and don’t get me started on the food!—as I look back over my pictures, the people stood out the most.

When I boarded the airplane for this trip, the only people I really knew were Sam and Amy, my coworkers from BIEM. I will admit I was nervous about spending a week and a half with strangers. But God removed that fear immediately. The Lord gave our motley crew great unity. I got to watch our group take care of each other by carrying bags, deciphering names of food, and sharing hair-doing skills.

Our group was made up of ten people from Indianapolis, a couple from Canada, and Sam and Amy. The youngest member of our group was Derek (age eleven). I was next youngest; everyone else was over fifty. One of the couples from Indy was also blind. While in Ukraine, we were accompanied by Eugene (BIEM’s Ukrainian director) and Igor, who served as our drivers. Church planter Lyosha was our interpreter.

Our main purpose for the trip was to participate in widows’ and orphans’ services in a number of the different churches BIEM supports. Some of the services were held in local orphanages or boarding-school facilities. We also had the opportunity to visit two of the Drug and Alcohol Rehabilitation centers run by BIEM personnel or local pastors. In the process, we did a lot of driving. We stayed in Bilogorodka, just west of Kyiv in the Second Baptist Church of Bilogorodka, pastored by BIEM’s Director for Ukraine, Eugene Buyko.

Our trip was punctuated by excellent meals, great conversations, and so much laughter. As I look at the pictures, I can almost hear the laughter. I know very little Russian and Ukrainian, but every once in a while I would get the jokes.

Since we spent most of the trip traveling hither and yon, we spent a lot of time in the two vans. Combine bad suspension, bumpy roads, and a fully European driver, and it makes for some exciting adventures. I rode in the blue van, driven by Igor Fomichov, one of BIEM’s church planters. Igor and our interpreter Lyosha (another church planter) shared many laughs throughout the trip. And anytime that Sam, Eugene, Igor, and Lyosha get together, laughter is sure to ensue.

And the people. The people are beautiful, from the impulsive hugs of little children to long, broken conversations in the van. We met widows who were so grateful for a simple bag of groceries. We met kids who were excited for gifts and love. I got to reconnect with the wives of several church planters, whom I have met over the past year, when they have visited the BIEM office.

And their stories. Over the course of the trip, we got to hear testimonies from several BIEM church planters and other Christians. From Vitaly Yurchenko surviving being in the affected zone on the day Chernobyl exploded, to Igor Fomichov’s dramatic transformation from a life of drugs and crime, I am so grateful for the grace of our Lord, who sees value in all people, the broken, the prideful, the scared, the disabled, and the criminal.

I have no pictures of one of my favorite parts of the trip. On Friday night, after a long day visiting the Philadelphia Rehab Center in Fastiv, plus the Velykоpolovetske orphanage (an hour away from Fastiv), and finishing with a widows’ service at the River of Life Baptist Church in Fastiv, we were finally heading back to Bilogorodka. It was probably 9:30 at night, and we had an hour and a half drive over fairly bad roads. I was sitting towards the front of the van, chatting with Lyosha and Igor, when Igor asked whether I can sing. Igor’s English is about equal to my level of my Russian — very limited. But many hymns have been translated into Russian. So we sang. We sang all the verses of all the hymns we could remember, and when they knew the songs, the Ukrainians joined in. We sang all the way back. There is something about worship that is beautiful in any language, even if you don’t understand what is being said.

I returned home with a renewed love for a country on the other side of the world, for a language I barely under- stand, and for people I call my brothers and sisters in Christ. Please pray for these families as they reach out to their communities to impact lives for Christ. Please pray for the continued influence of the connections made through the widows’ services. For many of the widows, it was their first time in church. While many of the widows we interacted with were older, a number were younger women, widowed by the conflict that continues in Eastern Ukraine. And please pray for us who went on the trip, that God would continue to teach us and mold our hearts through this experience.

Throughout the course of this trip, over 700 widows and orphans heard the Gospel and received help. Pastors of the churches involved report they have gained regular attenders from these meetings. May the Lord work in hearts to save souls and make them church members!

 

 

Challenger Update

Here is an excerpt from our most recent Challenger publication.

“For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, that God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.” (Ephesians 2:10)

 This fall, BIEM missionaries in Ukraine are once again organizing special meetings for two distinct categories of people: widows and orphans. The services for widows will share the Gospel, plus a meal, and each woman who doesn’t own a Bible will receive one along with a sack of helpful items. The services for kids will be held primarily in orphanages. Typically, the kids hear a Bible lesson where they learn about Jesus, and children’s Christian literature will be distributed along with an age-appropriate “care package” for each child.

Why the special outreaches? Pastor Sergei Debelinsky, one of BIEM’s first church planters and President of the Brotherhood of Independent Baptist Churches of Ukraine, explains:

“Probably most people wonder about the meaning of their lives: why we’re alive, what we can change, and what we should be doing. God’s plan for believers is to live for others, to live a life whose purpose is serving others. Intrinsic in the Bible verse above is the idea that God has prepared for us a field in which to perform ministry services. He expects us to do them as if for Him....

“Probably one of the most famous Scriptures concerning good deeds is ‘Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the father- less and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world’ (James 1:27). God expects His people to have a special mindset concerning orphans and widows. His will is that they be visited and given assistance as a smaller imitation of God, as it is written, “a father of the fatherless and a judge of the widows, is God in His holy habitation...” (Ps. 68:5).

 Not just hearers of the Word, Sergei and his wife have adopted numerous orphans. Passionate on this topic, he points out additional Scriptures:

  • In Exodus 22:22 God protects them: “Ye shall not afflict any widow, or fatherless child.”

  • In Psalm 146:9, God portrays Himself as aiding them: “The Lord...relieveth the fatherless and widow.”

  • Through Isaiah 1:17, He calls upon us who believe in Him to aid them: “Learn to do well...  relieve the oppressed, judge the fatherless, plead for the widow.”

In Ukraine today, the pension a widow receives isn’t large, only $100–$150/ month, depending on work history. And numerous widows are far from elderly. These are young women who have lost their husbands in the military conflict that continues in the East. Believers can guide such women to spiritual truths amidst their loss and despair. In God, widows and orphans can find fresh hope, meaning, and support.

Sergei advises, “It’s precisely when the wound is bleeding that we must apply God’s balm for healing and hope. We must hurry to do good deeds, remembering the transience of a person’s life. The opportunities that are available today may not exist tomorrow....

“These people don’t just happen to be near us. God allows them to be near us, and He expects something from you and me concerning them.”

Sometimes, widows who first enter a church for these services take an interest in the Gospel. Some accept Jesus Christ as Savior. And no one can count the number of orphans who gain a Heavenly Father through loving Christians.

BIEM appreciates these special opportunities to reflect God’s love. A minimum of $6,000 is needed for gifts to be distributed. However, in order to magnify the potential, we hope to raise $12,000.

 

 

Prayer Request

Every summer, BIEM supports many camps in Ukraine, Russia, and other countries.

Please pray with us for many children to attend camps as well as much fruit to arise from God's Word going forth! The seeds planted during these camps continue to bear fruit for months and years to come. Read some stories about the continuing effect of summer camps in our most recent Challenger

If you are interested in supporting BIEM's work with summer camps, you can donate online, by phone at 317-718-1633, or by mail at P.O. Box 707 Danville IN, 46219. 

Challenger Update

Here is an excerpt from our most recent Challenger publication.

In the 1990s, Pavel Rumachik of Dyedovsk, Russia, approached BIEM with a question: “If we Russians do the work of construction ourselves, do you think our American brothers and sisters in Christ might help with funds to build a church?”

It was an excellent question. Up to that point, BIEM had requested dona- tions for evangelism, Bibles, Christian literature, and other projects, but back then we’d never attempted to raise funds for a church building. We put the matter before our supporters, and God’s people responded enthusiastically!

Now twenty years have passed since Truth Baptist Church opened its doors in Nahabino, Russia. Through this church, God has worked mightily to save sinners from all walks of life. However, because many of the church’s very first converts were drug addicts, early on this congregation emphasized ministry among people with substance dependencies. As a result, they have led the way in opening multiple Christian rehabilitation centers for alcoholics and drug addicts, which in turn have freed many more souls from the shackles of sin and guided them to new life in Christ.

Concerning the church’s 20th anniversary celebration, Pastor Pavel gives full credit to the Lord: “First of all, we thank God that twenty years ago He founded a church in Nahabino. We held a special service of praise to the Lord. Our theme came from the central portion of Psalm 136. We used it to help us recall the mercies, which the Lord bestowed on us twenty years ago. As pastor, I read the first part of each verse describing God’s blessings, for example, ‘O, give thanks unto the Lord, for he is good.’ Then the entire congregation continued in unison, ‘For his mercy endureth forever.’ In this way, I pronounced twenty-two mercies aloud to the church, and twenty-two times the church responded about the eternal mercy of God. It was such a triumphant service!”

The whole congregation sang the Russian hymn “Let Everyone Exalt Christ.” A Christian orchestra led the congrega- tion and visiting friends in much praising. This orchestra included trumpets, violins, a guitar, a piano, synthesizer, flute, and triangle. The musicians were adults, but also children who study in music school.

With obvious enthusiasm, Pavel continued his description. “Two choirs — one all males, and one of mixed men and women — sang majestically. Of course, our children, youth, families, and guests also praised the Lord. The hymn ‘All Earth Is Full of Your Grace’ accompanied by an orchestra was a wonderful adornment. We had two sermons. The Lord has blessed us, and we rejoiced.”

After the service, everyone stayed for a delicious dinner. Women of the church provided a wide variety of flavorful dishes, which contributed to the fellow- ship and festive atmosphere.

Later that evening, the anniversary continued at a second service, which included participation by more guests, some of whom had traveled far distances to join in the celebration. In that service, church members shared many recollec- tions of God’s blessings in the spiritual founding of the church, and in the con- struction of their building.

Pastor Pavel’s father, Peter Rumachik (86) spent eighteen and a half years in Soviet prisons and labor camps for being an active Christian. During Soviet days, he never expected to see such blessings in his lifetime, and he, too, shared a short message from God’s Word. In conclusion, everyone watched a slide presentation about the history of the church.

Pastor Pavel offered these final words to BIEM concerning their day of remembering and rejoicing: “Praise God for everything! May the Lord bless all of us to praise Him, and to be faithful to Him, as we await the soon-coming return of the Savior for us!”

 

Challenger Update

Here is an excerpt from our most recent Challenger publication.

BIEM’s shipments of 40-ft. containers of humanitarian aid and church equipment are especially effective evangelistic tools. They open hearts to the Gospel, help new churches, and they lift up churches’ testimonies in their communities. Learn the encouraging details, in the words of Ukrainians themselves...

It’s such a blessing to see BIEM meeting not only spiritual needs in Ukraine, but also material needs. Because the economic crisis in Ukraine has dragged on for decades, people have seen humanitarian aid more than once. They distinguish good aid from a pile of rags. People who receive assistance from us are always grateful, because BIEM sends quality items.

When I consider the whole humanitarian-aid process — from receiving donated garments in Indiana all the way to distribution in churches, orphanages, and rehabilitation centers in Ukraine — I see the church of Jesus Christ united in fulfilling the Great Commission. Every carton of clothing, every chair, each blanket, is a token of God’s love, sent to Ukraine by brothers and sisters in America. This isn’t just a mountain of stuff. It’s carefully packed boxes of love in the form of folded blouses, sweaters, and pants.

When Eugene Buyko and I visited BIEM in America last spring, we helped to load a container. The process of shipping and receiving such aid is laborious. First, most of the clothing received at BIEM’s warehouse gets hand-sorted by volunteers. Sorting and packing requires much more than a few days. When the warehouse is full, it’s time to order a sea container. Once again, loading requires volunteers.

When loading, volunteers fill the container compactly. No empty space is left. The top is reserved for bulky or fragile things: bicycles, wheelchairs, cribs, strollers, etc. During loading, someone counts and logs each item. When full, the container undergoes fumigation. At last, a truck hauls the container to a port, where it’s loaded onto a ship. Transit takes two months.

Our Ternopil church enjoys good collaboration with Social Services in our city. They know people who truly need help and accompany them to our church on Tuesdays and Thursdays. We offer everyone Christian literature, plus a children’s Bible if they have kids.

Employees of Social Services feel at home in the church. I was talking to one, and he referred to it as “our church.” I smiled. I like this trend. We pray that people, “seeing your good deeds, glorify God” (1 Peter 2:12).

Friends, once more I want to express to you great thanks for your ministry to Ukraine through humanitarian aid.

— Vitaly Bilyak, Ternopil

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Thank you for your prayers and for the material aid, which is so vital. In the economic collapse in our land, there’s much poverty. The brothers and sisters of various churches are grateful for the clothing you provide. This clothing is vital for us, since not many people can buy new things. Our churches receive small offerings, so we’re unable to buy church furniture. So chairs, tables, and other things from the container are really useful.

Here, not many can buy a car, especially in villages. When one brother received a bicycle as a gift, he was ecstatic. Now he gets around much more quickly.

Surrounding our church is a chain-link fence. Where did we get the fencing? From a container, of course! You can’t imagine how much you help us. Without your aid, our missionaries couldn’t have established a single church. Not one church building has been built without your help, because we are “labourers together with God” (1 Cor. 3:9).

Over and over, I want to express appreciation to you for your invaluable support. May the Lord bless you!

— Vitaly Yurchenko

Please consider giving towards the costs of shipping containers so that we can continue to further the Gospel through humanitarian aid. For more stories of how humanitarian aid has blessed people in Ukraine and surrounding areas, click here. 

Challenger Update

Here is a story from our most recent Challenger publication.

In August, Central Asian evangelist Elijah and his family saw God work in wonderful ways as they delivered mp3s with the New Testament, Bible lessons, Christian songs, and testimonies in Central Asian languages such as Tajik, Kyrgyz, Uzbek, and Russian.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~

My name is Erkin. Because of my illness, I’m completely blind. I have been with Christ four years. I do not read and cannot move without help. Not long ago I was operated on and I began to see the glory of God. Still, to my great regret, I cannot read the Word of God. But not long ago God made me a wonderful gift. From the city came a minister [Elijah] and blessed me and gave me an mp3. I did not even know there is such a thing as mp3. Now I listen to the Word of God whenever I want. I am very grateful to God for such a wonderful gift. I do not have to ask someone to read the Word of God to me; now I listen to the Word of God when I want! Thanks to my God and those who donated their finances for this blessing. May God bless you abundantly.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~

My name is Jyldyz. I was born in 1964. In 2015 I accepted Jesus as my Lord and Savior. I cannot
read the Word of God. I only listen to God’s Word in church. My eyesight is -9. God heard my prayers and through the ministers gave me an mp3 from which I can hear the Word of God. This is an incomparable blessing. When I received the mp3 into my hands, my tears began to ow. I am infinitely grateful to God and Jesus Christ. Thanks to all who have contributed to the spread of the Word of God.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~

This year I will turn 89. My name is Vitaly. Since I see poorly, my wife wrote for me in large letters verses from the Scriptures every day. I could not read the Word of God, but now I have an mp3, and through it I listen to God’s Word. I was so glad when I was given this player. It is my dearest gift in life. When I received it, I did not let it out of my hand and enjoyed it all the time. I was edified by the Word of God and did not give it even to my wife. She took offense. [He laughs.] She complained to her friend about this and told God’s servants who distributed the mp3s. Finally, my desire was fulfilled; the Lord heard my wife’s prayer and answered. Now we listen to the Word of God together. All glory to God.

Gifts designated “Central Asia Ministry” will purchase more Here it Now! (HIN) players. Can you help?

Challenger Update

Here is a story from our most recent Challenger publication.

When a sinner repents, Heaven rejoices. In our church, we too greatly rejoiced. Victor is a man for whom we have prayed a long time. He actively helped in building our church. He became the first person whose heart found peace in Christ after many years of wandering in darkness.

Victor came from the world, from a non-Christian family. All of Victor’s life passed without the Lord; therefore, when he repented that was a special event for us. Tears of joy welled in our eyes. We sang hymns of praise and thankfulness. The whole church got on their knees and gave praise to the Creator for this saved sinner.

However, while the church was rejoicing, the enemy of mankind’s souls was pre- paring a serious trial for Victor to shake his faith. When Victor’s wife learned he had repented, she began pressuring him psychologically. For two weeks she would not talk with her husband. Later she used words to pressure him at any opportunity. On Sunday mornings before worship service she would say, “Don’t forget to give away all the tithe to your church.” (That was as if to say, “Take all our money and give it to your church.”)

Friends and relatives wondered how it was possible he would no longer drink alcohol. They wondered if Victor had fallen into a cult.

It takes courage to openly declare you’ve become a follower of Christ, that you want to change your life, especially when everyone around you is far from God. There’s a risk everyone will turn away and say that you’ve lost your mind. But Victor had thought through his decision with regard to the Gospel and Christ. He openly said: “I am a believer. I no longer drink!” Thank God for his decision and courage. This was the first fruit of his repentance. 

For a long time, Victor has taken medicine for his heart and blood pressure. He has bottles of medicines standing on the windowsill in a certain order, so even with his eyes closed he can take the right one and make no mistake. One evening he came home after a hard day of work, and he took his pills, drank the necessary dose and...felt oddly. He lay down and all his body felt weightless. Victor thought he was dying. It turned out his daughter-in-law had unwittingly shuffled the medicines. As a result, he took ten times the normal dose of one medicine! When Viktor finally began to feel better, his concerned wife said tenderly: “Victor, go to your church. You will sing psalms. It will help you feel better.”

His wife’s new, softened attitude is a huge answer to prayer. Fellow church members in Ukraine were praying, and so were Americans Victor had met when they visited Bilogorodka to help with the church’s construction. People on both sides of the ocean prayed fervently.

There will be more trials in Victor’s future. We are praying, and we ask that you, dear brothers and sisters, please support Victor in prayer, that the Lord be with him in all his paths and give him peace of heart.

Thank you again to each of you who donated to BIEM’s church construction fund, which in turn led to Victor’s repentance. Saving sinners is the heart of ministry!

Challenger Update

Here is a story from our most recent Challenger publication.

A deadly military conflict continues in Eastern Ukraine. Like many pastors in that land, BIEM's Vitaly Bilyak asked himself how he should respond. Here's a condensed version of his report.

What do you do when there's war in your country? As you know, there's a war in Eastern Ukraine. In our nation, for political reasons it's called an Anti-Terrorist Operation. But that doesn't alter the fact that people perish regularly.

Our church considered: what did we have to offer? We had received humanitarian aid from BIEM. Some of that aid we had distributed locally, but a portion remained. We could send one small load. Next, I contacted churches and BIEM about our idea. BIEM responded and named a dollar amount they could contribute, which was a clear sign form God. Next, two churches got on board.

But where should we go? The president of our brotherhood of churches recommended a congregation in Dobropolye that's actively rendering aid. We decided to give them part of the funds we'd collected. Also, even though visiting Avdeevka was dangerous, we wanted to minister there, on the front line.

We set out very early. Our cargo van drove ahead, and we followed. With me went Volodya, Andrei, and Roman. By evening we reached Dobropolye.

Ministry in Dobropolye

First, we unloaded our van into the church warehouse. Then we got acquainted with the church.

The population of Dobropolye is 30,000 and about 15,000 refugees settled here. People are everywhere—in vacant rooms of businesses, dormitories, private houses, and apartments.

On Sunday, the church auditorium was filled with 120 people. Some arrived early to talk. Several arrived during the second half, obviously for the aid. The service wasn't long, but was uplifting. When Andrei shared how the Lord had saved him from addiction to drugs, people cried.

After the service, people lined up as if on cue. Sisters from the church registered first-timers. Others showed ID's to receive about 10 lbs. of food, which was purchased with funds we'd provided. Each package included Christian tracts. Anyone who didn't own a New Testament received one. Some people were grateful and open to conversation; others expressed no emotion and simply left.

Meeting with refugees in Rodynske

After a quick lunch, we climbed into cars and tortured ourselves on the roads as we drove to a neighboring city 21 miles away. There, 50 people gathered in a dim corridor for a service. Everyone stood. When we sang a song about home, many quietly wiped away tears.

I often preach, but never before had anyone listened so intently. I spoke about everyone's most important need—a meeting with the Savior. Afterward, they gave me a letter of appreciation singed by everyone who attended.

In the evening, a friend from Donetsk visited. He's a pastor. His church ended up on the other side, under occupation. Every Saturday he loads his old car with groceries on the Ukrainian side, then drives back. After a two-hour church service, he leads a Bible class for adults. To me, he and his wife are heroes, people who risk their lives crossing the front twice a week to help believers on that side of the war. We handed him funds to buy food. After prayer, he departed to his reality.

In the line of fire

The next day we were to visit Avdeevka, a city that's been hit by artillery for nearly a month. A feeling of anxiety rose at the first block-post checkpoint. Armed men examined our ID's and cargo. When they learned we're from Western Ukraine and that we were delivering aid, they let us proceed. There are five checkpoints manned by soldiers along the 37-mile road. Closer to Avdeevka, there were practically no other civilian cars, only military vehicles. On the approach to the city, road signs, fences, and houses have been riddled with shrapnel. Many homes have plastic sheeting over the windows instead of glass. There were houses where blown-out windows don't even have plastic over them.

After a final checkpoint, we entered Avdeevka. First, we visited the church. People expected us. They shared the latest news: that morning men from the church had rescued an elderly couple from a house where a shell had hit. The couple was brought to the church and fed while considering where they might live now.

In the church, we heard explosions, but no locals made a fuss, so why worry? We gave them cartons of humanitarian aid and finances for ministry.

Local brethren suggested we visit buildings that were shelled during the night. When we reached that street, we saw broken wires, ruined houses, sheds, and fences... Plywood covered windows.

Shots were fired. The locals didn't react. But everyone wonders the same thing: "When will it end?" They don't care who wins, just so as the shooting stops.

The pastor of Revival Baptist Church in Avdeevka says, "Fifty precent of the church's members have left the city, but despite the situation and the danger to life, ministries have not ceased. God has filled the church with new members and newcomers. God has opened new ministries for us: children's work, feeding the elderly and invalids, aid to residents of the city by repairing windows after shelling, and aid to families with many children."

We left with mixed emotions. When we returned home, we read in the news that several hours after our departure Avdeevka was heavily bombarded. Apartments were hit, and people died.

Please pray for Ukraine! Pray especially for churches on both sides of the conflict line. Pray that each of us will understand what is his role in serving suffering people in this senseless war.

If you would like to help, mark your donation "Ukraine Aid." Gifts will go to churches that are actively rendering aid along with the Gospel in the same spirit as Jesus, who met physical needs while sharing spiritual truths.