Emergency Relief Fund

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One Million Refugees

Because of the war, many people have fled the eastern part of Ukraine. A total of three million people populated that area before the war, of which one million have fled by now. Many of them fled to West Ukraine. Some refugees fled simply to escape the fighting, and once the hostilities are over, they hope to return to their former homes. There are also others, more Protestant Christians, who never wish to return. They feel threatened by the growing influence of the Orthodox Church in East Ukraine. 

Most of the refugees left their furniture and belongings behind. They were unable to sell their homes because they simply had to flee. Initially, they were able to cross right over into West Ukraine, but this is hardly possible anymore. At present, those who wish to flee East Ukraine must first travel to the east into Russia. From there, they must travel north through Russian territory, and then cross the Russian-Ukrainian border close to Kharkov (the autonomous region of Ukraine). The trip from East Ukraine to Kharkov takes a total of twenty hours by bus. In Kharkov, there are large soup kitchens and refugee centers from where the refugees are dispersed across the country. Ukrainian churches try to supply the refugees with start-up funds to pay the first six months of rent, during which these refugees can find work and/or apply for social care from the government (approx. 100 Euro per month).

Noteworthy Refugees

It can be enlightening to read accounts of some of the refugees, many of whom are Christians, who fled their hometown in order to practice their religion in freedom. Some couples lost everything they had, and are now trying to rebuild their lives. Their homes have been burned with everything in them, and their villages nearly totally destroyed. Several of these people were led to salvation by means of the war, and the subsequent love experienced from Baptist churches.

In June 2014, Levon and Anna Kurginyan and their three children left their church in Donetsk due to the shelling and the barbaric behaviour of the Separatists. The Separatists robbed the local stores and markets. Levon and Anna heard that refugees were welcome in the city of Zjitomir, in West Ukraine, and decided to go there.

Levon is of Armenian descent, and is glad to live in Zjitomir now. He feels called to reach out to the homeless people. He has already led twenty people to a rehab center close to Kiev. He brings them there himself, and at times pays for their fare out of his own pocket. His experience is that 80% of the homeless people listen to him when he explains that they can have a much better life than they are living now. Levon is moved by the word of Christ, saying that “He came to seek and to save that which is lost, and that the sick need a physician, but not those that are whole.” So in compassion, he visits those homeless alcoholics.  He works in construction several days a week, but commits himself to working among the homeless people for two whole days every week.

Alexander and Marina Krishki, another refugee couple, came to Zjitomir in August 2014. They have one son and two daughters. Alexander has been able to find a good job seventy km outside of Zjitomir.

Ivan and Nelly Zhilyakov lost everything, and have become caretakers of a Baptist church where they sleep as well in Zjitomir.

Irina Aljamoezhnaya, another refugee, is a sister to Marina Krishki. After ten years of marriage, her husband who was a deacon in their home church, died due to illness. This happened one year ago, while she still lived in East Ukraine. His death still clearly affects her. She is 34 years of age; she has training in child education, and graduated from Bible school. She lives with her sister and brother-in-law. According to her local pastor in Zjitomir, Yuri Lanovyuk, she and her sister carry on most valuable work among the youth and children from within and outside the church. This past summer, Irina led eight children’s summer camps outside of Zjitomir, especially focused on non-churched young people. Throughout the year, she visits children’s hospitals, public care facilities, and youth prisons, which are for more accessible to visitors in Zjitomir than similar facilities in East Ukraine. She is grateful for these opportunities. She gives a good impression, showing that in spite of her grief, she is picking up her life and seeking to be a blessing for others in need.

Relief Work for a Refugee Pastor

Around 100 km from Kiev, there is a village called Peresyaslav Mikitsky. Pastor Igor Lysykh (age 37) lives here with his wife Natasha, and their three children: Oleg, Angela, and Lila. They form a very happy family together. They used to live in the Lugansk area in East Ukraine, but moved to this village as a refugee pastor’s family because of the threats aimed at Igor from the Cossacks. Nearly all his congregation fled; he escaped with his family in March 2014. He also led certain individuals out of the occupied areas through the various checkpoints. Initially, about 35 Christian refugee families were with him in the current village where he takes refuge, but some have relocated. Currently, there are roughly 20 families left. Igor does much work in providing for the refugees, seeking employment for them, and providing relief. He takes care of food, medicine, clothing, winter boots, etc. Igor Lysykh receives some support from Ukrainian churches, but he also works in construction. The congregation numbers around 60 people, and they have an outreach program for 15 children from the neighborhood.

An Escape Ends in Faith

One of the families in the church of Pastor Igor Lysykh is the family of Alexander and Irina Golovin. One of Alexander and Irina’s children, their daughter Vita, lives with them. Vita has a son (11 years of age), is expecting a child, but has no husband. Alexander’s account was rather moving. Initially, he was an unbeliever, but due to the war, he became a refugee and ended up in this village of Peresyaslav Mikitsky where Pastor Igor labors. It was on his journey here that he came to faith in Christ.

Alexander used to make a good salary where he worked in administration at a coal company in East Ukraine. He and his wife were able to purchase an apartment. He lived for his apartment, and really had nothing else to live for. Then the war broke out. The top floor of his apartment building was blasted away, so they were forced to flee to the cellar of their dacha (summer cottage), outside of the city. Others joined them in the cellar of their cottage. They hid in this bomb shelter for two weeks, until the cottage too was blasted away by the severe shelling above them. A neighbor was killed five minutes after he had spoken with Alexander. Considering the dire circumstances, they resolved to flee further. They walked through no-man’s land for fifteen kilometers, and arrived in West Ukraine where they were welcomed by a local Baptist church. By miracle, they found their daughter and her son in that church.  She had left a month earlier, and had not been able to contact her parents since.

Answers to Prayer, or Not?

Already then, Alexander and Irina felt that Someone was leading them. They were introduced to the pastor, and Alexander found out that the pastor was a former fellow coal miner. They had worked together for 25 years. Every night, they had worship services there. The pastor gave Alexander a Bible, telling him that he should read and repent. He promised to read, but was not sure about repentance. They gave them a house to live in, but this family still had many needs. A deacon advised them to pray to God for help, for God can help people in need. His wife prayed for their main need: heating for their home. The following day, their neighbor told them that he had a truckload of coal beside his fence, and Alexander and his wife could make use of it for the heating of their home. His wife saw God’s hand in this, but Alexander surmised that it must have been a coincidence to receive this coal right after the prayer of his wife. 

Alexander and Irina also have another daughter and a son, besides their daughter Vita. They had not heard from them for a long time. Again Irina prayed to God, asking Him to bring their other children into contact with them. Five minutes after prayer, people came to their house bringing them news of their two other children. Then Alexander was dumbfounded. He started reading Scripture.

The Lord’s Perfect Plan

Soon after, he declared in church that he wished to follow the Lord. He is now a beaming, joyful man who speaks as much as he can of the goodness of the Lord. He can hardly stop speaking about the Lord. Now material things do not mean much to him. He desires to serve the Lord. He can hardly stop reading the Bible. In the past, after his military service, he had searched for wisdom and wrote down various sayings of wisdom (as he perceived them) in a notebook. All along, he had a Bible but never opened it. Now he realizes that the Bible is wisdom.

Eventually, he relocated with his family to the town of Peresyaslav Mikitsky where Pastor Igor Lysykh labors. They are living members of his church, and wish to live daily out of the caring hand of the Lord. It is their desire to acknowledge the Lord for all His goodness in their lives. On March 22, after having been married for 35 years, they still had their marriage solemnized in church. Here we see an example of how atheists came to faith due to war circumstances. In spite of all events, the Lord continues to carry out His plan of salvation.