Delivering Food in a Time of War

August 22nd, 2014

We just received this report from MPI’s Ministry Coordinator in Ukraine:

Today, I went to the Metro store (a large grocery store in Kiev) with Pastor Ruslan from Lutugino. Lutugino is only 15 km from Lugansk in Eastern Ukraine. Pastor Ruslan came to Kiev looking for food and personal hygiene items for people in the war torn areas of the Lugansk region. As a Pastor, Ruslan feels that now is the time to help his people more than ever before.

Hundreds of thousands of people have fled the area, but many families with children and many seniors have nowhere else to go. So they stay, despite the danger. Ruslan has made it his responsibility to look after people from his and other churches, helping them with food and water. He comes to Kiev every two weeks and gets groceries from MPI’s food bank and Christian Hope Church. In Lutugino, he makes up food packages and delivers them to the people who are still living in their apartments and houses, and also to those who are hiding in basements and bomb shelters.

For the last two months there has been no central water or natural gas, no access to food or medicine. There have been no pensions for the elderly. The Ukrainian Army and National Guard, who are fighting the militias and separatists in Lugansk, are using Lutugino as a base of operations. Numerous areas of Lugansk are experiencing shelling and mortar attacks, as bombs fall from Air Force jets. The shells, mortars and bombs blow up in the streets, and hit houses and apartment buildings. There are no safe places!
Pastor Ruslan also takes food to Pastor Roman in Lugansk, and together they take it to the people and pray for them. Pastor Roman has even bought a shooter to make his deliveries more efficiently. The people who receive the food and water kiss their hands and cannot thank them enough for helping them. While it is a great risk, the Pastors see themselves as having been born for a time like this. With God’s Word and passion they serve people without thinking about themselves.

This is what Pastor Ruslan shared:

Greetings from Lutugino, the epicentre of military action in the Lugansk region of Eastern Ukraine. The situation in our town has gotten worse. The fighting between the Ukrainian Military and the separatists has destroyed all of the infrastructure and communications in the towns of the East. There is no medicine in the hospitals. Many people are hiding in their basements without electricity, water and food. The food MPI gives is a huge blessing and support to the people in the East of Ukraine. It is a great reminder to them that God has not forgotten about them. Churches are with them as well, covering them in prayer and sending life saving supplies of food, medicine and hygiene items to the destitute areas in the East. Thank you for your help and prayers. God bless MPI and Canada!

Please pray for the people in Eastern Ukraine who are suffering now. Tell someone about the humanitarian catastrophe and the need for more food and water deliveries. With your help, we can provide the necessities of life, both physical and spiritual.

Storm Clouds Gathering

March 28th, 2014

Storm Clouds GatheringSometimes you can see the cloud rolling in, announcing the approach of an oncoming storm. Once, while the disciples were in a boat on the sea of Galilee, that kind of storm came on (Mark 4:37). The disciples began frantically calling on Jesus, fearing the storm. In fact, the storm as a metaphor for trouble is used throughout the bible. Jesus warned His followers that they would face tribulation, but not to fear! The Lord’s words have certainly been proven true (John 16:33).

Today we are seeing the rise of a new storm in Ukraine. As we mentioned in one of our previous newsletters, we are receiving regular updates regarding the crisis situation in Ukraine and Crimea. While the international news has been focused on politics and Russian military manoeuvres, there are impacts that extend to areas of faith and freedom. We have just received reports from our sponsored pastors and churches in Crimea about the sudden persecution they are facing. We have heard that most of the christian churches (non-orthodox) there have been closed. Because the believers in that area are very poor, most of them haven’t been able to afford to buy their own church buildings. Of the pastors and churches we sponsor, one had a building, and another was in the process of constructing a building. All the other churches were renting. Non-Russian Orthodox rented churches are now illegal. There were also Drug and Alcohol rehabilitation programs which were run by these churches are also now shuttered and illegal. Reportedly, the FSB is demanding lists of congregants from pastors. We are just hearing this news in within the last two days. It is important to note that the Russian and Crimean government structures are apparently considering all non-orthodox churches and believers to be western agents. We are unsure how much of this news is true, but these initial reports are very troubling. We expect more details in the coming days and weeks.

Another report indicates that anyone without Russian or Crimean citizenship (registration) are being threatened with deportation as they are now considered foreign citizens (status). The deadline to register as a Crimean citizen was on March 18th. Beyond that date, unregistered people must leave or reside in “lawful bases” until April 19th. Those remaining can try to apply for residence status in Crimea after that from the Russian Federation.

In Mark 13:13 Jesus told His disciples to watch and pray:

He also said to the multitudes, “Whenever you see a cloud rising out of the west, immediately you say, ‘A shower is coming’; and so it is. “And when you see the south wind blow, you say, ‘There will be hot weather’; and there is. “Hypocrites! You can discern the face of the sky and of the earth, but how is it you do not discern this time? (Luke 12:54-56)

It is important in these last days, as Jesus second coming gets closer and closer, to focus on the most important things: Keeping our eyes on the Lord, Growing in the knowledge of God, and Bearing the burdens of our fellow believers. To many christians are trusting in themselves and their current circumstances. They are unprepared to face a storm. To few christians know and understand what their bible teaches. And fewer still even read the scriptures daily. It is critical that we undertake the cause of oppressed and persecuted believers of Jesus (Galatians 6:2). We all should be trusting the Lord and helping each other where we have a lack (2 Cor 8:14).

Like with Noah, in these last days God doesn’t promise to take us out of the storm, but to preserve us to the end through faith.

Eye of the Storm

March 14th, 2014

Independence SquareI have seen some intense storms in my life. I remember one time when I was visiting some friends for the weekend. A sudden powerful storm came up with a lot of wind. We could see the wind and rain rushing around the corner of the barn like a tornado. I had never seen anything like it before. Another time, I was traveling with my family in Newfoundland. We had left St John’s and were heading north towards Lewisporte. It began to rain suddenly. We had to stop driving because the rain was coming down so hard we couldn’t see more that a few feet in front of us.

These incidents from my past have taken on greater meaning recently against the backdrop of the crisis situation in Ukraine. I find it hard to believe how much has happened in the last three or four weeks. It wasn’t that long ago when we were talking about the protests and clashes in Independence Square in Kiev. Now, Crimea has become a part of Russia, pensions in the rest of Ukraine are set to be cut in half, and eastern Ukraine is preparing for a possible Russian invasion.

While there are plenty of worrying signs for the future, there seems to be a lull in the storm currently with the promise of greater turbulence ahead. Storms can be odd that way. Wind and rain build up toward a crescendo, and then there is a brief calm before the full force of the storm hits again. The current crisis in Ukraine almost seems to be following this pattern.

I must admit that a measure of fear and anxiety regarding these events has arisen in my mind. At the same time, God has increasingly been reminding me about His providence and protection promised in Psalm 46. “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear!” This has been echoing in my mind for a week or two now.

I still don’t know for certain what will happen in the near future, but I am choosing to put my trust in the LORD. In Luke 21:36, Jesus said, “Watch therefore, and pray.” In the coming days, as the news from Ukraine continues, join with us at MPI and Watch and Pray!

 

Check out these recent pictures from Independence Square in Kiev (Kyiv):

Independence Square 1Independence Square 2
Independence Square 3Independence Square 4
Independence Square 5Independence Square 6
Independence Square 7Independence Square 8

Bullet through Window

March 5th, 2014

God’s faithfulness

In the Bible God promised to never leave nor forsake us. It is true. Sometimes we don’t realize what it really takes to keep us safe. Recently I was reminded of that when my neighbor from upstairs told me what happened last Friday night. Her name is Alexandra. She is married and has 4 children. They all live in a one-room apartment.

We live 7 km from Maidan (Independence Square) and during the clashes between protesters and police we didn’t see any smoke or hear any explosions. Sometimes the things that we don’t directly see, that are not taking place right outside of our windows tend to make us believe they don’t exist or don’t concern us. But in the reality of life, it is only God’s hand and grace that keeps us safe wherever we are each and every day.

On Friday night we heard a noise coming from outside that sounded like fireworks, but only a single bang. It was rather strange, because usually, fireworks come in a series of shots. A few days later, we found out that it wasn’t fireworks, but a shooting outside of our windows. One bullet when through our upstairs neighbor’s window making a big hole, before getting stuck in the window frame (between the panes of glass). At first our neighbor thought that their kids were playing with marbles and dropped them from their bunk bed. They checked everywhere, but did not find any marbles or any other toys, and decided to put off any further investigation until the next morning. In the morning they found out that the window pane had a hole and later found a bullet. They were shocked, especially because the hole was next to their daughter’s bed.

Alexandra called the police, not to come and investigate (which would be difficult because there are few police officers left in the city) but to let them know that the proliferation of guns is not limited to Maidan only, but is spreading throughout the city, even in residential areas. Areas that were once considered safe – their own home – were no longer so. Together, everyone in our building is facing this new unsafe reality. Even fireworks, which are usually fun and the sound of celebration, have turned into the sound of danger and alert. We feel unsafe to let our kids go outside on their own. Our oldest son usually went to music school by himself. Right now my wife takes him just to make sure he makes it there and back home safely. Our public schools have encouraged parents to meet their kids after school. These days you don’t see children playing outside or walking alone. More than that you don’t see many adults walking down the streets after dark. People are scared. They are looking for protection.

In such times we can only trust God’s protection. The whole nation is involved in taking a stand for their rights and independence. We pray for peace, we pray for the safety of our children. We pray for God to intervene. It is hard to comprehend the tragedy and devastation that Ukrainians have gone through in the last two weeks. The country is restarting with a new government and will try to avoid repeating the mistakes of the past and make the right choice for the future. All the churches in Ukraine are praying, believing in God’s protection, and asking for wisdom for the leaders.


Andrei Shander
Overseas Coordinator
Mission Partners International

Distress of Nations: Ukraine in Crisis

February 25th, 2014

Many of you have seen news about the protests, violence, and political turmoil in Ukraine.  This is indeed a troubling time!  We are very concerned about these events and watch for updates frequently.  We have been in ongoing contact with all of our primary contacts, and they are all safe.  Everyone we have spoken to has expressed concern over the recent turn of events and the future of that nation.  Together, we desire to see Ukraine become a free and prosperous country filled with the uninhibited preaching of the bible and the Spirit of God.

Check out the Kyiv Post website for up-to-date information regarding current events.

 

Sincerely,

The Ministry workers of Mission Partners International