Ukraine: How God used a pastor who was captured by the Russians


Christian Life


Ukrainian soldiers stand in a shelter at front line positions near Bakhmut. Photo AFP, Anatolii Stepanov

As the Ukrainian army retook the southern city of Kherson, stories of atrocities and God's deliverance emerged from the occupied territory.

Life has been tough as people face shortages of just about everything and endure harsh treatment by Russian soldiers. Serhii Khlan, deputy of the Kherson Oblast Council, said: “On the left bank, the occupiers continue to intimidate and kidnap people. A woman was hanged in the center of Skadovsk just because she said Skadovsk is Ukraine.” For these people liberation can't come soon enough.

After six months in occupied Kherson, Pastor Alexander escaped with his wife and 10 children in September. “When the Russians took over, we weren't sure what to do, but we decided to continue with our church services,” he said. Russian forces, on the lookout for so-called Nazis, searched his house several times. On September 6, they arrested him in front of his wife and children.

Photo CBN

“I was kept in solitary confinement for six days,” he said. “Then they put me in a cell where there were seven people, but only three beds.” During interrogation, the Russians tried to prove he was a Nazi – ironically because of an Israeli flag in his office – but Pastor Alexander was more worried about photos on his phone. “Many Americans donated to help with the construction of our church,” he said. The interrogator accused me of being an American agent. On my phone, there were a lot of photos that provided evidence of my cooperation volunteering with the army. I prayed that they would not see my phone and the Lord closed their eyes to it.”

'The commandant said: if it was up to me, I would shoot all of you'

Between interrogations, the pastor shared his faith with his cellmates. “My wife had managed to slip me a small Bible. So with that, I started witnessing to the other men. We were there together for another 10 days. By the seventh day, they had all made Jesus Christ their Lord. That was when I finally realised why I was there.”

Alexander had no idea if he would ever see his family again. “While I was being interrogated, the commandant said, ‘If it was up to me, I would shoot all of you right now and throw you in the landfill.’ They hate Ukrainians so much. They cannot even stand to hear the word Ukraine.”

Then – after 15 days of captivity – a miracle happened. “An Orthodox priest whom I had never met came to the commandant and asked him to release me. And he agreed on one condition – that he could keep my car. At the church there was still a minivan, and we put all my family into it, along with an injured neighbour, and headed toward the front lines. It took four days and lots of prayer to get through all the checkpoints.

Now Alexander is helping with a local church in Kyiv, and praying to be able to return home soon. “God is providing for us, so I'm trying to seek first the kingdom of God and wait for everything else to be added.”

Ukraine: A Jesus Mission on the frontlines

As millions of Ukrainians have been displaced during the war, a ministry organization is showing Ukrainian people they're not forgotten.

It's been almost a year since Russia invaded Ukraine. While thousands of people have fled their country and are now refugees, many families stay for multiple reasons. A Jesus Mission, a Christian ministry, is partnering with local churches to help those in need by bringing food, supplies, and the word of God to people in need.

“We’ve always said we wanted to be on the edge of the crisis, and because of our relationships with people inside Ukraine, we had no choice but to get off the bench and just become a part of the solution," says Andy Zeissman, working with A Jesus Mission. ”The willingness to take a risk, opens the door for the Gospel to go forward more than anything else.”

At the start of the war, the ministry purchased a few vans and began bringing supplies into active war zones. “When we go to villages they have no food, no water and electricity half the time,” says Zeissman. “The goal is to take food as close to the frontlines as we can.” The ministry doesn't work alone. They partner with local churches to not only disperse food but also share the hope of the gospel to weary travellers.

To stir people to help, A Jesus Mission released a documentary called ‘Into Ukraine: A Story of Being the Church in a Warzone.’

Ukraine: How Christians reach out to Russian POWs

When the Russians invaded Ukraine, Prison Fellowship started providing help to Russian prisoners of war that needed food and clothing. “If your enemy is hungry, feed him. We are Christians, so we share the gospel.”

“It is a way to show these prisoners that God is love,” says Kogut, the director of the ministry. “When they go back to Russia, they can never again return with guns and hatred.”

Since 2002 Prison Fellowship Ukraine has reached out to a prison population of 48,000 in 85 jails across the nation. Consistent ministry to inmates and guards alike won favor, leading to certificates from the central government to enter any prison in Ukraine. Many prisoners converted. In the occupied Donbas and Crimea regions sympathetic local citizens secretly delivered Bibles.

The war resulted in a severe breakdown of the supply chain for food and medicine into prisons. Christians in the USA donated $1 million to repair the supply chain. Through local churches over 2,500 volunteers are delivering essential food and medicine to inmates, while working with authorities to repair and expand facilities to accommodate prisoners evacuated from elsewhere. Chapel services started again and a mini-revival is underway.

The Russian prisoners are a captive audience. A prison worker says that POWs have broken down in tears and apologised. Others, as he can tell in their eyes, connect with the spiritual lessons. “The evil of Russia can only be stopped by force – this is what our soldiers do,” he says. “But it can only be defeated by love.”



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