Outreach News -
Ukraine Crisis Fund
21 April 2018
"One for Me, One for You!"
Humanitarian Bakery Ministry: Donbass
Humanitarian Bakery Ministry: Donbass
900 loaves of bread are given away each week
“Whoever has two tunics is to share with him who has none, and whoever has food is to do likewise.” (Luke 3:11)
The Donetsk region in Ukraine is literally a warzone but amid the rubble, spiritual life is sprouting. The church at Mariinka is set in the midst of poverty and destruction, yet it’s membership has increased from just 12 to 120 during the period of conflict! Brother Vasily, coordinator of the Donetsk aid programme commented: “The war has been a blessing for the church! Missionaries worked for years, but now there are greater results”.
People’s hearts have been humbled by suffering, and the church has been able to make contact with seekers through the provision of bread. Every week Vasily supplies nine hundred loaves of bread to people on the frontline, along with a message to turn back to God. “We would not have listened to you under different circumstances,” some admitted. Now, through this expression of Christian love, they are listening and the small home-church in Mariinka has become an established House of Prayer.
The need for so much bread has motivated Vasily to open a bakery. Funds for equipment and building renovations has been provided by SGA-UK, and the intention is to deliver hundreds of ‘Loaves of Peace’ to the frontline - free of charge - every day. It is hoped that profits from selling bread to those who can afford to pay, will cover the costs of giving free bread to those who can‘t. Through this ‘one for me, one for you’ concept, Vasily’s desire is to sustainably provide bread, so that more sufferers can experience the true ‘Bread of Life’.
SGA (Int) will continue to support Vasily and the local churches as they provide packs of essential items to those who are stranded without means to help themselves. To make the most of this opportunity, it’s possible to direct your funds to local churches in the conflict zone. By designating your gift to our Ukraine Crisis Evangelism Fund, you can help bring physical relief and eternal hope to people Christ died to save... right when their hearts are ready to hear. Thank you for your support, and may the Lord multiply our efforts!
10 October 2017
Banned: Pastors Detained at Checkpoint
Pastors Alexander and Mikhail
were detained at the checkpoint
Sadly after three years of fighting in Donbass, not much remains of the original churches. Much has been ruined and many have left. However, there still remains various small congregations meeting in dilapidated buildings. Some pastors reside with their families in the conflict zone, whereas others live outside but venture in: to distribute hampers of food, medicine, clothes and New Testaments.
Crossing the border is risky. For example, Pastor Vlad reminisced just recently about his first attempt to enter the dangerous region in 2014. He was taken into custody by military forces and accused of sabotage. Arguments that he was a Christian volunteer failed and he was interrogated for six days. Loved ones at home were worried and prayed earnestly for his release. Miraculously he was set free: barefoot, without a car , shoelaces, or belt, “but joyful”. This traumatic experience didn’t deter him and he is still making regular visits.
Pastor Vlad with a gathering of believers in Donbass
But news came in recently, that military forces detained and banned two resident-pastors from Donbass. In August, Pastor Alexander left the region and was detained upon re-entry. The guards told him, “By decision of the Ministry of State Security of the Dnieper you are prohibited from entering the DPR” but no other reason was given. So Alexander was cut off from his home and congregation - Enakievo Baptist Church. Then in September, Pastor Mikhail was denied re-entry into the DPR under similar circumstances, leaving Yenakievskaya Calvary Church without a pastor.
The Baptist Union of Ukraine has asked everyone to pray for the believers in Donbass, “They are in constant need of prayer support as fundamental rights and freedoms commonly accepted in the democratic world are being violated.” At this stage, both pastors are seeking the Lord’s guidance while appealing to administrators. Despite this setback, many avenues still exist for bringing the Gospel in. SGA is committed to reaching people of Donbass with Biblical Christianity. Your prayer and financial support are appreciated.
Ukraine Crisis – Background & Update
In Ukraine, two regions known as Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR) and Luhansk People’s Republic (LPR) have been self-proclaimed states since 2014. These two separatist regions, commonly referred to as 'Donbass', are in armed conflict with Ukraine. Ukrainian authorities officially listed these ‘republics’ as terrorist organisations, giving their: rigid hierarchy; financing channels; supply of weapons; seizure of hostages; assassinations; and intimidation of citizens as reasons for the label.
The Donbass region is still a warzone
According to World Watch Monitor, the separatist leaders made Russian Orthodoxy the official religion of their new ‘states’. Because they consider all religious groups unaffiliated with the Russian Orthodox Church as "their potential enemy", they initially arrested Protestant leaders and seized church properties. Many thousands of residents fled their homes, but some remained of necessity and are now living in destitution.
Since the crisis began in 2014, the number of deaths has climbed into the thousands. Updated figures from August 2017 have the death toll at 10,225, which includes 2,803 civilians.
(Sources: Wikipedia ‘Casualties of the Ukrainian Crisis’, www.worldwatchmonitor.org, UECB Ukraine)
08 June 2017
Peace Remains Elusive in Ukraine’s East
These widows were deeply thankful for the gift of food parcels
Although little is mentioned by the news media, eastern Ukraine continues to endure sporadic fighting between Russian separatists and Ukrainian government troops. The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) said a battle near Avdiivka in January caused large numbers of casualties and a humanitarian crisis for 17,000 people. The OSCE called for a recommitment to the cease-fire reached during talks in Minsk, Belarus, and to allow repairs for critical infrastructure.
Thankfully, with the help of SGA partners, we’re able to support missionary pastors who are still working to bring the light of the Gospel into the darkness of war and bloodshed. Recently, one of our missionary pastors in eastern Ukraine sent us a wonderful report about their ongoing ministries to affected families and individuals. They provide them with food, help repair damaged homes, give out Christian literature, and most importantly they share the life-changing Gospel message.
“Dear brothers and sisters. The situation in the areas located in the so-called grey zone continues to be fluid, with escalations of violence in the Avdeevka area, as well in the area of Krasnogorovka. The ongoing shelling in Avdeevka has destroyed the civilian infrastructure, and the residential areas of the city. This has prompted us to go there more often and deliver more aid to people in need. People also come to the church for help. Every morning, and after each shelling in the neighbourhood, our team drives through the area to inspect the damage and offer help to the survivors.
"Together with the team from Preobrazhenie church we are helping people whose homes have been destroyed. The materials purchased last month for patching windows and roofs allowed us to help families who were not able to do it on their own. Food parcels and bread supplies were delivered to 80 homes in Avdeevka, 60 in Krasnogorovka and 55 in Kamianka. People are showing more interest in reading Christian literature. We try to always have a supply of Bibles and books with us to distribute when we are talking to people. We give thanks to God for your faithful financial and prayer support to help these afflicted people.”
This tragedy underscores the need for SGA’s Ukraine Crisis Evangelism Fund. Pray for the missionary pastors serving in this region, as the personal danger is very high. Pray the families receiving aid to be open to the Gospel. Also please pray for peace to come.
09 February 2017
Donbass Pastor Sheds Light on Conditions
Citizens are forced to cross at checkpoints
From Donbass region, greetings brothers and sisters.
I’m writing an appeal to you, as a servant of the church in the town of Yenakiyevo in the Donetsk Region. I speak on behalf of the brothers and sisters of the church, who are on the Russian side of the Ukrainian border, in what they call – “Occupied Ukraine”.
For the last few years, we have discovered war and its associated terrors. It is possible to preach during war - if we have the strength and courage. It has been claimed that there is a hardness of heart in our region. You know, on the contrary, people come to church because they see it as the last stronghold of goodness.
Our region is going through fratricidal civil war. Because of the war, there is now a serious economic and social problem here. Our banks are closed and notaries are not working. As a consequence, citizens are forced to cross the front line, through checkpoints, in order to draw their pensions and receive money. There have been cases where people have been caught in exploding mines or die from stray bullets while doing this. The people here want only one thing - to live in peace, work with their hands and raise children.
Our church prays for all the leaders. We pray for Donbass, for the people who suffer, for those that starve and lose hope. Not only do we pray, but we also go and bear the Gospel. We try to help people with provisions. At Christmas, we were preaching in schools and giving presents to children.
We have accepted that despite living in these difficulties, in this time of war – that we will receive both from the hands of the Lord if this is His will.
We ask you to support us in prayer,
Sergey Reshetnyak - pastor of the church "Golgotha", Yenakiyevo, Donetsk region
(nb. this is an abridged version of Ps Sergey's letter)
11 January 2017
Locals Make House of Prayer Amid Rubble
Villagers repair a building so they can receive visits
The security of the “Grey Zone” in Ukraine is deteriorating, according to SGA-sponsored aid worker, Dmitry Matyukhin. During expeditions into the areas of Mariinka, Krasnohorivka and Avdeevka, Dmitry is witnessing in increase in shelling – even during the day. Despite the increase in destruction, a new constructive work is taking place - a church is being established. Dmitry explains...
“When we started coming to Kamianka (Avdeevka Region), we knew there were no Christians there who could help us preach the Gospel. However, after several visits the people came up with an initiative – to repair an abandoned building so that we could come on Saturdays and hold meetings there... For several weekends, we would come there and help the locals arrange the place and make repairs. We brought construction materials, corrugated board and a heater but the building is very cold and will need more investment further on.”
Meetings have commenced and those that attend are not born-again yet - but the Lord is stirring their hearts. One villager, Sasha, has Baptist relatives in Zaporizhzhia – his own uncle (now deceased) was a pastor. Another man, Yura, arrived to the first meeting “not very sober” but he didn’t give up and continues to come.
Locals in Kamianka hunger for the Word of God
In the Grey Zone, distribution of food and medicine is a necessary companion to spiritual outreach and Dmitry expresses thanks to all supporters that are making this possible.
“This is a mutual ministry with you all – towards people who need not only material, but also spiritual aid! Please support us in prayer, for the souls who are seeking God and for establishing the new church in Kamianka by His will and for His glory!”
12 October 2016
Give Them Each Day, Their Daily Bread
Selidovo: a refuge for those escaping conflict
Destitute and hungry, with little children and no money – the situation is desperate for masses of displaced people living near the conflict zone of Ukraine.
SGA-sponsored pastor, Vladimir Semenov is at the frontline, doing what he can for all the needy people. “I profoundly believe that our God is the God of orphans and widows, the God of the poor and destitute” he says. “He has been caring about men since creation and He won’t cease to do so until the day He comes again!”
Being situated in Selidovo, Pastor Semenov’s church lies a short distance from the battle zone in a city that has become a refuge for those displaced.
“Many of those who receive assistance totally depend on the aid we render them through your support. We have three families amounting to 5 adults and 15 children receiving regular assistance. Other displaced people come looking for shelter and aid. As a rule, they have nothing to live on until they can be approved for government support.”
Many people are having contact with the church
One family in particular, is in a very dire situation – not being able to qualify for government assistance because they were illegal immigrants before the fighting forced them westward. Their dilemma is further complicated by the man’s leprosy which is preventing from finding work. He is suffering other illnesses and can't afford treatment.
Pastor Semenov was sent some funds to help the family get passports and other documents, but it is a long and difficult process. “If it hadn’t been for your support, this family would be left to starve,” he says. “I am begging you, brothers and sisters, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, not to give up on this family. At least until they can get ID papers.”
The family is absolutely desperate
Of course, this is just one family of many and the church is doing the best it can with what it has to give. The congregation has come up with a simple way of helping the multitudes of other needy people at low cost – by walking the streets, distributing free bread – always hoping to attract them to the eternal ‘Bread of Life’.
“I can testify that our church is growing as more people get to know of it – even the authorities. Each Sunday we see new faces and we try to find time for each one. May the name of our Lord Jesus Christ be glorified through this new ministry: Give Us This Day Our Daily Bread. Amen.”
18 August 2016
Displacement Brings Anna to the Church and to Christ
Anna and Anton's son became sick at a very bad time
Pastor Oleg in Ukraine sent a message that 12 people have accepted Christ as their Savior in his church, during the first 3 months of 2016! Here is the testimony of Anna. What a blessing!
My name is Anna. In November 2014, my family moved from Donetsk to Kiev. My son is 3 now and I am happy that he does not remember anything about the war, since half of his life he has been a refugee. Our house in Donetsk is located just 3 km from Donetsk airport. It used to be a nice respectable district.
"On May 26, 2014, the militants took control of the airport and our quiet daily life has ended – our quiet neighborhood became a flash point. Firing was very intense, and normally unexpected. Sometimes the shelling would catch us right on the streets, with no place to hide. One day, we were on the way to a children’s clinic, as we came under fire. I was carrying my child, as he was sick and a doctor refused to do a home visit, so I had no choice.
"Miraculously, I managed to crawl down to the bomb shelter of the machinery manufacturing plant, where we spent a night. My son had a bad fever; we were without any food or water, sitting on the pipes in the shelter. Fortunately, my child was still in breast-feeding and it helped me to calm him down. I was praying for all my family to survive that day.
"We have lived in the occupied city for six whole months. During that time, we tried to leave three times, and succeeded with the fourth attempt. In a desperate attempt I did all I could to evacuate my family and my grandparents, who were both sick and bedridden, which made it even more difficult, as it was hard to find a transporter who would agree to load necessary medical equipment (beds of a special design). My grandfather was never to get evacuated, and died. My husband and I took a very hard decision to move out, having left my mother and grandmother in the city.
"Our displacement to Kiev was really challenging, as we are native Donetsk people – all our family, friends and acquaintances were from that region. Our financial standing has become considerably worse; however, in terms of moral state it was even harder. We felt ourselves homeless and penniless, in deep yearning for loved ones and our home city. My husband joined into a volunteer battalion and served as a driver. During one of the trips, his vehicle came under fire and he was injured.
"I came to the church “God’s Design” for the first time in April 2015. One of my new acquaintances told me that the church provides food assistance to the displaced. Our child was 2, and I did not work, and my husband was in a medical setting. Basic things and food products were not unaffordable and very pricy for us. The benefits paid by the government were spent mainly for medicines and food for my family in Donetsk, as the pensions were not paid, and their livelihoods were scarce.
"When I first came to receive a food parcel, I stayed for a service and was deeply touched with what I heard. The pastor explained in a plain and understandable way, how to live, obeying God’s laws and how to have relationship with a Living God. That evening, I came back home and tried to pray in the way the pastor was teaching. Earlier, I used to pray a memorized prayer and was just repeating the Lord’s Prayer several times. When I heard that I, an ordinary person, could talk to God in simple words, I was astonished and bewildered!
"The pastor’s family helped me find a way to God. I received food support and clothing; moreover, and what was much more valuable - I could hear God’s Word; I have found my path that I should take. I turned to God in repentance and received baptism.
"I was so impressed with the kindness and care of the pastor’s family! I am extremely thankful to God for leading my way to this very place! After all, if I had not seen how Alyona loved everybody in the church, if I had not experienced her care, I would have never known that such things are possible!
"The family of Ksenia and Eugene serve as an example to me on how young people can live happily and faithfully in God. I used to think that faith is something boring, that all believers live a bleak and gloomy life. When I heard Christian hymns for the first time, learned how to praise God and obey His laws and live happily, I realized that I want to live that way. I want to live with Christ, I want to trust my life into His hands, and it all comes naturally.
"I am praying for my husband’s heart to open to God in the same way, as my heart did. I am delighted to see my son going to Sunday school. He was given his first Bible in the church. We have made friends with wonderful people. Moreover, I am very grateful to the church, the pastor and his family for helping me to see the path to the Heavenly Father, the path of salvation! "Many thanks to all people with compassionate hearts who have extended a helping hand and continue sharing their charity with us! We are thankful to all sponsors who provide support to us!
"With sincere thanks and prayers for you,
Oleg wrote that Anna turned to God at his church, received baptism and now takes active part in the ministry as a teacher in the Sunday school, in designing and decorating the hall for the family club, and holding classes for women attending the Ladies Club. Anna is praying for her husband Anton to find faith in God. Please, support her in prayer.
17 August 2016
Hard Time for Pastors in Conflict Zone
Pastor Nagirnyak says ministers are facing the "hardest tension" in Eastern Ukraine
Alexander Nagirnyak, pastor of the church in Donbas, reported recently about church-life in and around the conflict zone...
"It has been our third year since our church celebrates Easter in the context of the military confrontation. We lost connections with the brethren; we are not able to hold Easter evangelism event, as we used to do in previous years; the congregations are much less than before. However, by the mercy of God, we are alive and could celebrate Christ’s Resurrection!....
Entire Letter and Photos (712KB)
".....Our biggest challenges that we face now, include hardness of people’s hearts, inability and unwillingness to understand why things turned out the way they happened, blaming everybody except themselves. There are few who are capable to objectively assess the situation. On TV they are disseminating lies around the clock, fueling up the confrontation, attempting to restore the “values” of the soviet times: soviet songs, children are to join pioneers’ or “youth guard” … This is the true “Russian peace”, for some people to know what it actually means.
"Another challenge is the shrinking of churches, loss of many active and fervent laborers in the field of God.
"The third biggest challenge is an aggressive anti-evangelism environment, and doubtful future. This is why my letter sounds bittersome. But this is a real situation. It is a hard time for ministers: they face the hardest tension, bearing responsibility for everything and covering the major part in ministering. It requires much strength, courage, and wisdom to remain faithful. Therefore, our request to you is to continually pray for us."
02 August 2016
Refugees find Hope, Comfort, Salvation
The homes of many families have been either totally destroyed, or require extensive repairs
It is with deep gratitude that we say “Thank You” to our supporters who responded so sacrificially to the appeal for help. Pastor Valery Antonyuk, president of the Ukrainian Union of Evangelical Christians-Baptists, also expressed his sincere thanks for your prayers and financial support provided. “More than 10,000 refugees have found shelter across the whole territory of Ukraine—in Christian homes, in churches, Christian camps, missions, Bible colleges, and seminaries. Funds raised have enabled local churches to collect more than 120 tons of food and other humanitarian aid, and provide financial support to displaced people. We thank all who responded to the needs of the Ukrainian people. We ask that you continue to pray, and to support those who stand on the side of God’s righteousness—together proclaiming the Gospel and calling for the salvation of every human soul.”
The pastor in Marinka, a small town on the border of where the fighting in Ukraine has been the heaviest, wrote…. “This war has taken many lives, destroyed property, and shattered the lives of innocent people. And although during the daytime only occasional gun shots can be heard, during the night gun shots are heard echoing across the region. In the midst of these tragic events the Lord is opening up doors to minister to the hurting and homeless. We are combining our efforts in providing both humanitarian assistance, as well as spiritual support. Some homes of our believers have been badly damaged, and so we need to help repair them before the freezing winter months arrive. We are praying for financial assistance to help the needy. Churches are holding prayer vigils, praying for peace in our region, for our fellow citizens who have been left homeless and destitute, and especially for the salvation of many. We are asking all believers to also uphold us in prayer.”
Pastor Stepan Bokoch from the Lugansk region wrote…. “We have been paying special attention to the refugees from the Lugansk and Donetsk regions. This area is still suffering, and there are threats of more conflict. We pray for peace and ask the Lord to have mercy on our nation. When there are difficulties and trials, the Lord sends us His help. He also reveals to us, His children, new opportunities to share the Gospel with those who are unsaved.
In six cities of our region (where there is the largest number of refugees) we held evangelistic outreaches and gave each of them food packages. We shared with them that it is God who encourages and turns the hearts of Christians, living on the other side of the world, to help and minister to the hurting and destitute. Many people were crying when they received the humanitarian aid, saying that they also needed God and the church. Several dozens of people turned to the Lord in repentance and prayer. In all of these cities there are now groups who meet for Bible study. They are all refugees.
We also held evangelistic service for soldiers who are being treated in a hospital. They were brought to the church building for the service. We also invited refugees to this meeting, and at this service 20 people turned to the Lord in repentance. In the military village we held an evangelistic service for the widows of servicemen. Their husbands were killed in the fighting, and some lost other members of their families. Two souls repented, and there is also a group which regularly meets for Bible study. Pray for us as we minister to the hurting.”
01 August 2016
Ukraine Crisis Creates Demand for Bibles!
Ukrainian refugees holding Christian literature
“For you have been born again not of seed which is perishable but imperishable, that is, through the living and enduring Word of God” (1 Peter 1:23)
The foundation of SGA has been two-fold: the life-changing Gospel of Jesus Christ, and the proclamation of the living, enduring Word of God. The priority that remains unchanged is the printing and distribution of Bibles, and thoroughly biblical Christian literature. Demand is so high again that we are prayerfully seeking resources to print Bibles and several other books for distribution by the Bible-preaching churches we serve. The wonderful reports we continually receive testify that the Lord continues to reveal and declare His power through His Word, and thousands of men, women and children have been added to God’s kingdom as a result.
Pastor Piotr serves in Russia’s Belgorod region near the border with Ukraine, where many refugees from the Ukrainian conflict have fled. He wrote to share how God’s Word is working in the hearts of many. “I lead small Bible study groups and visit families where we study the Scriptures together. Right now, I am visiting four families and read the Bible together with them. There are Christians in these families, but each one also has unsaved loved ones, and they are ready to welcome me into their homes. I am running out of Bibles to give to people. The visits are not in vain and I see how God’s Word is touching hearts.”
Pastor Piotr’s report is only one example of many which tells of how Bibles - provided by SGA partners - have impacted lives. God’s Word has brought hope, comfort and salvation to the hurting. Ever since the conflict broke out, pastors, missionaries and their churches have distributed thousands of Russian-language Bibles and Christian literature to Ukrainian refugees through our Crisis Evangelism Fund. However, many more are needed as our stocks are being depleted. According to Benjamin Brinza at Irpen Biblical Seminary, students from the conflict zones in the east have been taking Bibles back with them to distribute, and Irpen’s travelling choir has also been distributing Bibles as part of their ongoing concert ministries.
SGA has ordered a reprint of 30,000 Bibles to replenish these stocks. The churches have also been distributing thousands of copies of the compelling evangelistic tract titled, “Ultimate Questions”, which has been translated into Russian. Pastors are also asking for special children’s Bibles to give to refugee children. “We believe that the Lord will use the words and colourful illustrations in the Bible to touch the hearts of these children. They will read of His love and compassion, and receive comfort and support in these troubled and traumatic times.”
According to the UN Agency on refugee matters, thousands of Ukrainians were forced to flee their homes. Most of them face fear, despair, helplessness, and violence. There has been a serious negative effect on the children. Please pray for the resources needed to print more Bibles and Christian books. The crisis in Ukraine has created an unexpected great demand, and we need your help to meet it. Thank you in advance!