East Ukraine Paralyzed in Political Limbo
November 19, 2015
War in east Ukraine has left many people homeless.
Since separatists took control of Ukraine's eastern provinces of Donetsk and Luhansk, people there effectively have no government to help them survive, much less embark on recovery, sources said.
Food remains scarce, and prices for staple items are rising at a time when war has destroyed or paralyzed many jobs; schools lack money to pay the salaries of teachers who have not fled; many of the elderly are no longer receiving their pensions.
"The war did not stop; the situation is very bad," said a Ukraine-born Christian leader overseeing organizations ministering in the conflict zones. "People are afraid of what's going to happen, but at the same time, we are working."
Nearly 8,000 people have been killed since separatists began fighting the Ukrainian government in April 2014, according to the United Nations, and 1.4 million people have been displaced.
Christian ministries have been helping to meet needs and, as home-grown organizations, will continue serving long after fighting ceases. One is providing food to 1,000 people per day in mobile kitchens set up in tents in the Donetsk and Lugansk provinces, including Makiivka, Krasnodon, Rubizhne, Yenakiieve and other places.
"The situation is not very good: People are suffering, people are hungry," the Christian leader said. "People may have $40 in pension and $80 in salary a month. And of 10 people, only one gets a job in Ukraine."
Ministries assisted by Christian Aid Mission send out food parcels and clothing to people in the region in the name of Christ. Some of the ministries were originally established as church-planting organizations.
"God has helped the ministries to open 214 new churches," the Christian leader said, "and 234 house churches started. So there will be almost 450 churches starting in one year, and last year 430 churches were opened through these projects."
The leader of one church-planting ministry based in Ukraine said he has been surprised to find areas in the Ukraine where no Christian fellowship could be found.
"There are so many towns and villages without evangelical churches, where people haven't heard about Jesus," he said. "We thank God that there are people in our country ready to go to war regions and preach the gospel."
The ministry held 20 children's meetings in eastern Ukraine over the summer, distributing 2,500 Bibles, and this month it is sending 22 indigenous missionaries to 10 villages to follow up with those who have put their faith in Christ.
"Our missionaries are working day and night to help people in the dangerous war zones and to tell them about salvation," he said.
Displaced people from east Ukraine see little hope for near-term recovery.
The Christian leader overseeing the ministries in Ukraine noted that previously indigenous missionaries sent from west Ukraine to the eastern provinces were beaten and driven out.
"Now people from eastern Ukraine say, 'You'll never win a brother when they're bombing, but 95 percent of people who come to meetings make a decision for Christ, including the mayor of a city," he said.
Among ministries meeting the needs of war victims is an orphanage in west Ukraine doubling as a center for people displaced from east Ukraine. The Christian leader said a man and his girlfriend arrived from Donetsk seeking refuge and ended up volunteering at the center. In short order the man accepted Christ, then his girlfriend did, and two months later they got married.
"Two months later, they went to Bible school for three months, and soon after they came to us and said, 'We are ready now – can you send us to the same place that we escaped from? We want to be missionaries and open new churches in our hometown.' The whole process took place in one year."
Among the items indigenous missionaries distribute are New Testaments with pages made from the same durable materials used to make paper money.
"The team asked one soldier if he wanted a Bible," the Christian leader said, "and he replied, 'No, I don't want to take one.' They asked why not, and he opened his jacket and said, 'Because I already have one. I was almost killed, but bullets would not go through it. The snipers tried to shoot me right in my heart, but the bullet didn't go through.'"