A Samaritan’s Purse partner congregation pared down by war is now thriving again as more Ukrainians hear about Jesus Christ through the delivery of food and relief supplies.
Samaritan’s Purse relies on a faithful network of church partners to deliver aid to the most desperate areas of Ukraine. These area congregations often put themselves at great risk to be the hands and feet of Jesus during wartime to the suffering people in their country.
One such congregation is located just 30 miles or so from the frontlines where the region’s fiercest battles are raging.
A longtime Operation Christmas Child ministry partner, the church had a relationship with Samaritan’s Purse that enabled them to immediately help distribute food, water, and shelter materials after the first crippling attacks began in February 2022.
As these faithful followers of Jesus Christ worked together with sister churches in the area, they distributed 400 shelter kits, over 300 woodburning stoves, and more than 350 cords of firewood. Because these men and women of God insisted on delivering this aid provided by Samaritan’s Purse, more than 1,200 people were able to stay warm and survive the winter of 2022.
All this was accomplished through just a remnant of the congregation. It had once been a church 400 congregants strong with thriving ministries such as Bible studies for families, an annual children’s camp, a community center, and 11 sister churches.
Called to Stay
A mass exodus at the start of the war left them with only 40 people in the fellowship. Many of the others left to seek refuge in other countries, far from the fighting. Those who stayed were mostly the elderly who could not or would not leave their homes.
Pastor Ivan*, who was the fourth generation in his family to faithfully shepherd this church, knew his congregation’s struggles personally as he witnessed his own children experience the trauma of war. Wanting to spare them a life of fear, his wife evacuated with the children to Germany, while Ivan remained to continue the ministry.
“When there is a hurricane, some people are evacuated, but there are some who are called in or asked to stay—firefighters, soldiers, people who can help the injured,” said Pastor Ivan. “In this case, we have a war. Some people have been evacuated as my family has, but there are others who need to stay and help those who cannot leave. As Christians, pastors are called to stay.”
Came in Search of Food, Repented of His Sins
Pastor Ivan’s decision to stay has allowed him to witness the resulting change in the community’s perceptions of the church. Now instead of seeing it as a cult, they see the church as an answer to their physical and emotional needs.
A recent example of this is the Ukrainian soldier who visited the church and received more of a blessing than he could have expected.
Returning to the community after several months of service, the man came because they’d heard the congregation was distributing food. He happened to arrive right in the middle of a worship service.
Though he couldn’t bring himself to enter the building, he stood in the doorway and listened to Pastor Ivan preach about the eternal life that can only be found in Jesus Christ.
So moved by what he heard, the soldier approached Pastor Ivan after the service, repented of his sins, and gave his life to Christ. He was filled with joy when he returned home to tell his wife what had happened—completely forgetting pick up groceries that had drawn him there. He came away with something better—food for his soul!
Since the beginning of the conflict, the congregation has grown again from those 40 core members to, now, 300 faithful men and women.
Many of these new members came in search of aid from Samaritan’s Purse. Instead of merely receiving a bag of food, hygiene supplies, or a restored home, many have also tasted of the love of Christ Jesus and have given their lives to Him.
We praise God for Pastor Ivan, his faithful congregation, and for the 50 new believers the pastor plans to baptize this month.
Please pray for this church to continue to be a light to the people on the frontlines of Ukraine’s conflict. Ask also that the fighting will end soon.
*Name changed for security