Mykolaiv – missionaries in the warzone
27 March 2023
“Ministry near the frontline is underway for 24 hours a day. Hennadiy and Olena, missionaries from Mykolaiv, stayed in the city from the first day of the war to help people despite the fact that they suffered from the fighting themselves when they lost their home.
On February 24, one of the military regiments in Mykolaiv became a special target for the Russian Army. The family of missionaries in their house near this military object was also targeted. They hear military jets roaring, shells exploding… That is how the war started for them. Having woken up to those sounds, Hennadiy and Olena knelt together with their son, and, scared and confused, called to God.
“The first things we experienced were unexpectedness and at the same time clear understanding that we needed to go to our church to serve people,” says Olena.
The local church with grand facade Bethany is visible among other buildings of a residential district of Mykolaiv where a hundred thousand people live. This is the church where the family of missionaries serve the city residents in streets, at prisons, correctional facilities, military units, hospitals, narco departments and hospices.
In the evening, Mykolaiv residents filled the ground floor of the church building which was used as a bomb shelter. The missionaries share, “We welcomed up to 200 people every day. We were feeding them and taking pastoral care of them (talking and praying together).
The people were feeling terrible both morally and physically. We often measured blood pressure at night. The people, of course, reacted nervously to constant explosions and roaring of planes. It was really tough spiritually. The more explosions, the more we prayed. There were no other believers at our church except for those who were willing to serve. We all were praying.”
The war changed the ministry of Hennadiy and Olena, though the routes they had got used to in a decade, remained relevant.
“In the first days of the war, the management of prisons treated us consciously. They accepted us but with fear. When Mykolaiv turned out to be at the brink of a humanitarian disaster, we started providing food provision, including to the prisons. God blessed us with that opportunity.
After that, they began to treat us even more loyally. If earlier we came on a certain day, the time was limited, now they invite themselves. Moreover, they are not calling about humanitarian aid, but they are asking to visit the prisoners and serve them with the Gospel.”
Missionaries continued to visit hospitals, narcological dispensaries and children’s oncology centers in Mykolaiv even during martial law.
“That day, I heard that somewhere in our city, a russian rocket bombed a hospital, but I didn’t understand exactly where. Arriving at the narcology department, which Olena and I had been visiting for 13 years, we saw a destroyed building. Of course, we thought about people first … all the medical staff there, including the managers, were open to communication … We were upset, of course. But we immediately met a familiar nurse who told us how, a couple of days before the attack, the head of the department decided to move everyone to another building. We then thanked God for the wonderful salvation.”
Hennady is convinced that such a massive influx of people to the church in search of shelter is the spiritual awakening that all churches in Ukraine have been praying for.
“People did not know why they went to the church and not to the basements of houses to seek shelter. A revelation from God came to us immediately: did you ask for revival? Now you have it.
We experienced joy, and served these frightened people who could not understand anything, families with children who were depressed and in tears. We did not have time to think that there was a war. When you see that a person is hopeless, you give all you have to help him/her.”
In the spring, Mykolaiv was without water supply – the russian army bombed the water supply system.
One well on the territory of Bethany then became the only source of drinking water for the entire area, serving thousands of people every day.
A year after the war, Mykolaiv still has no drinking water in the taps, only technical water, but already 16 wells have been built on the territory of the churches with the help of people from other cities of Ukraine and other countries.
In the church of one thouthand people, two-thirds of the parishioners are new converts, and, according to the missionaries, about 50 of them have already been baptized since the beginning of the war.
“Already at the beginning of the war, Olena realized in prayer that we need to leave our house, because a shell would hit it. On the same day, we moved to live in the church, because there was a lot of work with people.
“At the beginning of the war, Olena realized in prayer that we need to leave our house, because a shell would hit it. On the same day, we moved to live in the church, because there was a lot of work with people.
Later, I asked Olena to leave the city for the sake of our 11-year-old son. He was rarely at home. Later, I took my mother-in-law, who lived with us, and went to meet the chaplains. A rocket hit that night. So we were left without a home, but we are all alive.”
The family was offered a house (near the local church) for indefinite use and ministry in Kyiv. But the missionaries were convinced that they were called to serve in Mykolaiv and stayed at the church premises.
The union of churches to which the missionaries belong decided to help the family and blessed them with the principal amount for the purchase of a new apartment, telling the family to look for a suitable option. The rest of the amount came from people from another country.
The apartment turned out to be exactly what Olena had prayed for. Now the new home is undergoing renovation, despite people’s surprise.
When asked if it was the right decision to buy an apartment in Mykolaiv at such a time, the missionaries answer that they “walk on water” – they trust God.
The material was prepared by the press center of the Christ is the Answer ministries.