Peoples in Ukraine not reached by the Gospel
Those living in the territories of the 10/40 window are considered unreached by the Gospel. These are Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus.
But Ukraine has its own “10/40 windows” – these are the hinterlands of regions where the elderly, sick, lonely and low-income people live. Some of them can only be reached on foot.
Volodymyrivka, Sorokove, Natalivka, Yelenivka, Murafa, Lysyche, Bidylo… Has anyone heard of these villages? They cannot be found on the map of Ukraine. But in the village sometimes there are only a hundred people who also need Christ.
The Christ is the Answer missionary with more than 10 years of experience of being a pastor in the Kharkiv region shared about serving the so-called remote peoples of Ukraine.
A vision for the hinterland
A native of Kharkiv region, missionary Serhiy has communicated closely with elderly people since his childhood, he stopped going to school at the age of 15 – instead, he plowed land plots for old ladies: “This was my main way of earning money. There used to be many people in the villages, they kept the livestock. Even then, I learned how to deal with the elderly. Maybe this was God’s plan that led me to minister them?”.
After his conversion to God, the minister realized that he would like to preach the Gospel in the villages of his native land: “I have no desire to go anywhere, and accordingly I have no vision. But what I want is that people in the surrounding villages, and the radius here is large – up to 60 km, know about Christ.”
The missionary did not know how to realize the vision, but at first he prayed and went to meetings with 5-10 people at a time when there were over a thousand people living in each village.
God’s work in the hinterlands
There is a fresh bouquet of flowers on the pulpit every Sunday at Pastor Serhiy’s service in the church.
It is brought by an elderly woman who lives in an old abandoned house in poverty and loneliness. In the village, she is considered second class, but not by a missionary:
“There was a time when her daughter died, she asked me for help. I thought for a long time, and then I said to myself: who will help her? I hired people to bury her. I drove 200 km, took the girl’s body, and we buried her..”.
“I will take care of them until they pass into eternity,” Serhiy says about the people he encounters most often. These are lonely people, with poor health, those who find themselves in difficult circumstances.
During his lifetime, Serhiy converted most people to the Lord before their death: “Sometimes people can no longer speak, and give their consent to repentance with a handshake that is barely noticeable due to weakness. I remember we were having children’s activities, and I felt that I had to go into the neighboring house. It turned out that a possessed woman lived there, and her husband was lying with a large tumor on his neck. He converted to God and died a few days later.”
More than once, Serhiy restored documents for helpless people to receive funds from the state, and he mostly buried people at his own cost. He was accused of illegal motives, but usually the minister gave all recovered documents to the relatives of the deceased person.
Once, while praying, the missionary saw the face of an elderly woman he had known since childhood, and realized that he had to go to see her. It turned out that they were looking for a priest for this woman to confess. Serhiy knew this wayward 90-year-old woman who never forgave anyone. But on that day she forgave everyone and passed into eternity.
There were such cases in the missionary’s practice, when the children of those parents whom he cared for until their last breath were converted to God. One of them became a minister and has meetings in the church.
“We bring and distribute humanitarian aid (clothes, products), Christian newspapers, calendars, we have outreach events. We did this both before the war and continue to do so during the war.”
History of a Temple in the hinterlands
The history of the construction of churches in the Kharkiv region, in particular, in the village of Murafa, where the CITA pastor and missionary has church services, dates back to the 17th century.
“With the blessing of God the Father, with the exaltation of the Son and the help of the Holy Spirit, I will create this temple in the name of St. Nicholas of Christ 1733.”
This carved inscription could be read on the wooden door of the former temple built in Murafa in the 18th century. It was the second. The first church in the village was built around 1675.
During the Second World War, an evangelical church was created in Murafa, which secretly existed during the persecution of Christians by the Soviet authorities. At that time, the community had two Bibles: one in the pastor’s possession, and one secretly passed around among the members of the congregation. Many of the community were baptized with the Holy Spirit.
Therefore, as the missionary says, there were churches in the villages in this area, which no longer exist: “No one will open them there anymore. And I have it on my heart to close this gap. The villages are so far that it is impossible to reach them, sometimes I walk 300 meters to get to someone’s house. And my heart is burning. During all the years of service, I have seen that villages have died out many times, the number of people has decreased by 3-5 times.
I think that there, in the houses, the calendars with the prayer that I brought were not just hanging there, it was not just that I came to people and talked about conversion to God.”
In 2020, the missionary, with the help of caring people, purchased a plot of land to build a church.
The place turned out to be so neglected that a lot of help was needed.
A team of caring young people from Western Ukraine responded to the need and came to Murafa to contribute to the construction of the church: they cleared the territory, demolished old buildings and uprooted trees. And two trailers of firewood for the church were sawn from the tree trunks.
It seems that the church in the hinterland of Kharkiv Oblast is destined to exist, because even after a century God remains faithful and wants to save people.
People in the hinterlands
After a severe injury in a road accident, even before his conversion to God, the minister did not fully recover his sense of smell: “I prayed that God would heal me. But He said that such a state would be good for me. It was incomprehensible to me. But when I started working with the poor, homeless people, alcohol addicts, taking them to rehabilitation centers when it is impossible to be in a car without open windows… Then I understood why it is good for me.”
Assistants come to help the missionary from time to time to have outreach events, children’s camps, to minister to people in difficult life circumstances:
“Once the sisters came. They cleaned, one might say, raked the houses of the poor, whitewashed their houses so much that I didn’t even expect! It seemed that things were done! Unfortunately, some time passed and the same mess again. Is this the mentality of people?”
The population in the remote villages is so needy that not all people can have enough bread. The most primitive humanitarian aid distributed by the missionary team, down to the worn-out items, is in demand:
“There are people who live poorly, but neatly, as far as they can afford, but many are sick, and there is no money for expensive medicines. Sometimes you bring a loaf of bread or a bag of cereal and they are grateful.”
Serhiy is no longer embarrassed by the specifics of serving in the villages, he says that he always has a spare jacket with him in the car to change after visiting some “special” house.
“Despite all the physical and moral fatigue, there is still joy from the fact that there is something you can offer people. A lot of work has been done, I would like to see more results. Now I am in the phase: I do because I have to do. Meanwhile, my heart is calm and happy.”
Finally… For young missionaries
Serhiy believes that a calling goes hand in hand with a commitment, which will prevent hasty decisions and strengthen the minister:
“If God has called, you need to devote yourself to work in God’s field. Where does commitment come from? It is necessary to overcome ourselves and tune in to the work of God, humble ourselves under His mighty hand, and He will lift us up in due time.”
The article was prepared by the press center of the Christ is the Answer ministries.