Rubizhne: half an hour before closing the entrance. The story of a missionary.
12 May 2022
As he was walking around the building of a bombed-out church in Rubizhne, where he served and lived with his family, missionary A. encountered soldiers of the Ukrainian Armed Forces who approached him and pointed their weapons at him: “Who are you? Where are you going? It’s not safe to stay here, leave – there’s a war going on, you came at the wrong time!”…
Rubizhne is a town in the Luhansk region with a population of over 55,000. It was once known for its chemical and pulp and paper industries.
After the russian occupation of Ukraine, it became a tasty morsel for the enemy – a strategic object whose capture could allow the russian army to advance further and annex the Luhansk region from Ukrainian territory
Today, Rubizhne is one of the most war-torn cities in Ukraine. It has been shelled day and night for two months now: “Everything lands there. They shoot tanks and mortars of different calibers, heavy artillery, from tactical missile complexes, ‘Grads,’ ‘Smerches,’ ‘Hurricanes,’ they drop bombs and air-to-ground missiles…it’s just terrible! It’s a real hell there! They destroy everything that exists. I think that when we enter the city after its liberation, we will unfortunately see a terrible picture!” said the head of the Luhansk regional administration, Serhiy Hayday.
He compared Rubizhne and the neighboring town of Popasna to Mariupol, noting that the only difference between them is in size, but in terms of the scale of destruction, everything looks the same.
Since the beginning of May, it has been impossible to reach Rubizhne by surviving routes due to the continuous shelling by russian occupiers. They deliberately bomb hospitals, schools, critical infrastructure objects, grain storage facilities, and food warehouses.
Petro Kuzik, commander of the volunteer battalion of territorial defense of Kyiv, who is in Rubizhne, says that when it comes to the russian army, “they have no humanity or rules of war: they bomb furiously in various ways, and then try to take the positions of the Armed Forces of Ukraine with tanks and infantry.”
And what about the people? Despite the horrifying situation and complete devastation in the city, there are still people who are on the brink of a humanitarian catastrophe. The dead from shelling are buried right in the courtyards of their homes. Local residents are ready to leave the city by any means necessary, even on foot:
“Nobody risked going from neighboring Lysychansk to us in Rubizhne for evacuation, so even though I had had a stroke and had to use a cane, I decided to go on foot from the city…”
On the territory of a recently acquired property near the center of Rubizhne, the House of Prayer is buzzing with life and the sound of children’s laughter can be heard. For the locals, the church ministers from the “City of Praise” hold various activities, such as free eye clinics with glasses as gifts, children’s sports events with fun relays, trampolines, and sweet treats, a youth club for teenagers, and weekly feedings for the homeless. Thanks to the work of the House of Prayer for Children in Rubizhne, the opportunity to go to Christian camps in the Carpathians has appeared.
An evangelistic tent is operating on the streets of Rubizhne, where people are warmly welcomed, their problems are listened to, and prayers are said together, while handing out Christian literature. In addition, a Christian billboard has appeared in the city from the local church.
Every Sunday, services are held in the House of Prayer, and the community often welcomes guests who wish to serve them. The pastors of the church have moved in with their family to this House of Prayer.
After purchasing the building, it was equipped to soon open a missionary center there for the training and residence of students, future workers in God’s field.
Rubizhne. March, 2022. Through the eyes of missionary A.
Showing the documents to the Ukrainian army soldiers, I entered the building that no longer resembled the one in which we lived and served.
The shell that had landed had pierced the wall and knocked out the heating system. I saw the hole that had already been filled with pans left behind by our remaining brothers in the city. The blast had blown out the recently installed plastic windows and frames, as well as the new doors on both floors. In the courtyard of the building, there were craters from the shell and fallen ten-year-old cedars…
And just two weeks ago, there were services held here and children’s laughter could be heard.
To be honest, I was at a loss. The atmosphere was eerie, and for the first 15 minutes, I couldn’t understand what to do: I was looking for keys, then carrying out belongings, and then realized that there were groceries in the car, which is where I should start. I felt strong internal panic because I had never been in such situations before. I tried to calm myself down, although the explosions were so close that it seemed like it was all happening on the neighboring street.
I went to the addresses of the church members. I knew that no one was waiting for me, even though I had written in our church group that I would come, but no one had read my message, as the city had been cut off from electricity. I went to one place, then to another – empty apartments. I found a family with two children and a dog, but they didn’t want to leave. I also went to another sister, found out that she was in the basement, went down to her, tried to convince her to evacuate, but in the end – she refused. But I left her with groceries. On that day, I managed to take people out of another church.
As I was leaving the city, I saw people standing by their entrances with their belongings, waiting for any means of transportation to leave this hell.
A. took people out of Rubizhne, and after lunch, in half an hour, the entrance to the city was blocked: the bombing began. About 25 residential buildings were on fire, and four civilians were killed. Although the missionary continues to serve the people affected by the hostilities in his temporary residence, his heart remains in Donbass.
Later, he started bringing humanitarian aid to the eastern part of Ukraine and evacuating people from the combat zone. And he hopes that the day will come when he can return to his homeland and continue spreading the Gospel.
The material was prepared by the press center of the Christ is the Answer ministries.