by Steve Hale
By the grace of God, the eleven of us to Krasnoarmeysk, Ukraine returned safely home after an IS day sojourn to this city of 94,000 souls. The Lord blessed our campaign mightily as 21 were baptized into Christ and two were restored to their first love. The church had about fifteen meeting regularly, and now, with the conversions and restorations, has been fortified to about 40.
The trip is a logistical nightmare. We flew from Nashville to Atlanta, Atlanta to Vienna, and Vienna to Kiev. We spent the night in Kiev, and flew via Air Ukraine to Donetsk. From Donetsk, we hired a bus and a van that took us to the cities of Krasnoarmeysk and Yenakiyevo respectively. The campaign in Yenakiyevo resulted in 8 baptisms and 2 restorations.
The Air Ukraine plane was a prop jet, and wasn’t exactly what Americans are used to. But, the crew was excellent, and we made the flight just fine. The process of ticketing, boarding, and luggage handling is very chaotic, and is very much the old communist system. But, we did make it, and it’s still preferable to the train (16 1/2 hours) or the van (17 hours).
The first three days were the hardest for me personally. The hotel had to be paid, and we just wanted to know the price. Much haggling and chaos ensued. Finally, though, they came to an acceptable price. Here is where I invoked some Americanism: I want a receipt marked ‘paid in full.” This they finally did, and we had no more trouble from the hotel. In fact, they were very accommodating, and the chambermaids even brought us flowers to say goodbye!
We had paid for the meeting hall in advance, but because ‘we had advertised,’ they upped the price. After some negotiation, we got the ‘new payment’ down to $160.
The purchase of the New Testaments was fascinating too. We bought 940 New Testaments for the two campaigns, and split them evenly. Over $1300 was given by the Eastside church in Columbia, Tennessee for this. But, these New Testaments were $1.50 each, up from 35 cents of two years ago!
Misha, our contact in Kiev, saw the shortfall of funds, and went to Air Ukraine. Our tickets on Air Ukraine had been $200 for the round trip. He got a refund on those tickets, and paid the balance with the refund! He could find only seven complete Bibles in Kiev, and so I had to go to Donetsk toward the end of the campaign to get enough for all the converts.
As to the campaign itself, Ronnie Morrison preceded our arrival, and got the advertising rolling for the campaign (hence, the new price of the hall rental). The campaign momentum built quickly and dynamically.
The V.B.S. started out humbly the first night with only six children. By the end of the campaign, over 100 children came each night. The ladies did a spectacular job considering the room was too small, stuffy, and very hot. The last night of the V.B.S. had 106 children!
The lectures had a consistent attendance of 50 to 65 a night. The last night, about 130 were in attendance! The lectures and the V.B.S. were the main vehicles by which we made the contacts for our Bible studies. At the end of each lecture, we asked if anyone had questions, or even if they had not questions, would they be interested in a systematic study of the Bible. Then, the campaigners and their interpreters worked their way through the audience, and set up studies. One day, we had forty-seven studies by our team of eleven, which is excellent. Hundreds of Bible studies bore the fruit of the 21 conversions.
The studies were conducted at the hotel, for which we are very grateful. It saved us paying rent and finding a mutual location for them. The hotel in Krasnoarmeysk is from a Russian word which means “friendship.” They were and are our friends.
The hotel and meeting hall were not acclimated for our portable baptistery. Also, the water was turned on only from six to nine in the morning and six to nine at night (these times are approximate). The morning hours were precious for bathing and washing clothes because we were away for the V.B.S. and lectures much of the evening time.
Also, no one really wanted us using the portable baptistery. A leak would run water everywhere, and the concrete floor was suspect as to bearing its weight. Rather than risking any of this, we decided to go ahead and baptize in the lake just outside the city. Though inconvenient and expensive (a cab cost 2 million koupons or about $11), it seemed to be the best way to expedite the gospel plan.
We were able to tour a school, which really went all out for us. The cultural exchange was tremendous! The schools are excited about us coming back and telling them more about America. Their young people are highly intelligent, cultured, and disciplined. Their teachers are very dedicated and justifiably proud of their achievements even with humble means.
Our visit to the mayor’s office was really something. This is a different mayor than the one that was in Krasnoanneysk in 1994. The native interpreters encouraged me to visit him, which I’m now so glad I did.
Our visit was on June 22, which marks the end of their Great Patriotic War (our World War 11). Each year, they celebrate the victory over the invading Germans. One of the highest honors among them is to be asked to lay flowers at the memorials commemorating those that died in this war. The mayor asked us to do this in the city’s formal processional, which we did. More next week…
The above article appeared in the Mt. Juliet Messenger, July 7, 1996.
by Steve Hale
After laying flowers at the city memorial, the mayor asked if I would allow the local T.V. station to interview us. Immediately, we agreed.
The T.V. station sent their star anchor lady. She asked us about our impressions of the ceremony, the city, and the Ukrainian people. The interview included Kay Smith, Bob Hughey (from Sharon, Tennessee), and me. It was on T.V. all over the city that night.
From here, the mayor invited us to another memorial just outside the city. He asked that Kay and I lead the processional with a basket of flowers, which we did. It was very touching.
The progress the city of Krasnoarmeysk has made in two years has been phenomenal. The new mayor is very progressive, and wants his city to improve and become much more capitalistic. He plans to clean the city’s dirty lakes and ponds, and to build new parks. He even wants to open the flats for individual ownership
On Tuesday, we returned to the mayor’s office. A small auditorium was packed with citizens and a T.V. crew. A large, semi-circle table was at the Eont of the room. We were asked to take our seats, and I was seated next to the mayor.
The mayor introduced us to the citizens of Krasnoanneysk, briefly explained our mission, and endorsed it. He said that the inhabitants needed to be the best parents, children, and citizens they could, and that the message we were sharing would help them do that. He then introduced me, and asked me to say a word to the people of the city.
I told the people that we wanted to be their friends, and had the exciting news of the gospel to share with them. I told them we were touched by the hospitality of the mayor and the people, and it was a great pleasure to be in their beautiful city.
The mayor then presented a beautiful vase and booklet for the mayor of Mt. Juliet. He presented another one to the mayor of Sharon, Tennessee, who sent the key to his city also by means of Bob Hughey. Bob and I presented the keys to our cities respectively, with other various gifts for the mayor.
After the ceremony, we were fed a delicious Ukrainian lunch. What a day!
I’m to present our mayor the vase and booklet from the Krasnoarrneysk mayor at the council meeting on July 5. Also, the mayor of Krasnoanneysk wanted me to ask our mayor if we would like to become Krasnoarmeysk’s sister city! This would open-up cultural exchanges, diplomatic privileges, educational exchanges, student exchanges, etc.! Isn’t that incredible?
God has opened spectacular doors in the Ukraine! We praise Him! Slava Bogu (to God be the glory)!