by Steve Hale
The Ukrainian Government did everything in its power to shut us down. The mayor went to bat for us, and that’s the only reason we were allowed into the city. However, without the religious visas, we were refused permission to advertise. We were told that any violation would mean immediate expulsion from the country, and perhaps not to be allowed to return. I asked the mayor twice to help us, and he gave us the bureaucratic fast shuffle. However, the real culprits here are the authorities in Donetsk.
Keep in mind that the Krasnoarmeysk church IS REGISTERED, and religious visas should have been no problem. In essence, the Minister of Religion broke his own law.
Given this, we focused on the church, and it was in terrible turmoil. About 10-12 of the ladies in the church were fighting ferociously over petty jealousies. The first Friday night of the campaign,: I called all the warring factions to my room, shut the door, and told them we weren’t leaving until we could forgive, be forgiven, and say we loved everyone else in the room. This meeting lasted 3 1/2 hours.
At the crescendo of the arguing, I stopped everyone and asked how they would like to be a visitor and hear all of this. Then, I took over the meeting and spoke about love and forgiveness. I ended the meeting in prayer, and everyone in the room hugged everyone else. Tears, kisses, hugs, and expressions of love flowed. It was beautiful to see.
Our lectures were in one of the large rooms at the Hotel. We had 25-35 nightly at the lectures, and 43 both Sunday mornings. We had two lectures from 4-6 in the afternoons, with the first directed to the church and the second to outsiders. This methodology went over very well. I’m convinced with advertising we would have had 150-200 a night.
Besides the 12 or so that were restored, we had three baptisms. Slava, Nina’s son, a Crimean and a very talented man was baptized into Christ. His acquaintance, Natasha, a beautiful ballerina, was also baptized into Christ.
The last Saturday of our stay, the Juvenile officer’s (Helen’s) mother, Marussa, was baptized into, Christ. Marussa is particularly influential as her daughter is the third most powerful person in the city. We had to bribe the attendant at the swimming pool in Dimitrov in order to baptize. Government officials again refused.
We had a great team! Everyone contributed in the face of hardship and adversity. Nancy Hackney had Bible study after Bible study. Ann Craddock did a marvelous job with the children. Joyce Anderson was the primary teacher for the ladies’ class, and had a number of key Bible studies. The ladies’ class emphasized relationships, love, and forgiveness.
Steve Sanders was indispensable. He helped mightily with the preaching, helped with the men’s classes, and had a large number of Bible studies. Kelly McPherson was key working with the interpreters, and breaking the ice numerous times with his knowledge of Russian. He was also active with Bible studies.
I also did a bulk of the preaching, conducted a number of Bible studies, and had the men’s classes. We covered questions they had on Revelation, surveyed Hebrews, examined the qualifications of elders and deacons and their work, qualifications to be a leader, how to win others to Christ, and Christian Evidences.
This was my seventh trip to the former Soviet Union, and I’ve never seen such poverty. Vito (Vitaly Shcherbina), our young preachers Krasnoarmeysk, went to the provincial capital, Donetsk to get our Religious Visas (which were inexplicably refused).
While there, Vito saw a woman dead in the streets from exposure. Evidently, she had been evicted from her flat, and froze to death. People just stepped around her callously. The government has not paid people their wages in nine months! This includes school teachers, coal miners, and government employees.
So, nearly everyone in the church was hurting. We brought medicines (thanks to Bill Staggs), and these are being distributed to the church by two doctors we studied with, Nina and Rudick. Nina is the head doctor at the Narcological Hospital, and Rudick is a gynecologist. Medicines remaining will be distributed to the needy in the community.
In addition, we distributed monies for those in the church in need of food, clothing, and shelter. Almost everyone was in need. It is a heartbreaking situation. Thankfully, the money by going through Dnepropetrovsk instead of Kiev was of great help.
And, there is so much more. Please pray for our brothers and sisters in Krasnoarmeysk. Pray for Vito and Romine as they work with the church.