by Steve Hale
The Trip Over
The initial flight from Nashville to Atlanta was less than an hour. However, we waited for over four hours for our plane to Zurich, Switzerland.
Sisters Nancy and Maxine made delightful traveling companions, so the time passed quickly. The Missouri group arrived about two hours into our wait.
From Doniphan, Missouri (where I preached for four years) came Ray and Virginia Freeman, and Wilborn Baucom. Ray is an elder in the church, and the administrator at Ripley County Memorial Hospital.
His wife, Virginia, is a schoolteacher, and teaches Ist grade at Doniphan Elementary. Wilbom works at Missouri Forge, and preaches at the Currentview church right on the Missouri/Arkansas line.
This turned out to be a wonderful team of workers. They met adversity with both maturity and determination.
The 8 hour, 5 minute flight on a Swiss Air MD I I jet was smooth and comfortable. We even arrived in Zurich ahead of schedule. The Swiss Alps were breathtaking ftom the air.
We had to traverse the huge Zurich airport quickly, because our connecting flight to Kiev, Ukraine was to leave in only 90 minutes. We caught our flight
to Kiev with little difficulty. The 2 1/2 hour flight was smooth and uneventful.
We were well prepared with our custom declarations. We got through smoothly, and collected our luggage. Each bag weighed about 70 pounds, and was full of teaching materials. The Ukrainians were friendly and warm as we were checked into their country.
The next to last custom official was a pleasant woman, who I tried to thank with my poor Russian. She responded, in beautiful English with a slight British brogue: ‘Well, at least you tried.’
Meeting us at the airport was Demar, a partner and worker in the Lend M Travel Company. We contract this company to get us in and out of Kiev on our trips. The primary owner is Misha, a dynamic young Christian in Kiev.
Misha worships with the #56 church in Kiev, which simply designates the church meets at school #56. This church has grown to over 150, and is indicative of the receptiveness of the Ukrainian people.
Misha secured 1000 New Testaments for our campaign, at no cost to us. We paid for So songbooks, and 50 complete Bibles. This good brother and his company always treats us first class.
The next morning, we await the long van ride (700 kilometers, or 420 miles) to Krasnoarmeysk.
This van ride took 15 and 1/2 hours. The roads are full of potholes. The van carrying us blew 3 tires on the journey. The other van, carrying our luggage and Bibles blew a tire. We did not reach Krasnoarrneysk until 4:00 A.M. the next morning.
Weary beyond measure, we met our interpreters for the first time. Already there, setting things up for us was Ronnie Morr-ison, the assistant coordinator of these mission trips. Ronnie is known as Mr. Detail, and does a sensational job preparing for our coming.
Ronnie and I are very close friends, and talked about the city and the campaign until about 5:30 XM. We must get-up for breakfast at 9:00.
This is a city that time has seemingly passed by. Although our maps tell us it is a city of about 200,000, it seems smaller than that to us. Still, many thousands of people here have yet to hear the sweet message of Jesus.
After breakfast, the other members of the team go back for some much needed rest. Vitaly Sebeahnah, the young preacher student from the Gorlovka School of Biblical Studies, and I go searching for some place to baptize.
The two swimming pools in KrasnoarTneysk are closed. The
one in the neighboring town is closed. The ponds in the town are dirty and dingy. Our hotel rooms have no basin, but only showers with simple brick bottoms.
The flats in the city have many of the same features, including no tub basin. We even go to a sauna, but it has showers only! What an incredible circumstance, particularly in a city this large! Eventually, we would find a pond outside the city for the first three baptisms, and a lake 10 kilometers away for the final 22 baptisms. We had to hire cabs or a bus every time we went to baptize!
The Ukrainian people of this city could not have been kinder to us. Having Americans here was quite a novelty, and spurred much curiosity about us.
Krasnoarmeysk is 62 kilometers north, northwest of Donetsk, the capitol of the Dunbass Region. There are 10 districts in the Dunbass, of which Krasnoan-neysk is one. This will be very important later.
For our campaign, we rented a 700 seat auditorium in the House of Culture. We rented this space, along with a large classroom for a children’s Bible class in the mornings for $200. Not bad at all!
I spoke this first night on ‘God Is.’ 55 were present this first night, which is super for an opening night. Ronnie spoke the next evening, and the attendance went up to 82! Promising indeed!
The above article appeared in the Mt. Juliet Messenger, July 3, 1994.
The usual strategy we’ve used on our Russian/Ukrainian campaigns was to have nightly Bible lectures, and set-up studies afterward. This satisifies the Ukrainian legal system, and has been quite effective. Also, we have been teaching extensively in the schools, but with school out for the summer, we had Bible classes for children in the morning. This proved to be a great tool for our work.
A new Ukrainian law, passed in just February of this year, requires an invitation to come in order to enter a city and evangelize. Vitaly got such an invitation for us from Vladimir. Vladimir preached for the “Church of Christ” in Krasnoarrneysk. Upon our arrival, Ronnie Morrison and I studied with him extensively.
We asked Vladimir a myriad of doctrinal questions, from baptism, to the role of women in the church, to miracles, faith healing, and Holy Spirit baptism, to the oneness of the church, to New Testament worship, to Bible Authority, etc. Vladimir was positive to every inquiry, except the frequency his group observed the Lord’s Supper. A study of Acts 20:7 seemed to convince him this needed to be done every Lord’s Day.
For whatever reasons, Vladimies answers did not align with what he and his group practiced. We had to rebuke much doctrinal falacy. Ronnie left for the states on Monday. It was left up to me to decide how to deal with Vladimir and his church.
It became very apparent that Vladimir and his church were charismatic. Hours of study with him seemed to get nowhere. He even invited me to group study with his entire church, which I did. The rest of our group continued right on teaching the simple gospel to the people of Krasnoarmeysk.
Legal separation from Vladimir, since he signed our invitation, was sticky. I finally had to go to Donetsk, the region’s capitol, and get registered through the Donetsk church. Being in the capitol, the Donetsk church has authority in all ten regions of Dunbass, including Krasnoarmeysk. This saved our campaign! We could not allow a false teacher to control our campaign.
This separation freed us to teach, preach, and baptize! 25 precious souls were added to the church’ In the face of great adversity, the campaigners kept up their spirits, and worked their hearts out. This was a difficult, but great campaign.
The above article appeared in the Mt. Juliet Messenger, July 10, 1994
Being freed to teach and baptize, the campaign took off! Thursday, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday were just wonderful and exciting days. 22 of the 25 baptisms during the campaign took place on these days.
Thursday morning, following the filing of the proper papers at the mayor’s office, it’s as if the weight of the world is removed from our shoulders. Everyone is upbeat!
Thursday at lunch, Vladimir comes, and invites us to his church for the evening. I explained to Vladimir, in front of our campaigners and interpreters, that we cannot step aside from the lecture tonight. We would be glad for he and his church to come to the lecture itself.
This is a most disconcerting, yet necessary confrontation. Vladimir will not give-up, but I would not give in. Finally, he agrees to come to our lecture. We agreed to a meal he and his followers wanted to give us in our honor. Our time is limited because six are wanting to be baptized into Christ tonight.
The Last Few Days
The lecture goes very well, and the attendance is outstanding as the T.V. ad is really bringing people to us. Over 100 are at the lecture this night! Following the lecture, we go for a meal with Vladimir and his group. He uses the occasion to promote his cause, and to show his true colors. It’s clear he and his group are charismatic, and that Americans had started their group. The information about seeking restoration, and even doctrinal agreements he had originally averred were erroneous. Extending fellowship is not possible at this point.
Early Friday morning (5:00 A.M. in Kransnoarmeysk, 1:00 P.M. here), Vitaly and I went to the town’s phone center to order a call to Cindy. I just wanted to hear the four people I love most to simply say they loved me and missed me. Seven more were baptized tonight. Wilbom did a great job preaching on the “Misunderstood Jesus.” Five more are baptized Saturday night. My sermon was on Acts 2.
Sunday, we explained the five items of worship, and spent the rest of the day studying with people. In the afternoon, I studied with all the new converts, and charge them to faithfulness. The room is packed with the 21 converts, the four others to be baptized tonight, and many just curious about us. I would guess 40 to 50 people were crowded into the classroom.
The above article appeared in the Mt. Juliet Messenger, July 17, 1994
We left Krasnoarmeysk at 5:00 A.M. local time on Monday the 20th. We decided to take the plane from Donetsk to Kiev rather than the adventuresome van ride.
Donetsk is 62 kilometers south of Krasnoarmeysk. Our plane did riot leave until 8:00, but we decided to allot the extra time just in case. This turned out to be good judgment as the bus blew a spark plug on the way to Donetsk.
In the Ukraine and Russia, all drivers of vans and buses are required to have a master’s mechanic license. We know why! In fifteen minutes, our driver had the bus on the road again.
Our plane left on time, and our goodbyes were hurried and tearful. Vit promised to study with Sonny Hart in Donetsk. Vitaly and his father hugged us, and Vitaly promised to be strong in his work with the church. Russelan, who interpreted for Ray Freeman, brought some of the luggage in the back for us (we had to take all our luggage to load ourselves on this Air Ukraine flight).
The flight from Donetsk took about two hours (by prop jet). Waiting to meet us in Kiev was Demar, who worked in Misha’s Lend M company. Demar and Misha were just terrific to us, and took us to the Tourist Hotel in Kiev. Since we had not eaten, breakfast was served at 10:00. This is where sister Nancy got the bad egg that gave her salmonella.
The salmonella hit her about an hour after brealdast. You’ve never seen a better soldier under hardship than our sister Nancy Hackney. She handled a personally very difficult situation with determination and class . Maxine Cato was wonderful in helping take care of sister Nancy.
The Trip Home
We were fortunate to be in Kiev so sister Nancy could rest-up for the trip home. Kiev is a beautiful and fascination city. We saw two very ancient Russian monasteries, the Kiev Opera House, the Unification Arch, the upper lower Larvras, the beautiful Knieper River, and other sights in Kiev. It was a great tour. Our only regret was sister Nancy’s battle with salmonella.
From Kiev we flew to Zurich, Switzerland. We had to spend the night to catch a connecting flight to Cincinnati the next day. Zurich is a beautiful city (but very expensive). The train ride from looten (where our hotel was) to Zurich showed us much of the Switzerland landscape. The Swiss are industrious, hospitable, and quite wealthy. We all wished we had longer to look around. From here, we caught -our flight to Cincinnati, and then home to Nashville.
Vitaly Sebeahnah called me about a week ago, and told me things are going great for the church in Krasnoarmeysk. M the converts are faithful to this point. He’s negotiated the church’s meeting place to $20 a month. Vitaly has others now ready to be baptized. Randy Bailey from S.C.U. should be there about now to encourage the church.
Val, a Ukrainian native, and a school teacher, will be moving to Krasnoarmeysk permanently in September. The Gorlovka school of preaching will be sending preachers from now on to Krasnoarrneysk. Vladimir is leaving the church alone, Vitaly told me. Things lookjust great! We are thankful to the Lord for this, and for your help in this great mission endeavor. I cannot say enough good things about our team. Ray, Wilbom, Nancy, Maxine, and Virginia were great! I love them!