“Dear Friends, I want to thank you for praying for our team during this trip. We all returned safely. Here is an update on our weekend of ministry: On Friday, March 25th, we drove to the Donetsk region, so we could minister to local Christians and unbelievers. After spending the night on the way, we arrived in the town of Mariinka on Saturday morning (which is near Donetsk, where the most hostile fighting is taking place). We had to pass several military checkpoints to get to our destination.
Upon our arrival, we were greeted by pastor Oleg; he took us to a local school, where we ministered to about 75 children with our puppet ministry. Earlier this school was overrun by both Ukrainian forces and Russian separatists. Besides a puppet show, pastor Ruslan sang some cheerful children’s songs and Masha played a few funny games with the children. It was great to see the smiles and hear the laughter of the children who participated in this event. It brought a moment of solace to these war-torn children. At the end, all the children received a gift bag of candy.
Afterward, we headed to the local church for a church service for the adults. Pastor Oleg kindly allowed us to be responsible for the whole service. About 80 people attended the service (most of them have joined the church since the war began). During the service Masha shared a short Christian parable, we sang a few songs, and then pastor and I both preached. The church atmosphere was warm and welcoming – God has touched people’s hearts in miraculous ways. Two unbelievers repented and accepted Jesus as their Savior at the end of the service.
We had a tasty dinner afterwards at a local resident’s home; it was heartbreaking to see the damage done to the house. Apparently, during one of the battles, the home was struck by a bomb. The windows had to be bricked up to protect against future shell fragments or shots being fired. We spent the night in this home and a couple of times during the night, we heard gunfire and saw signal flares shot into the sky. It was reported in the news that during that weekend 13 people were killed or injured, but not in the exact location where we were sleeping.
The next morning we departed to the town of Krasnogorovka, where there were many destroyed buildings. In this town, we were greeted by pastor Sergey, before ministering to about 210 in their church service. Despite all of their struggles of living and worshipping in the middle of the war zone, we could still see God’s blessing upon these Christians. Most of these people have recently received Christ. After the church service, we had a second children’s service, where another 60 kids were blessed.
After the service, the pastor showed us where a military rocket had hit the roof of their church and you could see where the walls were severely pierced by shell fragments – but by God’s grace, the church was still standing!
After an eventful weekend, we made the long trek back to Kharkov, once again passing multiple roadblocks. Because of heavy military equipment travelling on the roads, the drive was long and tedious because of extremely bad driving conditions. On our way back, the vehicle was damaged because of the potholes. We slashed one of our tires and accidently bent one of the wheels. We were stuck by the side of the road for several hours until we could get some help with the repairs.
Nevertheless, we were extremely blessed that God used us to encourage our brothers and sisters and to see two people give their lives to Christ as Savior! Seeing all of their smiles and seeing how they rejoiced at our coming to serve them was an amazing experience. We are average people, but God truly used all of us for his glory. I know this testimony doesn’t convey what an amazing experience it was and how God went before us and protected us during our trip.
I am sad to report that the very next day after we departed for home, the battle raged on in the exact locations where we ministered; but thankfully, no one was reported injured or killed in action from the churches where we served. Thank you for praying for us and helping us reach those deeply impacted by war.”
— Vova Yevsukov