It has been my privilege to travel to Ukraine several times. Nearly 20 years ago, I attended a Women’s conference in Mukachevo, in western Ukraine near the Hungarian border. It was a blessing to interact with these women and experience the depth of their faith experience. There were two gypsy sisters with whom I became acquainted. They invited me to walk and talk with them. One of our interpreters agreed to come with us. As we walked through the square towards the river, they began to tell me their testimony of the Lord’s power and protection towards them. They had begun attending the Pentecostal church in Mukachevo, where they believed in the gospel and were baptized. After this they both began leading a church in the area.
The men in the gypsy camp were very angry with them because of their newfound faith. The husband of one of them kept trying to kill his wife, but the Lord protected her and every attempt failed. Finally, he was so angry he tried to attack her with an axe. She was cowering on the ground and praying out loud in front of him. He raised his arm to strike her with the axe but could not bring his arm down no matter how hard he tried. This frightened him and he began to believe; he was soon baptized also. They eventually became a pastoring couple to their Gypsy community.
As we walked along the banks of the river, the two women also related how the women of the camp would find a way to pray together. If they were caught praying, the communist police, who were in power at that time would throw them in prison. So, they would take their washing down by the river and gather to pray or they would prepare meals as they joined together praying. Someone would warn them of the approaching police so they would begin washing the clothing or preparing the meal. As soon as the police went away, they would go back to praying.
There are more stories of the faithfulness of these believers and the impact of their faith. It was very powerful. That is why Olive Branch International is so committed to encouraging believers as they continue to build trust for the future. In Ukraine, the war rages on. In other areas of Eastern Europe there is the war against depression and suicide, and an uncertain future. In Africa there are tribal wars and environmental threats. No one is immune to adversity.
As soon as travel opens again, OBI plans to be there to encourage and support. Many activities are continuing while we work, encourage and lead from a distance. Your ongoing support is still needed even though we cannot travel at this time.
Family Support Participant
with Bruce Kittleson, President OBI
P.S. There are many needs in Ukraine now including chaplain scholarships, chaplain training and Club Ruth efforts.