Greetings to you all in the name of Jesus. My name is Thomas E Henry. I am a member of the Church of Christ in Sedona, Arizona.
The purpose of this letter is to introduce you to an important work being done in the countries of the former Soviet Union, particularly for the Lord’s church located in the war zone area of eastern Ukraine.
It is not a secret that in a number of countries that use to be part of the USSR, the dominating religions are Orthodoxy, Catholicism and Islam, and the Church of Christ is not very welcomed by the local authorities. In some places the Church is even being oppressed.
Many congregations are either refused a official registration or are allowed to be registered only as religious groups and not as organi-zations which mean they may not publicly proclaim the Word of God in their communities or hold any activities (seminars, conferences or joint worship services) which brethren from other congregations may attend. Those churches that succeeded in getting official registration as organizations have to look for new ways to reach out to the lost because such approaches as knocking on doors and standing in the streets to reach out to people (which used to be effective 15-20 years ago) do not work anymore.
As a result, Christians that live over here are limited in what they can do to present effectively the gospel to the lost and to encourage each other.
The situation is especially hard for our brethren who live in the east of Ukraine where the war has been going on already for 6 six years.
The situation got even worse when an epidemic of covid-19 broke out and quarantine restrictions were implemented. Our brothers and sister in the war zone found themselves practically isolated within the borders of the Donetsk and Lugansk People`s Republics and cut off a personal fellowship with their brethren in other countries. Before the war, Donetsk was the light, the Jerusalem of the Russian world. In 1994 Sunset International Bible Institute set up a school of Bible and Evangelism, and latter called Ukrainian Bible Institute in Donetsk, Ukraine. It was central in the failing U.S.S.R.
Through the years many were trained and sent out into the Russian speaking world to take the gospel to the lost.
Then in 2014 in the east of Ukraine a civil conflict broke out which soon grew into a war that has been going on already for six years.
As a result, Ukrainian Bible Institute moved to Kiev, Ukraine. Many of our brothers and sisters had to leave their homes and flee for their lives from that area. But many were not able to do that, they had to stay and continue to live in the war zone. It is mainly our brothers and sisters in Christ of middle age and older or those who have elderly and sick relatives and must take care of them or have no financial opportunity to move and settle down in the nearby countries where there is no war.
A number of Christians living in the war zone have been arrested and threatened by the military and the newly formed Donetsk Peoples Republic. Out of the 14 churches of Christ in Donetsk only six remain. All but one of them in this region has been denied public worship and use of their church buildings. Without government approval, it’s illegal to gather as a church for public meetings and worship.
Despite that, our brethren in Donetsk and other cities of DPR continue to meet in small groups in their home to worship God. They know of all the horrors of the war not from books and movies but from their own experience in the communities they live. Their homes would be shelled by bombs and they would have to hide with their families in basements and cellars for long hours in day time and at nights. Some of them were injured, or killed or lost their relatives and their possessions in this war. Some of them still have to live very close to the front line (only 1-2 km away).
The economic situation in this area is very difficult. The jobs are few, the salaries are low, the retirement payments are small. When people, living in the war zone, need to get onto the territory under Ukraine`s control, and cross the border, they have to stay at a military check points for 4-6 or at times for 8 hours and longer waiting in long queues stretched for kilometers. Those queues of cars, buses and people are situated on country-side roads under an open sky. On both sides of the road are mined fields. No civilized toilets around, not even little stores to buy food or water. There are times when waiting in queues, people would get under shelling. Sometimes people would faint because they would get very tired and even exhausted. There were several cases of people dying in those queues as a result of having heart attacks.
While going through all those numerous economic, financial and social hardships, our brothers and sisters in the war zone not only remain faithful to God but they are actively looking for ways to edify and encourage each other as well as their brethren in other parts of the Russian-speaking world and to reach out to the lost and win souls for the Lord.
Taking all of these circumstances in eastern Ukraine and in the rest of the Russian speaking world into consideration, we have created Church of Christ Ministries, a 501 (c)(3) Non-profit Organization.
The goal of our ministry for Ukraine, Russia and other Russian speaking countries is to strengthen the spirit of our brethren and increase our numbers for the Lord, to reach out to the lost and bring them to God through our website that has been created to put this goal into life. We also would like it to minister and financially assist our brethren in the war zone of eastern Ukraine. At present our team consists of 5 members; 4 of them are from the Russian speaking world; two members live in Donetsk within a few kilometers of the front line, one in Kiev, Ukraine and one in Russia.
On our website we are going to provide an updated Church directory which would help churches of Christ in different parts of the Russian speaking world to easily find each other and keep in touch.
Through the Calendar of Events brethren will learn when, where and what interchurch activities are going to be held and what they must do to attend them. With God’s help, we have developed an online radio station for the Russian speaking world to encourage our brethren through Christian songs, Bible readings and audio sermons. W e are also producing video sermons to reach out the lost and to edify and exhort our brothers and sisters in Christ. We are working at a mobile App. which will serve the same goal as well. We have created an effective program that will be used by the local brothers and sisters of churches of Christ in Ukraine and the Russian speaking world. The book marks, door hangers, cards will serve as an evangelistic tool directing the lost to our website in sharing the gospel. We want with all of our hearts and we pray that this ministry would serve to the glory of God and to the good of His Church. We are making a big effort that all the materials presented on our website to be of a very good quality to honor our Heavenly Father and to show our respect to the users of our website.