Carelinks | Ukraine
The Winter Bible School was held in January and we were pleased to record a very good attendance of over 60 brothers and sisters, including some from Russia, Belarus and Moldova. These schools work out expensive but are the only way many of these dear brothers and sisters get any fellowship with each other. But Ukraine is rapidly becoming a basket case economically. The heating was very low in the accommodation we stayed in, with many wearing fur coats both in bed and at the talks; and no hot water for most of the school. With temperatures down to -16 this made things most uncomfortable. The war continues in the east, with transport between the east and the rest of Ukraine very difficult. Sister Tamara (in her 70s) made a special effort to come, having to travel nearly two days through Russia to avoid the border area. She was made to stand for five hours in the freezing cold waiting to be fingerprinted by the Russian side. She eventually arrived, and had a cardiac arrest; she struggled on but then had another one, whilst being far from her home in Lugansk region (in the Russian occupied zone). She told us of the awful situation there, with the economy in the hands of the Russian mafia, a mass exodus of professionals to Russia or the west, hospitals with no doctors, young people leaving in droves, many homes just abandoned. Pensions remain very low in Ukraine, although prices have shot up with the collapse of the currency, and health care now has to be paid for even if you paid your health contributions for decades. We were able to give help for operations and medical issues to several and there is understandably an increasing number turning to alternative and herbal medicines and therapy. It’s very difficult for ordinary people to cross the border from Russia to Ukraine and back, as both sides suspect anyone doing so of being a spy, as there are constant rumours of a full blown Russian invasion of the rest of Ukraine. Sister Iya and her child and her aunty set off from Russia to Ukraine but her aunty was turned back at the border, and our sister bravely continued the journey in very low temperatures with her child - no fun travelling with a young child for a day over 1300 km, let alone in such cold weather after being roughed up at the border.
Sis Iya with her young child
Bro David Corbin and his daughter, Sis Davian, came over from the Brooklyn ecclesia in New York, USA. David gave us many good studies about Jonah and Bible prophecy, and he was impressed at how folks took careful notes, eagerly discussed the talks afterwards and even disagreed about things with him. Some of these brothers and sisters were first given a Bible by us over 20 years ago as they emerged from Soviet atheism; to see them so fluent with the scriptures is a wonderful testament to the Lord’s continual working through our efforts to bring the Bible and Bible teaching to those who seriously want to hear it. We thank you for all your prayers and donations which have enabled the distribution of so much literature over the years.
We were very pleased to baptize Marina from Kharkov. Our new sister had had her passport stolen, and you can’t travel on trains without a passport. She decided at the last minute that she would come anyway, and hitchhiked (in those very low temperatures) the 500 km from Kharkov to Kiev to be baptized, arriving on the Sunday morning when the school was coming to an end. It was really a pleasure to baptize her in a bath tub there.
Sis Marina’s baptism
Bro David Corbin writes of his experiences at the Ukraine Bible School:
“My daughter Davian and I were among the first few to reach the venue around 5:15 pm on the 24th of January. The local taxi operators were very friendly and helpful at the airport and assisted us in getting to where the Bible school was held. While the taxi operators were warm and friendly the same could not be said for the Siberian type weather. Once inside the facility we only got a modest reprieve from the onslaught of the very cold weather because of the poorly heated building. We tried to keep as warm as possible with our clothing and the blankets we were given. I would just say that the food was designed to make you lose weight and live a long healthy life without any cholesterol problems and leave it at that!
We ended up with about 65 in all that attended, though not all in one sitting as some who came earlier had to leave to make the long trip back home using an unreliable transportation system not to mention the bitter cold and at least 8”-10” of snow on the ground. One courageous and faithful elder sister who braved all these adversities to make it to the school just collapsed with heart problems as soon as she entered the building. Such endeavors and situations really brings tears to your eyes. Bro Duncan rushed to her assistance after turning over the first class to me and my translator.
The classes, four on “Jonah”, one on “Esau and his choice”, “The last days” and “Samson’s life” were well received. It was interesting working with our two brothers who translated because I realized throughout my talks that some English words don’t have a word for them in Russian and others have a completely different meaning, so at times I had to put my mental thesaurus to work quickly. On Saturday night we had a program of singing in Russian and recitals and reading some words of inspiration which was a great joy to see as many of these brethren live in isolation. My daughter Davian was brave enough to sing the “Wedding banquet” chorus in English, to which some were humming along too, not knowing the words.
On Sunday we had our last class and were surprised with a baptism after frantically trying to find enough warm water and tub large enough to facilitate the baptism. I understand it took the candidate two days to make it to the venue hitchhiking. Please remember this new sister in your prayers, for she is now one of the household of faith, no longer alienated from the commonwealth of Israel. She will need all our prayers because she starts this journey with many more obstacles than we see before brethren and sisters in the West. She does not have the support of an ecclesia of 30-50 members like so many of us (which, by the way, many don’t appreciate enough). This is a country where life is very hard economically for the average citizen, which can put a lot of pressure on ones ability to serve faithfully and remain obedient to your heavenly calling. So may The LORD bless her, and keep her and make his face shine upon her, and be gracious unto her, The LORD lift up his countenance upon her, and give her peace in his Kingdom.
Please also remember the Zbarazhsky family in the Ukraine who are faithfully proclaiming the gospel and showing hospitality to all they come into contact with. I am glad I was able meet them and spend some time together after the days events, discussing issues concerning the name of Jesus and the things of his Kingdom. We are also grateful to Bro Vladimir who got us some local remedies for colds and coughs and volunteered to take us to the airport, refusing to accept any form of compensation. Truly these brethren in the Ukraine are the most loving, caring and warm you can find anywhere. Brethren that would hazard their lives for the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and the saints - Acts 15:26. These are indeed the Timothy(s) and Epaphroditus of our times. These are brethren who are willing to be expended for the Lord indeed and not only in words. I feel that I was blessed more than they were because their zeal and enthusiasm for the work of the Lord is inspiring and motivating.
To all those who have and are contributing to the Carelinks Outreach Ministry please know and be assured that your contributions are well appreciated by these brethren in Eastern Europe. So much is being done with these funds that it is almost unbelievable. I also have to note that it’s time and money well spent for the numbers of lost souls that are turning and embracing Jesus and the saving message of Jesus. Please continue to donate and pray fervently for these worthy causes and the brethren involved in these labours of love in missionary work all over Europe and Asia.
Your fellow laborer and brother in Christ
So again, our warmest thanks to all who donated to make these gatherings possible. If you’d like to visit or speak at a future school, please let us know.
Sis Elena trying to keep warm