SGA storyteller Oleksandra and her husband Stas’s recent visit at Easter to an aid center established by an SGA-supported church shows how only God can bring peace to hurt and fearful hearts in the most difficult of times. God is showing Himself in many ways throughout the lands of Ukraine in this time of war.
Read Oleksandra’s report and be blessed by the stories of Ukrainians who have received God’s help through His people—and hope as they rest in Him.
This past April, Christians worldwide celebrated Easter, which commemorates Jesus’ resurrection from the dead and the triumph of life over death. However, many people consider it just a part of ancient history and don’t see any connection between this event and their lives. But those who survived the occupation in [this region of Ukraine] back in March-April 2022 know from their own experience the joy of coming back to life.
On 14 April 2023, Christians in the former Soviet Union marked Good Friday to commemorate the crucifixion of Jesus and his death at Calvary. Many people attend the special service at the volunteer center to hear the word of God and to listen to the testimonies of His followers. Stas was asked the question, “What does Easter mean to you?”
And this is how he replied: “I know there are people who celebrated Easter a week ago. Some of you will celebrate it in two days. Today many of you grieve because Jesus is dead but will rejoice on Sunday because he will be alive. It doesn’t work for me this way. Jesus rose from the dead more than 2,000 years ago and since then he is forever alive. 24/7, 365 days per year. I can celebrate His resurrection every day. What does it have to do with my life? Christ said: ‘Whoever believes in me shall never die.’ I rejoice every day because death is defeated. I have the promise of eternal life and this truth gives me hope even if I face suffering.”
Inga — “I didn’t believe I would survive,” says Inga, a resident who visited an IBC volunteer center in her town. “When troops entered the city, I was at work. I worked at a factory back then. Many citizens came to us to find shelter there as we had a large basement. We could hide there for several days until the soldiers figured out there were lots of people at the factory. They thought it was a place where Ukrainian soldiers had been hiding. They tried to draw us out by filling the basement with water. When it didn’t work the way occupiers expected, they threw a grenade inside. But it didn’t go off. I think it was the moment I believed in God.”
After liberation, Inga had to start anew. Having no work, no money, and no friends she found support and encouragement from Christians who opened a volunteer center to serve people in need. Almost a year after those terrible events Inga keeps coming to the center, which has grown into a little church, to find food for her soul.
Sergey — For Sergey, who is sitting next to his neighbor Tamara (in red), this center is an answer to the need of his soul. “There was no church in our town, but I have been studying the Bible by myself for many years. It was more like studying theory. Once, Tamara, who lives next to me asked me to accompany her to a place where food was distributed to help her with the bags. I remember after the occupation her health was very poor. She could barely walk without help. After receiving bread, we were invited to a Bible study class. I realized it was God who was calling me there. I could find answers to lots of my questions. Now, this is the place I’m running to! And so is Tamara. As her health improved, she can now run with me (laughs). I praise God that he led me to a community that helps me grow spiritually.”
Valentina — She came to us to share her story and to admit that hope is essential for those who are one step away from death.
“I had never seen so many helicopters and jets flying over my head,” recalls Valentina of the invasion on February 24, 2022. “I don’t remember whether I was scared or not. I thought only about my relatives. Both my daughter and my grandson with their families were in the city. There’s an airport near us that’s why our town was a main target for the enemy. I realized we got caught in a trap. My family was literally one step away from death. First helicopters attacked the airport and then they started firing missiles at the residential zone where I lived. A rocket flew into my grandson’s house, but it didn’t explode. A few days later a tank targeted my daughter’s place.” Several soldiers broke into her house while she was hiding in the basement. When they found her, she thought they’d rape or kill her. But they only asked. “Are you afraid?”. She answered “Yes.” They replied, “So are we” and left her alone.
“Did I realize it was divine intervention? At that moment I didn’t. When I become aware of how close death was to us, I felt only overwhelming anxious and fearful. I didn’t want to live. I saw no point and purpose in life which seemed so painful and terrifying. I would lie in bed day and night and even my children, who were saved by a miracle, couldn’t motivate me to keep living. One day, though, I had to pull myself out of bed when I saw we had run out of cat food. I saved many cats when the war started and there were 16 of them living with me. There was still no food in the stores, I was searching here and there when I suddenly saw a group of volunteers who came to provide humanitarian aid. They had what I was looking for. And I don’t mean cat food or the hot lunch they immediately gave me. It was their love and care that caught me. I met a pastor there, and I told him my story. I shared all the pain I had inside. I couldn’t stop crying. The pastor listened to me with all his heart. I started coming every day to have lunch with the team of volunteers. They enchanted me. They all looked so happy serving other people, and I wanted to experience this joy as well. I asked the pastor to let me help them in any way I can. I began distributing humanitarian aid to people in my city. It gave me a reason to wake up every morning. Those volunteers made me feel needed and it was something I had been desperate for. I didn’t miss any opportunity to visit other volunteer centers in [this] region since then. I help in any way I can. Distributing food, making tea, or cleaning the meeting rooms. I got so much support from Christians. I have more peace and hope in my heart since I met them. I know God speaks through those people and I want to be able to hear His voice,” finishes Valentina, wiping away the tears.
Tamara —“I didn’t cry when it all started,” remembers Tamara. “Even though I was left alone in the occupied city. The enemy took control of [the city] in the blink of an eye. My son wanted to come to me, but all the bridges were blown up immediately. I was in a trap. We were cut off from civilization. No heating, no gas, no electricity, no water, or food. I ate pickles I had stored in my basement and nuts. I tried to feed cats and dogs that were abandoned by their masters who fled in the first hours of the full-scale invasion. They were alone like me. I will never forget the day when I was in bed trying to fall asleep and suddenly the soldiers broke into my house. They began to ransack my home. I only prayed they didn’t touch me. They accused me of hiding the Ukrainian landing force. I denied and they left. In a few days, they came back again and then again. That time they came up pointing their weapons at me. They asked my name. And then fired, having targeted the cell phone which I had at hand. I know why they shot at my phone and not me. Because every time they came, I would pray God to protect me and not to let them even touch me. And they didn’t hurt me because He heard me. I realized I was never alone. Our city was liberated on March, 31. When I heard the news the invaders left, I broke into tears. It was the first time I cried since the beginning of the war.”
A volunteer who works in a hospital told me that many residents of [this city] who survived the occupation died of heart attacks later in the summer. They couldn’t bear all the pain and shock they had been keeping inside.
But from all 100 people who found comfort in a volunteer center, nobody got worse or died. Moreover, both their mental and physical health improved as they came to know about Jesus, who can remove our heavy burdens of guilt, hopelessness and pain and give true rest in Him. God is the same yesterday, today, and forever! He keeps saving people no matter how this world changes around us. And this is a true Easter miracle. Death is defeated. Christ is Risen!
In a time of great uncertainty, God is bringing help, healing, and hope to the people of Ukraine through SGA-supported pastors, churches, a seminary, and SGA-sponsored Compassion Ministry. Be a part of God’s incredible work with your generosity and prayer support.
Your gift of compassion helps struggling people with emergency aid that generally includes Scripture materials, food, medicine, warm clothing, and shoes.