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Christmas 2022 wasn't cancelled in Ukraine!


You might have imagined that our brothers and sisters in Christ in Ukraine would have avoided celebrating Christmas this year. They already have huge problems to keep their homes and churches warm, and supplies of some goods are not getting through. They have fought hard to help people for so many months. Missiles have been falling faster and more furiously than ever. Will our friends not have had a break over the Christmas period? Apparently not! We have spoken to a few of the people (there are many more!) who have received support from EMF appeal funds for their ministries. Two of the couples mentioned below (the Kostyshyn and the Mariashes)are EMF missionaries. The others are people to whom we have been introduced over the past few months. Read on to find out how they have seen Christmas as a time for joy, and as a chance to share the gospel.

On Christmas Day, 2022, the Guardian newspaper told us about a lady in Kyiv who admitted that this year Christmas would be different from other years, not least because of exactly when it would be celebrated.
'This year, Vlasiuk explained, her family would be celebrating Christmas on 25 December for the first time, rather than on on 7 January, visiting family in a village rather than staying in Kyiv. The reality is that even when to celebrate Christmas has become a deeply politicised issue in the midst of the war.

For centuries Ukrainians celebrated Christmas on 7 January, the date of the nativity according to the Julian calendar. But following Vladimir Putin’s invasion in February, the Orthodox church of Ukraine is allowing its congregations for the first time to celebrate Christmas on 25 December, in a move away from Russia and towards the west.'

The evangelical churches we have been supporting all over Ukraine have certainly been doing their best this past December to make the celebration of the coming of Immanuel a special one for their families and congregations. They have also been using it as a chance to minister to non-believers, employing the days around Christmas to invite neighbours and friends in to warm, welcoming events where they may also hear about the truly good news of hope brought by Jesus's birth, as well as by his subsequent life, death and resurrection. All this in spite of power outages and threats of missile strikes.

Here is a brief summary of just some of the news we have received around this Christmas time:

Gennadiy Prosyanko

Our brother Gennadiy Prosyanko in Pereshchepyne sent us pictures of Christmas Day, when there was a well-attended service, a special meal, and a distribution of shoebox gifts to children. The little church's ministry to displaced people is full of generosity and self-sacrifice. A few photos demonstrate that Gennadiy and his wife Olena love these folk so much.

Singing at the Christmas service

Christmas isn't Christmas without a meal!
Gennadii and Olena

It's cold, even in church!

Sasha (Oleksandr Diankov) from Chernivtsi

The Heart of Jesus Evangelical Church in Chernivtsi has ministered to displaced people from the beginning of the war. Their centre for displaced people and work to distribute aid to refugee famiies have been reported on in earlier blog entries.(See 'Related Posts', below). Some of the people they ministered to were from areas in the east where the situation was desperate. The church began to send some of their supplies over there by mini-bus (one of those purchased by appeal funds). There was also a recent visit to liberated Kherson just before Christmas, only days before the city was again attacked by merciless Russian missile strikes. The drivers took equipment to the City Hospital there. We now know that at least one other hospital in the city has since been hit in the latest attacks.

Medical supplies reach Kherson

Just before this trip, Sasha and others took aid to another liberated area. He said
'We are glad that thanks to your support we can reach people in places where it is very hard and people are in great need of help.  The next departure of our bus with help to the area, which has recently been liberated from occupation (Kharkiv region, the district of Izyum).  Together with friends from the local church, food parcels and Christmas gifts for children were distributed.  We are glad that on the eve of the Christmas holiday, we can carry the Good News through such help.'

Sasha added:
'Also, because of the destroyed bridge, it was necessary to get to people by water.  And part of the help was delivered by boat'.

Christmas treats arrive by boat to isolated people in Eastern Ukraine
The children received their gifts with joy.

Chocolate so welcome in this weather!

Liudmila and Vitalii Mariash

The Bible and life Church in Kyiv was thrilled to welcome Vitalii Mariash back amongst them for a few days before Christmas, even though this trip back from the front was so that military chaplain Vitalii could officiate at a comrade's funeral. Vitalii was able to see his wife and children before he left once more, and gave a gospel message to those who came into the building, adorned for Christmas, to receive Bibles, blankets, and aid of other kinds. Liuda tells us that they often meet in the dark, and give out aid by candlelight.

Distribution of Bibles, Blankets (the mauve-coloured bags behing Vitalii) and other aid at Christmas in the Bible and Life Church.

The church hopes to receive one of the generators sent to Ternopil before Christmas. Liuda says:

'...we're really looking forward to it. Because we have service or preparation for service every day. And sometimes they give 2 hours of light per day. Thank you for your help and God's great support!!!'

Liuda has been purchasing blankets from the 'Bibles and Blankets' appeal funds. The Bible and Life church has distributed hundreds of warm blankets in the last few weeks.

Oleg Larkiv

In the Bozhiy Dizayn Baptist Church (Kyiv) they have been so grateful for help from EMF appeal funds, especially as some important help arrived just before Christmas. Oleg , the pastor, wrote to say:

'Thank you for the blankets, the generator and the power banks.  This is a big blessing for us.  May God protect you and help you in everything.  Merry christmas and a happy new year!'

The church has been a warm hub in these times of freezing temperatures and power outages, as mentioned in another article (see 'Related Posts, below), but they barely had enough power to heat water for drinks. These gifts have helped in their ministry to their neighbours. Here we see a Christmas craft session (for ladies) in action.

Oleg and his wife Anna
Oleg preaching at the Christmas service

Christmas crafts for ladies, and a chance to hear the gospel!

Olha Sokolova

We introduced you to Olha earlier this year. After fleeing Ukraine she passed through various countries before being offered a home in the UK. The family who were Olha's hosts used the CrossConnect scheme (a joinnt Slavic Gospel Association/EMF project). Olha is a gifted teacher and is on the management team of a charity helped the disabled in Ukraine (see 'Related posts', below). She is now studying in London, and sent this Christmas message to all who have been a part of her life this year

'Dear friends!

This year Christmas for me feels different than before. The verse of Jonh1:5 “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it” sounds more encouraging than ever. Knowing that God is with us, keeping me all this time.

This year I saw it through the people who brightly shined in my life when I needed more help than I was able to give. Who gave me shelter in the first days of the war, who supported me with kind words, who picked up me on the Poland border, took care of me when I got Covid in March. Who helped our team to get some mental healing in the Czech Republic when we finished our service for refugees. Who gave me a room in their home in England, who offered to cover my uni fees, and who support me with my accommodation expenses.

You are the evidence of the words from John 1:5

I hope that one day I’ll have an opportunity to pay back all the light and help I’m getting this year.

I wish you to have a good Christmas time and see light all the next year!


Volodymyr and Oksana Kostyshyn

In Ternopil, Volodia and Oksana and colleagues from other churches within the Light of the Reformation coalition (headed up by Ivan Hontar) have been hard at work before,during and after Christmas. A container full of generators and power banks arrived not long before Christmas, and needed to be distributed all over Ukraine. Oksana and Volodia have a severely-disabled son, Zechariah (now 18), and their NGO 'Hapoy Wheels' is well known for its support for other families with disabilities. Here we see a Christmas event that they were very involved in, where children with a variety of disabilities enjoyed a time of joy as they and their carers were encouraged to celebrate the Messiah's birth and to embrace the gospel message. Someone attending wrote:

'We had a celebration of the Nativity in the wonderful Церква Благодать/Grace Church today!

Thank you very much to the Volodymyr Oksana Kostyshyn family for the created atmosphere of the holiday, warmth, comfort and light!

Thanks to the Light of Reformation Charity Foundation for the gifts!

Ініціатива Веселі Колеса / Happy Wheels Initiative thanks for transporting the participants of the holiday!

Попкорн Funny Sheep thanks for the goodies !!!The Christ is born!!!'

Oksana and her friend played the piano and violin at this event

Benjamin Morrison

Benjamin Morrison was introduced to us by Volodia Kostyshyn. We told readers his story in another article published earlier this year. (See 'Related posts' below)He and his wife minister in Calvary Chapel, Svitlovodsk.

Benjamin also acts as Training Coordinator for City to City Europe, and is the coordinator for City to City Ukraine; he often speaks at various conferences.

Their little church has reached out to hundreds of displaced people passing through, or staying in, the town on their journey to safety. Benjamin says that over 40 of these people have been converted in the last few months. Christmas at the church was full of joy, despite power outages and scarcity of anything very luxurious. Below, some pictures of the church's special events, which included a meal together, and a children's play.

Benjamin Morrison, with his wife Lena and one of his children

Christmas in Ukraine 2022. Not only was it not cancelled. It was a wonderful time in which to present the wonder of the Gospel message to many still without hope in that war-stricken land. It was a time in which our brothers and sisters in Ukraine knew the Lord's help in the most trying of circumstances.

As Russian missiles rain down without mercy on the country at the end of 2022, leaving many of Ukraine's citizens without power, Internet access, water and so on once more, we pray on for those whose valour and faithfulness is a light of hope in the great darkness of this cruel, cruel, war. Above all, they point to a good, sovereign God who is to be trusted, worshipped and honoured at all times, and whose gospel is to be preached at all times.

Prayer Points

Please pray:

  • that these brave Christians may stand firm and stay faithful to their Lord
  • that those who heard the gospe for the first time may respond with true faith in the Lord Jesus