Father and daughter serving together
Ksenia is a wonderful interpreter for her father. We saw that in our first chat with them. She has a degree in English, that is true, but her ability to convey his meaning is more about her total devotion to all that he and his church are doing than to her evident linguistic prowess. She and her husband Evgenii are as involved as anyone else in the work that this congregation in Bozhiy Dizayn Baptist Church in Kyiv is undertaking, for Evgenii preaches, leads the worship and (alongside Ksenia) is on the team that organises all that the church is doing to help internally displaced people. Ksenia studies at Kyiv Theological Seminary, where Vitalii Mariash is Dean of Studies. Liudmila Mariash is a classmate!
The fact is that this fellowship is doing a mammoth job in distributing aid, some of which has been bought with EMF appeal funds. It is a congregation that is no stranger to the ravages of war, for its membership consists of many who left the Donbas region after the first Russian invasion of 2014. When the attacks began in Kyiv in February 2022, these Christians sheltered in basements, but then moved out with Oleg, his wife Alena and the rest of the family to a safer village.
We spoke to Oleg and Ksenia earlier in the autumn, when they told us about their decision (despite having the opportunity to get out of Ukraine) to stay in the Kyiv area and help neighbours and internally displaced people. And they are doing that faithfully, every week, every day, every hour. This video (below)is part of the chat we had with them lately.
The crude, cruel reality
Their resources are somewhat depleted now, they say. They can only help 600 people regularly, rather than the 1,000 folk they were able to assist back in early Autumn! They are frustrated, since the need is growing, not diminishing. All the attacks on energy infrastructure over the last few weeks have had terrible effects. Power cuts are fairly unpredictable, both as regards when they will occur, and for how long they will last. There have been outages lasting for a day or more, but when we spoke to Oleg and Ksenia there were cuts for only a few hours each day. Manufacturers have not enough dependable power to drive machinery, however, so lay-offs are common, meaning that more people than ever need help with food and hygiene supplies. If elderly folk are outside when the electricity goes, they may not be able to get back into an apartment in a tall block where the lift is not working. When there is no power in a block of flats there is no heating, no way of cooking and ... no water! For water to reach the top storeys it must be pumped up.
This is the crude, cruel reality being experienced by the people of Ukraine.
The people this church helps need a safe shelter in which they can survive the worst effects of the already freezing temperatures the capital is dealing with. The church tries to provide a warm hub into which needy (and cold) people can come to charge up phones, have a hot drink, and receive some reassurance and comfort. But the little generator they have provides only enough energy to give them some light, and there is not enough power to warm water for hot drinks, or to keep the building at a reasonable temperature. We hope to provide them with a generator and warm blankets from the supplies being sent out as this article goes to press. Oleg explained that they are trying to set up a Starlink satellite Internet system too, as mobile networks are increasingly unstable, and those women who have husbands in the war zone have found it difficult to keep in touch with them, a fact that adds to their anxiety.
And what about literature?
Are Bibles needed too? We asked that, and the answer was 'Of course!' For, as in all the other locations to which aid has been sent from EMF appeal funds , people who had hitherto been at best apathetic to the Christian message are now more than willing to receive and read the Bible and evangelistic literature. Oleg tells of large numbers at Bible studies, and at the moment 20 people are preparing to be baptised. Bibles and literature in the Ukrainian language are needed urgently, for there is a deep-seated antagonism now towards the Russian language, such that many folk no longer want to read anything in that language, or hear it spoken. Even Russian speakers like Oleg, his wife Alena and the family (remember that they used to live near te Russian border, and their first language is Russian) make an effort never to speak Russian in the shops, etc.
The battle goes on ... everywhere in Ukraine!
So as the air defence systems of Ukraine fight on, and do that incessantly, in the effort to intercept missiles (thankfully, with a great deal of success), the fight continues in the other battles too: the battle in the streets and homes of the towns and cities and villages which have been left bereft of what they need to survive the harsh winter. And the battle just to simply keep going that every single Christian worker is experiencing as they face the daily challenge of finding sufficient spiritual, emotional and physical resources .