Meet the Pastors & Leaders

On Being Missionaries in War-Torn Ukraine

Greg and Patti Wilton serve as missionaries with SEND International in the western Ukrainian city of Ivano-Frankivsk.  For the ten plus years we have been friends and ministry colleagues, they have often refreshed me as they hosted me in their home when I have been in Ukraine on behalf of READ Ministries.

Earlier in March, in one of their newsletters, they candidly shared how the past tumultuous year in Ukraine has impacted them.  Their account really resonated with me.  So, with their permission, let me share their account, which expresses my own thoughts and feelings as well, as we have reflected on what it has been like to be foreigners serving Christ and His Church this past year in war-torn Ukraine.

You’ve likely read that there is an economic catastrophe occurring presently. While the currency has stabilized somewhat these past two weeks, it settled at one-third of the buying power it had just 6 months ago.  And no pay raises.  We see less imported goods on the shelf, and specialty stores are temporarily closing.  Many items are now marked with an identification number rather than a price sticker so the price can be changed easier, congruent with daily rates. There has been panic buying at times but that was when the exchange rate was changing hourly. Building, remodeling, major purchases have been halted until the market settles down. Utilities are supposed to increase by 40% in May and another 40% by the end of 2015; pensions were cut by 15%.

Then there’s the war: fighting, dying, aggression, intimidation, lying, and uncertainty. Even if it doesn’t threaten you personally it affects everyone and everything around you. Commemorating (or celebrating) one year anniversaries for things such as Maidan and the annexation of Crimea, only serves to keep it fresh and sorrowful, not believing that it’s only been a year but at the same time thinking, “it’s already been a year?”

This last peace accord seems to have quieted the situation for today but few expect it to last. So we wait… what next?  Where next?  Who next?  How much will Ukraine lose? How many will be hurt, left homeless, killed?  This is foreign to us – war on the soil we live on, witnessing human tragedy close at hand. Injustice is foreign to us; can nations really get away with this?  Is no one going to help? We’ve been forever changed; our hearts have taken on the sorrow, compassion, anger of our Heavenly Father. We’ve felt hate, fear, and helplessness and had to walk through these emotions with God, letting His righteousness sort it out for us.

When we think of this past year – invasion, evacuation, personal trans-formation, transition, weddings, funerals – all we can say is, “Praise God we serve One who is the Rock.  He is Faithful, Just, the Avenger, our ever present help in times of trouble and He reigns…forever!”

On Behalf of All Who Serve in Ukraine

Bill Arvan

In 2002, Bill, and a handful of other men involved in sister-church partnerships with Evangelical-Baptist churches in Ukraine, formed READ Ministries.

Bill and his wife, Susan, reside in St. Cloud, MN. Susan is the director of Harvest preschool in Sauk Rapids, MN. They have three adult children and two delightful and energetic granddaughters.

After graduating from Dallas Theological Seminary, Bill served in pastoral ministry from 1976-2000. In 2000, Bill was commissioned as a missionary by Calvary Community Church in St. Cloud, Minnesota. From 2000-2005, Bill served as a full-time Field Representative for Short-Term Missions Ministries with the Minnesota Iowa Baptist Conference (BGC/Converge).