More than five million people in Ukraine live in conflict-affected areas, and more than a million others have fled their homes to try to reach safety. Fear, anger, and uncertainty prevail. The winter has been harsh—in more ways than one.
Government benefits have been suspended in some parts of the rebel-held regions of Donetsk and Lugansk. Children and the elderly are at a critical disadvantage, as they lack the physical stamina and the financial resources to move to safety.
Gas and water has been cut off in some areas, and the price of food has skyrocketed with rising inflation. Many employers are reluctant to hire displaced persons because they have no idea of how long these people might stay around.
Many Ukrainian evangelical churches have stepped up and sacrificed so that refugees can have food and shelter. Believers also go to the front lines with food and warm blankets for the soldiers, praying with them and encouraging them in the name of Jesus. Some of the Bible colleges who partner with READ Ministries have housed displaced persons in their dormitories, and congregations have opened their church buildings to give refugees a warm place to camp out.
Zaporizhzhya Bible College & Seminary (ZBCS) is one of READ’s partner schools. Located less than 150 miles from eastern Ukraine’s war zone, ZBCS is on the front lines of Gospel ministry as Ukraine’s war continues to simmer.
Vladimir Degtyaryov, director of ZBCS and one of READ’s valued partners, recently reported, “We took our freedom for granted, and for many years the government was pretty open to Christianity. But now things are changing, and we see more restrictions and opposition.” He went on to thank READ for the many ways the organization has made it possible for ZBCS to continue to provide theological training for church librarian/counselors and Christian literature during Ukraine’s crisis.
Many evangelical congregations in the area of Zaporizhzhya have joined forces and opened a local aid center in their city for the estimated 90,000 of Ukraine’s internally displaced persons (refugees) who have fled west to Zaporizhzhya seeking help. Brother Vladimir has also shared how evangelical families have taken refugees into their own homes and hearts, feeding and clothing them in the name of Jesus, and this has made a profound impact on refugees. On behalf of the churches and his school he expressed their gratitude for the gifts of North Americans who helped so many of his hurting countrymen during this time of war.
But if there is anything good that can be said about the situation, it is that people are coming to Christ. “Hundreds of frightened families came west to Zaporizhzhya to escape the dangers of the war zone, having lost everything,” Degtyaryov said. “But because of the compassionate way Christians ministered to the displaced persons, the refugees got much more than physical food and clothing. They found Bibles, forgiveness of sins, and church families who reached out to them in love.”
Your support allows READ to resource ZBCS's effective outreach to the victims of Ukraine's simmering war.
On Behalf of READ and Our Partners
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).