A Pastor On the Frontlines

Pastor Vadim (middle) uses his church as a warehouse. We work together already 9 years.

April 2023 – The explosion outside startled me.  It was loud and sounded close.  I jumped out of bed in the upstairs bedroom and hurried downstairs.  There, in the living room by the fireplace sat pastor Vadim quietly talking to Andriy.  Neither one of them seemed to notice.  I went back upstairs.  “Welcome to the Donetsk region of Ukraine,” I thought to myself.  The next day Vadim told me that Ukrainian troops had gathered nearby and the shelling was targeting them.  The upstairs window was already cracked from a previous shell.  For him, it was just another night in the war zone. 

Endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, and discharge all the duties of your ministry. 2 Timothy 4:5

Since the full-scale Russian invasion of Ukraine on February 24, 2022, 70% of Pastor Vadim’s church has fled to safety.  His entire youth group is gone.  Today, the church has mostly elderly members and men serving in the war.  Vadim has stayed strong, doing everything he can to serve the people both in and outside of the church.  He has worked with Mercy Projects since this war started back in 2014.

He looks like a tough guy, strong, decisive, and unshaven, with family roots in Greece.  But looks are deceiving.  He has a soft heart for everyone under his care, demonstrated by strong hugs and a big booming laugh.  His pastor’s heart is clearly evident.

He becomes serious, however, talking about his earlier life.  “I was a drug addict for many years, he said.  I am not proud of it.  After I came to Christ in my late 20s, Jesus delivered me from my opiate addiction.  It was a miracle.  He called me to become a pastor and It has been 30 years now!”  He smiled. 

“Today our situation is very tough, he said.  My biggest heartache is seeing so many of our church members go to the war but never come back.”

Four Recent Funerals in His Church

MP works in the Donetsk, Kharkiv, and Kherson regions.

“They were all very dear to my heart.  Eugene was an ex-con.  He came to the church, met God and his life completely changed.  He was a real hero for me.  From the first days of the war in 2014 he was bringing water and food to our soldiers.  One time there was a wounded Ukrainian soldier lying in the field.  Nobody dared to go there and take him because it was extremely dangerous.  Eugene did not hesitate.  He went out into that field, carried the guy back, and brought him to the hospital.  When Eugene was killed, the hardest part for me was to inform his daughter.  She was just 7 years old. 

“The second guy was also a close friend.  He was an orphan, in prison for murder.  I preached in the prison and he repented.  I baptized him in the prison.  When he was released, he came to our church and he called me “dad.”  One day he came to me and said: ‘Dad, I found my calling in life, I’ll go to the army.  I want to fight for my country.’  It was a good choice for him because he was a real warrior in life.  He excelled in the Special Forces, but one day hit a land-mine and died.”

“The last funeral was for Oleksandr.  He came to our church as a teenager and was a part of my home Bible study group.  I watched him grow up.  He played with my boys.  In 2014 he went to fight for Ukraine.  He was wounded but got healed.  He later married and I did his wedding.  This last year he went back to serve as a sniper.  He was killed in the battle for Mariupol.”

“It is always the hardest task to tell the families of these men, children, wives, or parents that their father, husband, or son has died.”

Mercy Projects provides 400 chickens for 80 families

Paula packs chickens in boxes in front of pastor Vadim’s church.

Pastor Vadim has two sons in Lviv in western Ukraine. However, he spends most of his time in the danger zone of Donetsk, his home, serving his community. 

“God has called me to be here, and what I love about Jeff and Mercy Projects is that they are really faithful. He loves the people of Ukraine and wants to help our nation.  It truly touches my heart. 

Every time he comes, or someone from his team, I am always super glad.  I see every time that their heart is for serving people and not building up their own ministry.  The MP team encourages me to keep going, to not get discouraged.  They come from so far away.  I hope we will keep serving together for a long time.”