Stories of Courage and Strength

July 2023 – As the war rages on in Ukraine, many stories emerge of courage and resilience. I hope you are not growing weary of these types of stories. I am amazed at the strength of character of the Ukrainian people. No matter what we think politically about the war in Ukraine, our focus is on helping people and sharing the gospel. We don’t care if they speak Russian or Ukrainian, we desire to share the love of Christ with all people. And from the bottom of our hearts, my wife Paula and I thank you for your generous support and prayers, and for standing with us.

Pastor Myhailo Shares His Story

Myhailo Brytsyn has been a pastor in Melitopol, in southern Ukraine for 30 years.  This is his story in his words.  Thank you to our friends at Mission Eurasia for bringing him to the USA. Melitopol is still occupied.

We were occupied on the first day of the war, February 24, 2022.  We have 500 members at the Church of Grace in Melitopol. The soldiers came to our church. We are a Russian-speaking territory. They told us they came to liberate us. We were set free. The truth is, they set us free from electricity, from our jobs, from cell phone service, from running water, and they closed our bank accounts. That was our freedom.

“From the first days, they started to beat us, torture us, and took some to the forest to be killed.  We had a prayer gathering in the downtown city square. We prayed every day for 180 days. Orthodox Priests and Evangelical Pastors, in our church clothes, to identify ourselves as leaders so we could protect our people.

“Our family histories know occupation.  This is our 3rd time.  WW2, the Donetsk territory in 2014, and now in 2022.  Quickly we removed all people’s names from our website. This was good, so the secret police could not find them.

“We were occupied and Russia sent the occasional truck with food bags and lots of Russian journalists. First, they liberated us into suffering.  Then they gave us a bag, took pictures for their media, and told us how grateful we were.

“During the occupation, we had 12 funerals, 2 weddings, 3 baptisms, and one Easter service.  However, seven months into the occupation things became worse.  On Sunday, September 11, 2022, Russian soldiers entered our church in

the middle of the service. ‘Who is the boss here!’ they demanded.  ‘I am,’ I said.  ‘Who is your boss?’ they asked.

“’ Christ,’ I answered.  I was arrested, interrogated, threatened like a criminal, and put in prison.  Eventually, they released me to an unoccupied area.  They confiscated our church building. They took my laptop, phone, and notes, and ransacked my office and church. They made our church into a Russian Ministry of Culture.  I still believe that God is working in Ukraine. I hope you will be a part of it.”

The newspaper recorded that the Russian military copied the passports of churchgoers and accused them of a “connection with the United States.”  Myhailo commented dryly, “We know what Russian culture is. We don’t want it.”

Tatiana’s Story

Tatiana is now raising her grandchildren.  Her story happened at exactly the same time as pastor Myhailo’s story, except she was 600 miles to the north near the Belarus border. They do not know each other. This is told in her words.

“On 24 February, 2022, my daughter Svetlana and her husband ran with their three children to the school bomb shelter.  There were Russian tanks and explosions. It was chaotic in our village.

“It was cold and they stayed in the basement.  The next day, they got out to breathe some fresh air. My son-in-law called his mother to let her know he was okay. Many children were there in the schoolyard.  Suddenly there were explosions. My daughter and son-in-law died along with five other children.

“Our grandchildren saw their parents die, but they are okay.  I am raising them now.  My husband, Vadim is in rehab.  He had a heart attack and is still recovering.  But we are okay.”

“I Still Have A Mom”

Eight year-old Amelia made her mom a mother’s day card. It has been over a year since she died.  “I know she is gone,” she told her grandma, “but I still have a mom.”

Tatiana pointed to it on top of the fridge and wiped her eyes.  “Thank you for helping us,” she said.

And thank for your support of the Summer Camp on the Black Sea. All of the needed funds came in!  Please pray for a special time of healing and renewal. Thank you.