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Ukraine | A Pastor's Update

Steve Cleary


Deare IOM Friends,

Before reading further, please be warned some of this information may be difficult to read. However, I will also share some positive ministry updates. If you want to skip to the ministry update, please scroll down to the “Ukraine Ministry Update” heading below.

This week, we were able to have a zoom conference with Pastor Anatoli. As you may remember, he had been hospitalized after suffering a mild stroke. He is out of the hospital but remains under doctor care because he is at high risk for having more blood clots. His doctor has strongly advised for him to cease his work, but Pastor Anatoli presses on. He told us he felt he had to “ask God’s forgiveness for being out of the ministry these last two weeks.” His phone rings non-stop with people pleading for help, and there are few people willing to do what Pastor Anatoli has been called to do.

Before being hospitalized, he told us that his military company had entered an area previously occupied by Russian forces. On the road driving into Bucha, he counted 300 bodies in and along the street, many of whom were women and children. Each body had to be identified, placed in a body bag, and buried. He had to take a picture of each victim and attach the picture to the outside of the body bag. Then, he had to counsel and comfort many of the deceased’s family members.

While we have included images Pastor Anatoli sent us in this email, there are others we cannot print. They are just too difficult to look at. Some of our staff said they were unable to sleep after viewing the pictures.

He said that only a handful of men were willing to do this work of dealing with the bodies, but it had to be done. They needed to be buried, and the family members needed to be consoled. He also offered to pray with each family member. It was the children that affected him the most—so many dead children—innocent children who were no threat to the Russian soldiers. He thought of his own 12-year-old daughter, Anastasia, whom he hasn’t seen in months. (Pastor Anatoli’s wife and daughter are in an undisclosed location for their safety).

Pastor Anatoli has conducted over 70 funeral services of his friends and co-workers over the past few months. Eight members of his church have been “stolen” by the Russian forces and taken to Russia where they remain in prison, and who knows under what conditions. They are not charged with any crime; they are simply pawns to be used in future trades for captured Russian soldiers.

I remember Pastor Richard Wurmbrand telling me that he could never share everything that happened to him in Communist prison. He said if he did, no one would read his book (Tortured for Christ). They might have nightmares, or they simply wouldn’t believe the extent of the cruelty. The same is true for many villages and families in Ukraine. Whatever you can imagine, it is worse, much worse.

It was this work that led Pastor Anatoli to the hospital, and this is the work he is returning to this week, not knowing if or when he will be reunited with his family.

Pastor Anatoli’s personal van has nearly one million miles on it, and it was continually in need of repair. It is very small and could only help around 50–100 families per trip. The new van will make it possible to help 500 or more families per trip!

We are currently looking for a second cargo van in Poland and hope to have one secured soon. We will keep you posted.

Pastor Anatoli explained to us what I believe to be the “pure Gospel.” He brings the villagers desperately needed help. He helps the sick and elderly obtain medical care. He helps the children that have been separated from their families or orphaned. He hugs and cries with the family members of the deceased. He listens to their pain and suffering. Then, he invites them to a church service that evening to find hope in Jesus! And nearly every person invited comes!

I absolutely concur with Pastor Anatoli. This is the pure Gospel!

He said people have never been so open to the Gospel. In his hometown of Bucha, which has been nearly destroyed by the occupying forces, he has already planted two new churches! He said the people keep coming and want to worship; they currently have been meeting in warehouses. They desperately want to hear the Gospel.

With the great need and opportunity for the Kingdom, we know that it will take much more than two cargo vans and two Chaplains to meet the need. However, we are grateful for these two servants of God and for the small role RevelationMedia has been able to play. Thousands of lives are being affected, and you have helped make this possible. When we first committed to help Ukraine, we simply committed to helping the 15 families of our Hebrew translation partners in Ukraine, but God had bigger plans!

We will continue to support Pastors Anatoli and Valodia as we are able. We want to make sure there are always funds to pay for gas and to acquire the humanitarian help and Bibles to distribute. Purchasing the vans is great, but we must keep them going back to the villages!