29 November, 2022

UKRAINE: Ministry in War Zone Separates Family

by | 22 August, 2022

By Laura McKillip Wood 

Vika grew up in a non-Christian family and became a believer through relationships with missionaries she met as a teenager. She ended up working with those missionaries in Crimea while finishing college. She later married Sergey, who served with a church in a small town in southern Ukraine. The two of them carved out a life for themselves there, having four beautiful daughters. Sergey began working for Vika’s parents’ business to support their growing family, and he continued serving in the church.  

When Russia invaded Ukraine in 2014, Vika and Sergey made a hard decision. She took their girls and moved to Bulgaria, where they were safe from Russian attacks. Sergey, who is Bulgarian, visited them regularly but spent most of his time in Ukraine because he felt God was telling him to stay there and continue serving in the church. He continued to work in the furniture factory and send money to the family. The girls started school and adjusted to living there, even though they all missed their dad during the times he was in Ukraine. Vika loves Bulgaria, so she feels safe and comfortable living there and raising her children. She believes God led them to move, just as Sergey felt God called him to stay. 

With this year’s Russian invasion, Sergey is no longer able to travel back and forth to Bulgaria. He lives in an area occupied by Russian troops. He decided early in the war to remain in Ukraine to continue ministering to those people who did not evacuate. Vika’s stepfather had been the main pastor of the church, but when the war started, the family business closed and he left Ukraine to find work in another country. Vika’s mother lives with Vika and her girls now, so her stepfather has gone to find a job to help support them.  

Sergey has taken over as the main pastor of the Ukrainian church. He spends most of his time caring for the members who remained behind. The furniture factory has ceased operation, and since the family business has closed, the family’s sources of income have diminished. Sergey spends his days distributing humanitarian aid (when he can access it) and providing spiritual support. People try to stay safe by remaining inside most of the time because Russian soldiers occupy their town. Sometimes a shooting or other military activity occurs nearby; people do not venture far from home.  

“We pray the Russians will see we are believers and not harm us,” Sergey says. “The church is in the middle of town, and the Russian police are our neighbors now.”  

Vika knows her husband’s role in Ukraine is vital.  

“My husband tells me God says to love our enemies, to be the salt of the Earth,” Vika says. “When these thoughts fill the minds and hearts of Christians, then there is no fear. This is what he preaches to the church.”  

The people come to Sergey for prayer and support, and he encourages them to remain faithful and trust that God will bring them through this difficult time. 

Sergey is not the only person who has chosen to stay in the town and serve God there. 

Another family had planned to evacuate. They were ready to go but were praying that God would lead them. They felt clearly that God told them to stay, so they canceled their plans to leave. Since that time, they have had a baby daughter. They named her Mira, which means “peace.” They live their daily lives as normally as possible under dangerous conditions and pray for an end to the war. Their baby a living, breathing testimony to their hope for the future. 

If you would like to help Sergey in his ministry or support this family as they navigate wartime conditions, contact Laura Wood at woodlaura30@gmail.com for information about how to do so. 

Laura McKillip Wood, former missionary to Ukraine, lives in Papillion, Nebraska, and writes about missions for Christian Standard. 

Christian Standard

Contact us at cs@christianstandardmedia.com

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