Dear Friends and Partners,
I have been very disheartened with the news of our good friend, Sasha Salfyetnikov, who was taken prisoner by the Russians, interrogated, falsely accused, and beaten to an inch of his life. The last I heard, he was eventually taken to a hospital, but is now home with his wife, but in very dire situation. Please continue to pray for him. Per the Ukrainian’s request, I will only give updates on him via email and not social media, to protect his life, since the Russians are monitoring his and other people’s social media accounts.
Within this week’s update, I will provide you a high level overview/update on the heavy fighting in the east of Ukraine, village warfare, Kharkiv, and one of our ministry partners. Going forward I may just highlight a different ministry partner per week.
Heavy Fight in the East
Ukraine’s Defense Ministry spokesman, Oleksandr Motuzyanyk, reported that the war is entering its “most active phase.” In other words, all out warfare is happening in the Donetsk and Lugansk areas of Ukraine (these are territories about 2 hours drive south of Kharkiv). The Russian army has concentrated its troops from the north and south of Ukraine in an attempt to surround the Ukrainian army. There has been more military aid sent from the west to help Ukraine, but reports I am reading is that the Russians have 20 times more military hardware than the Ukrainian army. My hope is the valiant Ukrainian army can withstand the onslaught.
Destroying Villages and Towns
The Russians have been unsuccessful in taking large areas of land since the war began on Feb 24, 2022, including our city of Kharkiv. But as the Russians redeployed and consolidated their military, they left behind massive destruction in their path, including immense devastation to many of the villages to the east and south of Kharkiv. Many people have fled their village homes and come to Kharkiv, fearful, scared, hungry, and afraid that the Russian military may come back.
An example of this, was how the Russian army targeted the town of Balaklayea and incarcerated our friend, pastor Sasha, who lives an hour south of Kharkiv. Why target him? Because he was doing a good job being a leader, helping feed and take care of others. Apparently, this was a threat to the Russian military. Prior to the Russian takeover of this town, many people left Balaklayea, but many elderly and poor in this and other villages could not afford to leave or the physical ability to flee. Many faithful pastors, like pastor Sasha, stayed with their flock, helping the most at-risk individuals. But the Russian military doesn’t care what they leave behind; after all, this is the same army who leaves their dead on the battleground.
Despite the extreme risk to life, our partners from Kharkiv are traveling daily to distribute food packages, medicine and supplies to many villages around the Kharkiv region, when they are not feeding those inside Kharkiv. On a positive note, the Ukrainian army was able to liberate 24 towns and villages in the Kharkiv region, according to the Ukrainian military Commander-in-Chief Valerii Zaluzhnyi, when he spoke on May 23, 2022.
There are still missiles exploding daily in Kharkiv. Most of them are coming from across the Russian border, which is about 30 miles away. Thankfully, most of the shelling has stopped due to the Ukrainian army defeating the Russians in our area (and the Russian redeployment south of our city for the huge battles now happening in Donetsk and Lugansk). People are still living in bomb shelters and several areas of Kharkiv are totally destroyed, but other areas of the city have some activity. Our ministry partners are now seeing two things:
1. The costs of living in western European countries like Poland and Germany have overwhelmed many Ukrainians. Even living in locations like Lviv (in Western Ukraine) have been too expensive for many Ukrainians, due to inflation (rent has doubled or tripled since the war, etc.). A select number of people have returned to Kharkiv; the problem is there are no jobs and a limited amount of food and supplies. The returning residents are overwhelming the system within Kharkiv. At the moment, there isn’t enough food to feed everyone, according to one of our partners.
2. Some people came back for a short period of time, just to turn around and leave again, because they realized that the missiles are still raining down upon the city and they don’t feel safe.
Our Ministry Update
This week, I want to concentrate on something tangible – how some of your gifts are being used beyond food, supplies and medicine. For example, two of our ministry partners have bought power generators! What are the generators being used for?
In Kyiv, one of the pastor’s we are helping financially, has bought a power generator, so their church can go across the Kyiv region and share the Good News of Jesus Christ during evangelism meetings/events. They use the generator to plug in their microphones, speakers, and proclaim the Word of God to those who desperately need the Lord. They also offer the residents of each area an opportunity to plug in their cell phones so they can stay in contact with others, because some areas they visit are without electricity.
In our city of Kharkiv, pastor Vlad Kalin of New Life Church bought a power generator and night vision glasses for the Ukrainian military. The generator is so the Ukrainian military can energize their cell phones and walkie talkies on the front lines of the war, so they can remain in constant communication with each other. Pastor Vlad also bought the Ukrainian army night vision glasses to see at night, because the Ukrainian army is desperate for these types of supplies, including the need for medical help.
The news is similar with each of our ministry partners – the churches continue to buy food, distribute humanitarian aid from large NGO’s, and church volunteers are used as drivers, distributers, and organizers, within their makeshift distribution centers/churches.
Please continue to pray for our family in Ukraine, all of our ministry partners and their volunteers, and Ukraine as a whole. If you would consider becoming a regular/recurring donor you will really help us budget for the needs long-term.
If you would be willing to advocate to your church on our behalf, I would enjoy speaking with your pastor and see if he is open to me sharing about the war and our efforts to help. Here is our link if you would like to continue financially supporting our ministry efforts in and around Kharkiv, Kyiv, and those refugees we are supporting in Poland, Germany, Spain, and orphans in Romania that are from Ukraine: slavicchristian.org/donate.
I have included a few ministry photos below. God bless you in every way; thank you again for your prayers and support!