A Report from OCI/ASI Ministries in Ukraine, by Naomi Jackson
Adversity brings out the best and worst in people. Since November 2013, a crisis has been brewing in Eastern Europe. Ukraine in particular has been ripped apart by conflict.
ASI member, Outpost Centers International (OCI), is headquartered a world away in Tennessee. From there it assists its family of supporting ministries around the world. And though it is far from the current unrest, four OCI/ASI member organizations are located in war-torn Ukraine.
Our Home Lifestyle Center and School, Ukraine’s flagship institution for supporting ministry, is located in the west, some distance from the combat zone. Though it continues to function, the lifestyle center has taken a strong financial blow.
Zuevka, a smaller health ministry located in the heart of the eastern war zone has suffered extensive structural damage to their facilities. Its director lost a family member in the violence. The turmoil so close at hand has forced them to close the center and relocate to Russia, where the team hopes to continue their mission work.
But in the midst of a dangerous situation, hope flourishes . Two other ministries located in the east and south are rising above these hardships with God’s intervention.
New Life Health Center was the first Adventist wellness center established after the fall of the former Soviet Union. It acquired a diverse clientele from Russia, Belarus, Moldova, Germany, and Israel, as well as Ukraine. But as political instability rocked the country, their lifestyle guest attendance drastically decreased. Not to be discouraged, the team saw this as an opportunity to work with a different demographic—refugees.
New Life began welcoming refugees headed south, fleeing the eastern region of Ukraine. In August a family of four from Donetsk participated in the New Life rehabilitation program, also taking time to attend the campus church. The family continues to worship with Adventists on Sabbath. The next month a group of 15 refugees took part in an 11-day lifestyle program at New Life. Church members and aid workers from Adventist Development and Relief Agency (ADRA) reached out to the refugees after they completed the program, and many are currently receiving Bible studies. Eventually, a refugee family from Lugansk joined the New Life staff.
As New Life’s team presses together in these difficult times, they have found a new sense of unity. They have not only become a home for displaced people, they have grown into a tight knit family of faith as they minister through health evangelism.
Change of Plans
Aidar Lifestyle Center has been under construction in the Lugansk region since 2008. Beginning with two outpatient clinics and a health club, they also conducted health camps and offered medical missionary training throughout the year. In addition, the team provided health education in local churches.
Through all their activities, the team at Aidar had a bigger goal: to open a lifestyle center. Finally a date was set and excitement rose as June 1, 2014, approached. But the anticipated moment never came. Opening day was replaced by war.
Aidar was faced with an unexpected change of plans. Lack of finances, limitations in transportation, and artillery fire forced them to rethink their strategy. Both clinics had to close, while the health club and health expos became impossible to conduct. Traveling was a challenge and organizing any kind of public meeting posed a potential threat to hosts and participants. But the team didn’t skip a beat as God led them in a different direction.
Aidar’s staff put their energy to good use by teaming up with ADRA to serve the needs of the poor and destitute in their war-torn area. Despite rugged terrain and thick forests, they have distributed more than 2,000 boxes of food, clothing, and Christian literature. Not even gunfire overhead deters these intrepid missionaries. As they faithfully go about their work, the Holy Spirit weaves His way into the hearts of their neighbors.
Despite the war God’s work in Ukraine carries on. These OCI ministries have learned that they “do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places” (Ephesians 6:12).
Human beings may not have control over regional politics, but God has equipped His missionaries in Ukraine with His armor to fight the spiritual adversity around them. Funds are scarce, and workers are facing a frigid winter without their usual resources of coal or natural gas. Yet daily they are being given divine strength to keep up the fight.