ADMIN: From Bob Burnham, MTW Odesa Team Leader based now in Brasov, Romania. This post is from Bob’s newsletter which describes their life and ministry – an informative update.
our Blessings God’s Miracles!
Some of what we’ve witnessed were blessings not readily apparent, but in more ways than we can detail in one newsletter, God’s miraculous plan is taking shape.
Happy Thanksgiving everyone! We hope you had a wonderful time with family and loved ones during the long weekend, and gave thanks to our incredibly good and loving Father. We’re feeling particularly ‘pilgrimy’ this week as we look back on how God has provided for us through difficulties and uncertainty, again and again, over this last year. We’re still displaced, along with millions of others, but like the children of Israel, we have seen how God has walked alongside us each step of the way, and we sense His loving presence in our midst.
Of course, as we sit safely in a warm, clean apartment together, enjoying delicious food and playing games for Thanksgiving, we’re filled with mixed emotions. Teammate Lauren (wearing lime green in the group photo) feels keenly disconnected from her family in Belgorod-Dnestrovsky (in August she married Vanya, a Ukrainian man from the B-D church, serving in the army). [Her story: https://vimeo.com/771776059] Just a 10-hour drive away from us, our Ukrainian pastors, neighbors and friends are facing several days without running water, electricity and heat. Even Ukrainian students living here in Romania continue to have their online classes interrupted or cancelled because teachers in Ukraine have lost power and internet connection. Though Ukrainians keep their sense of humor by referring to their dark cities 3 days ago as “Black Friday: Ukraine Edition,” the suffering is acute.
Air raid sirens, which warn citizens to go to bomb shelters, grew constant these last weeks as Russia sent hundreds of missiles throughout the country while their troops were being pushed out of southern cities. But with almost 40% of Ukraine’s power grid now damaged, sirens have gone silent in some places, increasing civilian risk and loss. Many fathers, husbands, brothers and sons are injured or dying defending Ukraine’s freedom. Our churches are working non-stop to minister to the basic needs of their congregation members still residing in Ukraine. Just yesterday morning we saw the following message from our pastor in north Odessa on the Covenant of Grace church group chat:
“Good morning everyone)) Let the ‘rashists’* not think that they can break us. The generator in the church is working. You can come to charge your phones and work, whoever needs the Internet. Glory to God and success to our heroes on different fronts!” (Pastor George Kadyan, Kotovskova)
*a word combining “russian” and “fascist,” used to describe those who are attacking Ukraine
For 2-3 days, about 10 million Ukrainians have been without electricity and water in Odessa, L’viv and Kyiv (along with 7 other big cities), and two nuclear reactors were shut down as a result of continuous shelling by Russia on Ukrainian infrastructure. Government authorities have requested any that are able to leave for the winter, to do so in order to lessen the strain on the power grid. This is especially recommended for those in Mykolaiv and recently liberated Kherson (praise God!), because of the severe damage they’ve incurred. Likely their public services won’t be fully repaired until Spring. Please pray for Ukrainians who face dropping temperatures and a long winter with no heat, and for some, no homes!
Because of this we’re preparing to receive more displaced people here in Brasov. By God’s gracewe have a welcoming community of believers, established Sunday worship services in their language, connections throughout the city, and resources at the ready to receive those who will come our way.
We’re able to do these things because of your overwhelming generosity to us – thank you!! All financial gifts we receive go toward meeting the needs of those who have come seeking shelter, and we have been able to take literal tons of humanitarian aid back into Ukraine – including generators, heaters, warm clothing, food, hygiene supplies, solar chargers, and more that is critical, as the winter grows colder.
UPDATE: Yesterday (Saturday) Andrea and I finished up last minute details for me to take a full cargo van into Ukraine with much needed equipment, warm coats, thermal underwear and non-perishable supplies. There’s fresh snow in the mountains I’ll be driving through, so please pray for travel safety.
There are only 3 seats in this van and they’re filled; I’ll be traveling with an older Ukrainian women whose son was fighting on the front and was badly injured and taken to a hospital in Odessa. She will visit him and his teenage daughter who is alone while her mom is working in Germany to make ends meet. The 3rd seat will be taken by a 16 yr old boy going to say his goodbyes to his dad serving in the war effort, before flying to California to attend his last 3 years of high school on a full-ride scholarship at a private Christian boarding school!
These are just two examples from families in our community, who know that God is real and at work in their lives: God has spared this soldier’s life from particularly grievous injuriesand provided, against the odds, for this young man to gain an incredible educational opportunity – we are in awe of His power and thankful for His tender mercies to our Ukrainian brothers and sisters.
The trips to Ukraine have been testimonies of God’s miraculous protection:
On a recent trip, our loaded down, borrowed, 3.5 ton van performed perfectly through thousands of kilometers of potentially hazardous and out of the way regions, ferry crossings and mountain roads. Once back in Brasov, our teammate David had finished delivering personal items to our community (sent from their families in Ukraine), and was driving the van through a bus station parking lot when it lost power and coasted to a stop. Why? The timing belt broke! It would have been disastrous for that to have happened any earlier, but it stopped just a few kilometers from David’s home, conveniently at his nearby bus-stop!
I’ve also made multiple trips to Ukraine in our personal car and it has served well, allowing me to carry heavy loads of goods in and then getting me (and others) back with items from Ukraine, despite a finicky starter…. But last week I had my mechanic check out a strange, new clicking noise and found that my pistons were shot and will require 2 weeks to repair!
At any point the van and car could have left us stranded, but our “guardian mechanics” were apparently flying alongside us holding it all together until we got home. The van is running fine now and I’ll make another trip to Ukraine this week (while my car is being fixed).
***The best miracle: God’s power to renew human hearts! ***
Starting in March, Andrea, with the help of teammate Lauren, and more recently, Jill, has facilitated a weekly Bible study here in Brasov for Ukrainian ladies. Since summer, they have been gaining skills in how to study and interpret God’s Word while reading the parables of Jesus, and each topic leads to lively discussions and sweet fellowship between those who are already believers and those who are still seeking God.
Last month, two of these women asked Jesus to forgive their sins and self-centeredness and prayed right there during Bible study tosubmit their lives to Him as Savior and Lord!One of these women, Nastya, had just recently started to attend and is in Brasov with her husband (also interested in studying the Bible) and two younger children. The other, Lena, has been involved with our evangelistic English club since 2019, and has been a closer friend since 2021, but especially close since evacuating from Odessa to our same Brasov apartment building in March! Many of you have prayed for her through the years. We are overjoyed to witness the fruit of the Spirit taking shape in Lena’s life, and are watching how her pursuit of God also encourages her daughter and mother – both who have been continuing to attend Bible study and church each week. We love the whole family!
We fervently pray that, in the midst of this tragic earthly war, Jesus would reign victorious in the hearts of all these Ukrainian refugees, who, having been freed from their sins and trusting Him, become new citizens of His glorious kingdom & members of His family, knowing God’s truth and love, for all eternity. Changed hearts are always a miracle of God – and for this we humbly give Him all the praise! Please pray for a continued movement of God’s Spirit among our Ukrainian community.
We marvel at God’s timing and provision through our supporting churches. Oncologist Don Townsend, and his wife, Jenny, from Christ Church, Evans GA, traveled here in mid-October to help us reach a new sector of displaced Ukrainians at the government run refugee center (and even the Roma community) through free medical care and trauma counseling.
A group from our home church, Restoration Pres. (Lawrenceville, GA) is planning a trip to Brasov in 2023, to help our Ukraine and Romania MTW teams with an Easter outreach.