The explosions and gunfire are deafening, the streets littered with fragments of painted walls from kindergartens and schools. That is everyday life in eastern Ukraine. After three years of war in this region, the collapsed economy has left hundreds of thousands of people displaced, unemployed and unable to provide for themselves or their children. Many have been injured or killed, and the fighting goes on.
However, in the midst of the clamor of artillery, there are sounds of hope.
“I thought that there were no good people anymore,” says Nelya. “But then I saw these Christians going weekly to the frontlines of the war zone to help.” Nelya, along with her daughter and younger sister, began attending Bible studies at the church in Ocheretino because of the compassion and courage that they witnessed. Their gratitude is louder than any gunfire.
Sergei’s family was displaced by the war. When invited to a gathering of over a hundred Christians from six Ukrainian MB churches, he had not yet made a decision for Jesus. But he knew that these churches had been among the first to respond to the suffering in eastern Ukraine, providing food, clothing, medicine and the Gospel of peace. As he watched twelve others be baptized into this community of faith, his heart melted. “Here is water,” he said, “what can hinder me?” And Sergei was immediately baptized, with an explosion of rejoicing that would drown out any artillery.
Because hope is louder than war.
“Tonya came to us broken and defeated,” says Maxym Oliferovski, director of the New Hope Foundation in Zaporozhya and leader of MB Mission in Ukraine. “She had an abusive, alcoholic husband and two children with severe behavioral problems. She had no hope left.”
She came to the New Hope Center, which provides mentor-led group homes, family services and job training for at-risk orphans who age out of the state system. There, Tonya began to hope again. She and her family attended a summer camp for families in crisis, and together with her husband, Lesha, laughed for the first time in years, as their family won a prize in one of the games.
“It was a moment of victory,” says Tonya. “Not just for us as a family, but for everyone.”
In 2017, Maxym and his wife Anya spent three months in North America for a time of further resourcing and training with MB Mission. The ministry of New Hope Center continues, transforming social ethics and relational dynamics in families, teaching the vocational skills needed to thrive in the midst of chaos and celebrating the Prince of Peace.
“The center is a place where music is playing,” says Maxym, “And there is a sound of children’s laughter.” It does not sound anything like war inside those walls. It sounds like victory.