Heroes of our time. A story of a missionary from Avdiyivka
How does it feel - to abandon ambitions or favorite work and go to the east of Ukraine, in the thick of war at the age of 20-22?
Four young men found themselves in the front line Avdiyivka not as volunteers, but were rather mobilized. More precisely, these four are the volunteers of spiritual mobilization, because they are Christians and missionaries.
Two girls - Maria from Sviatohorsk and Tanya from Ternopil, and two Sashas – from Crimea and Donetsk in Krasnogorovka – serve in Avdiyivka as missionaries of the Evangelical Church “Good News.”
From the age of 15, now 23-year-old Alexander Postnikov has been trying to understand his calling. At the age of 16 he already wanted to become a missionary in Africa. But his mission was in eastern Ukraine. In a simple and non-pathetic manner, the boy tells about his life in the frontline city and how God has saved him from death already twice.
"The night of January 31, 2017 will be remembered for long. There was similar shelling last time in August 2015. The shells hit very close, very close. But people hoped that in a day or two everything will go as usual. Nobody expected that the shells will fall right in the middle of the city.
On the morning of January, 31, as always, people came to pray in our missionary center. The city s still had electricity, everyone was walking along the streets, shops worked.
The people removed their power generators after the attacks in August 2015. People were hoping that the shelling would not recur. Therefore, when the city lights disappeared, all stores were immediately closed. And then the fear stirred the hearts of Avdiyivka residents.
The coke plant could stop and leave the city without heating. It means, without life.
On the verge of a humanitarian catastrophe we had regular meetings with the governor. The supervisor of our missionary center, Gennady Lysenko attended each of these meetings. After all, except that he is a military chaplain and our supervisor, he is also an employee of the Ministry of Defense.
Together with the guys I was waiting for Gennady after the very first meeting. The further steps of our missionary team depended on him.
For all those days when the city had no light, heat and water, our plans we made in the evening were adjusted in the morning of the day to come. We had to meet volunteers at checkpoints, take out people who agreed to evacuate. We acted in accordance with the existing situation.
Only now that the shells do not fire across the city, we can easily plan our daily work – visiting people who need assistance, distribute of warm clothes, diapers and hygiene products, conduct religious activities and clubs for children and adolescents.
How it all began
Our church in Crimea is a missionary church, and I constantly heard sermons about vocation. And, accordingly, I asked God who am I and why am I here?
I remember writing letters to Gennady Mokhnenko and three more pastors: “Take me with you to Africa.” But everywhere we needed money for a missionary trip. Where can a university student get it? Parents do not understand, why spend $ 1000 for a life-threatening trip?
At the age 17, I took fasting for the people in Africa. In the evening after the prayer I went online and saw a movie about the tortures of Christians. Inside myself I heard the question: “Are you ready?” And I realized that I was not ready ...
And then I realized that God puts desires in one’s heart, but one needs to get ready. And in three years the situation in my country changed.
When the war burst out in eastern Ukraine, like many fellow missionaries I felt my Africa was in Donbas, first it was Slovyansk then Mironovskiy village, now - Avdiyivka.
When I arrived in 2014 to rebuild the broken shelter “Sails of Hope” in Slovyansk, I realized that after the construction was over I should remain in the east. I did not know what I would do, how it will be. I knew only one thing – it was my place of ministry.
A trip to the frontline in Krasnogorivka changed my life. I saw 150 people waiting for several hours for a car with bread. Amid shots the women are pushing each other to get closed the coveted loaf. Despair and hopelessness ...
I wanted to stay there to help, but did not have the resources. But after 10 days I was offered to work with children in front-line cities. God has provided both housing and food. And so my missionary journey began.
Frankly, I did not plan to stay here even for two months. But God still gives the desire to live and serve in front-line city. The third year has started ...
During these two years I was repeatedly called back home in Crimea and offered a good job.
Very often it was the time when I was treated for several months and was far from the missionary center. On the one hand, I lost the habit of mission and adjusted myself to the pace of life of the city, but on the other hand, I looked into my heart, investigated my wishes and clearly understood that God calls me here.
Missionaries have hard-working angels
One day in August 2015, I and Sasha Pomazanov were cycling around Avdiyivka. We had to take a turn at the Orthodox church to a street we needed. I went first and suddenly offered Sasha to take an earlier turn. So I felt.
When we found ourselves behind that famous nine-storey building, the shells were already falling in front of it on the road. So, if we continued moving as planned, we would have already been dead ...
At the beginning of February, I with Sasha got under shelling and witnessed the tragic death and injuries of the MOE employees. A woman from Avdiyivka died of wounds on the way to the hospital.
Again, for the second time God saved our lives - on the advice of my supervisor Gennady Lysenko I stopped our bus not nearby. As I was going to, but far away from the same car, which was shelled a few minutes later. And during the shelling we all fell to the ground. The fragments hit our bus.
They say that in these moments man reappraises his values. Maybe ... You know that at any moment life can end and you should be ready at any moment to appear before God.
We were sitting quietly in the bus and did not expect that the projectile will hit. Just opened the window. A driver from Mariupol simply brought the press, and he did not expect that he would remain sitting in the car without half skull ...
And there was fear of night attacks. Probably because subconsciously you feel the fear of sudden danger, which often comes in the night. You are afraid that suddenly a projectile comes, you will not have time to tuck yourself up.
I know this is a normal reaction of my mind and later this fear will go away.
My mother saw the video on Facebook, where they commented on that shelling, in which we were caught. Of course, she was worried a lot, but she knows that I am stubborn about my decision and she can only pray for me.
What inspires a missionary
During the shelling of Avdyiyvki the public service worked very well this time. Of course, they can provide evacuation, give a package of food, give some hot soup. And, in addition to all this, we can bring a living inspiring word of God in the life of a person and pray for them.
I was always inspired by my boys and girls in the missionary team. When it gets hard, I understand that they are not better. The hundred missionaries of the FrontLine, which serve across the front lines - from Luhansk to Mariupol, also experience difficulties.
It is mentally and physically hard for the missionaries, especially during intense shelling. But if I go to escape the fatigue, I will not be happier.
Every day in front-line villages people are dying - from shelling, from illness or old age. And we are the ones who can give them a chance before to get reconciled with God before dying.
I am inspired by the story of one of the thieves hanging with Jesus on the cross. When he recognized him as the Lord, that was enough to immediately get into the kingdom of God. Without baptism and communion.
A call from the one who has something to say
I know that there are people who would like to come as the missionaries to the east of Ukraine, but are still hesitant. If you have a desire in your heart, but there is fear, do not worry about the fear.
I and my friend Sasha Pomazanov wanted to be missionaries. Then it was Debaltseve, Uglegorsk. Being 10 kilometers from the epicenter of the fighting, of course we were afraid that there might be an offensive or another ‘kettle’. But we did not listen to fear but the desire that God has put in our hearts.
The war in Ukraine will not last forever. But this is the time when you serve people who find themselves in crisis. The war exhausted them, they cannot rely on anyone except God. It is very cool to comfort them, to teach to pray, just to stay beside in the moments of despair!
This is where your character and the attitude towards the people will change. 2-3 months or six months spent in front-line zone make a good contribution to the lives of those who desperately need help.
You will never regret for the lost time. But God rewards, blesses, saves and cares.
For three years I have become convinced that God keeps his missionaries safe. So he will also save you. Listen to your heart!