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A Story of Thanksgiving from Ukraine

November 30, 2016

In 2004 Alexander B. took the Basic Leadership Training Seminar (BLTS) in Donetsk, Ukraine. (Since 2014, a part of the self-declared People’s Republic of Donetsk is now located in the midst of the zone of conflict.) He followed with Financial Freedom in 2010 and Foundations of Marriage in 2012. Along with his wife and extended family, he lived in close proximity to the Donetsk International Airport where the fiercest fighting was taking place.

In May 2014, shelling began. Just prior to that he had been teaching a seminar in his home church. When they heard explosions, the family retreated into the basement along with an 80 year old woman for whom they were caring. In the morning they discovered shells in the garden and their gate pitted with bullet holes. Within hours they packed and left for a village where relatives were living, about 30 kilometers away. They managed to salvage the Finance and Marriage notes, but seminar materials were lost.

Alexander’s family spent 6 months during the fall and winter in the village teaching small group seminars. In January 2015, reports surfaced that the military was advancing. At 6:00 p.m. the family made a decision to leave. They packed overnight and left in the early hours of the morning without knowing where they were going. But God knew. While leaving the village, a call from their Oblast pastor directed them to a city where they would be welcomed and able to stay.

For ten months Alexander was without a job until he was able to get work as an accountant. In the meantime, brothers and sisters in Christ were able to help provide support. In February 2015, he was received by a 600 member congregation and by April began to teach a seminar there. At first his pastor was suspicious of anything originating in America. But after a few sessions, he said, “Your arrival has been an answer to prayer. It has awakened the congregation.” Then, in the spring of this year, he was invited to teach Financial Freedom and this fall he will teach the Marriage course.

Earlier this year (2016), Alexander returned to Donetsk to see his home. He found it completely destroyed. “I was so discouraged and can’t describe the sickening feeling I experienced inside,” he said. “How could this happen?” In Donetsk which once was a prosperous big city, fear had set in. People were not talking to one another. Authority was now in the hands of militants. The people had been deceived; promises were unfulfilled. The expectation had been that Russia would absorb them as they had Crimea and that things would somehow be better for them. Now there was no future, no vision, and no order.

Alexander was able to find a friend who was also a lawyer and fellow seminar participant. In their short conversation, Alexander’s friend—who was still living in Donetsk—commented, “The conflict taught me one thing—not to be entangled with temporal things. One day we had a yard and a garden, the next day nothing. It took us by total surprise.”

Alexander was asked, “How have these events changed you?” He shared, “It has taught me how to serve the Lord and how to teach others how to serve the Lord. During this time, I discovered that a teaching ministry was to be the priority for my life. Nothing other than the Scriptures provide a more fundamental base for practical Christian living.”

He summed up with, “We are grateful to God for our lives, for our family which is still together, for enough work to put bread on the table, and for the ministry God has given us.”

Despite the incredible loss, this testimony bears witness to a life of contentment and commitment. Paul tells us that, “I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am. I know how to get along with humble means and I also know how to live in prosperity; in any and every circumstance I have learned the secret of being filled and going hungry, both of having abundance and suffering need. I can do all things through Him (Christ) who strengthens me.”

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