May31ThuMay 31, 2018
As you come out of the airport in Kiev, Ukraine, the first thing you notice is a sidewalk going nowhere. It doesn’t make sense. The airport is new and modern, but you walk out into a large uncompleted complex. You can’t help but wonder what happened. Why in a modern country like Ukraine is this huge building not completed? The answer is simple: war.
The eastern part of the Ukraine has been occupied by non-Ukraine forces. This has forced the government to put resources into the military and not into development of the country’s infrastructure. However, once you leave the airport, you would not know that this country is occupied. Kiev is a modern city; the roads are in good shape; people are walking the streets; you don’t see military on the streets, but the fact is that this situation affects the day-to-day life of many Ukrainians. On the way to the airport we saw tanks driving by. Our taxi driver told me that when there are tanks, you know someone has died. This is hard to see.
The city of Kiev has many churches. There are many steeples, and many of them are covered with a metal that makes them look like they are covered in gold. If you simply based your assessment of where the country is spiritually on all the churches, you might question why it is so important for TWR to have a presence in the Ukraine. The fact is that while many people claim to be Christians, they are Christian by birth. The majority never darken the doors of these churches and most have no connection with the church.
Radio has been a tool to reach this country for over 40 years. Alex, our leader in the Ukraine, shared how his father listened to the programs and was so encouraged by them that he recorded them on a reel-to-reel machine so he could listen to them not just once, but many times. This also allowed him to share them with his friends and family. Today, we use media players and SD cards to do the same thing. When people are impacted by programs like Thru the Bible, they want to share it with others. Media players and SD cards make this easy to do.
However, our radio programs still play a vital role in sharing the gospel. They told us a story of a lady our workers went to visit. This lady lives in the area where the country is occupied, and at the time of the visit, there was shelling going on. The workers were nervous, but the lady was preoccupied. She said, “The programs are coming on from the medium wave broadcast; please be quiet while I listen to the programs.” What a testimony to hear! In the midst of war, this lady had one focus, and it was not on the battle that was happening all around her. Her focus was on hearing the teaching of the word of God!
The team in the Ukraine is not just reaching out through radio broadcasts. They are using today’s technology to share a message a hope. They produce programs specifically for the soldiers who face potential death on a daily basis. Often these soldiers have not heard the message of hope, and it’s easy to lose hope as they live and face the dark realities of war. TWR Ukraine has come alongside these soldiers and is interacting with them regularly. In order to allow them to listen to encouraging messages, they put programs on media players, and our worker from the region hands them out right at the front. The soldiers are getting great encouragement from the messages on these simple devices. This ministry is coordinated with the military chaplains who serve alongside the soldiers, and every month more requests come for additional players.
In many countries in this region, there is a group of forgotten people. In the Ukraine, it’s the Roma people. They are considered an unreached people group and don’t have a good reputation in any country. In fact, they are despised group. If you ask a Roma what they do for a living, I am told they will say they are thieves; they live to steal. For this reason, not many want to be involved with them. Scripture tells us that God loves all people, even thieves. The team in Ukraine realizes this and has begun a ministry to them. We are producing radio programs and partner with a Ukraine missionary working with the group. Most Roma people don’t have radios so they are using media players to share the gospel with them. We put Roma music on the players; if we didn’t, they would sell them. Along with the music, we include the gospel message. This is working effectively. They aren’t selling the players, and a handful have come to Christ. For a Roma to make this commitment is huge. They will have to change their whole way of life, so they need to be supported once they accept Christ. Slowly we are having an impact. God is changing the hearts of people who many have written off.
It is wonderful that TWR Canada has a small part in bringing the gospel to the soldiers on the eastern front and to the Roma people as we partner with TWR Ukraine. We are thankful for our partnership in the Ukraine and commit to praying for this nation.