Why is it so hard to understand the sufferings of others, until we see them up close?
What a gift I was given yesterday, when Sergey Gladischko from the politically-stressed region of Ukraine, visited our small church.
Rob Schneider, our Missions director, had invited Sergey several months ago, not realizing the upheaval his country would soon be facing. Thankfully, he made it to our little, mountain town in California and shared a powerful message of his struggle and his faith!
Let me just say: While America is far from perfect, we are blessed beyond measure to live here.
Sergey was the eldest of seven children, born in 1962 to parents who believed in Jesus Christ. He was raised the Zhitomir region of the Ukraine during a time of communism. It was forbidden to attend church services, but his parents took him anyway.
When the principal of his school found out that Sergey was attending church, he threatened to deprive his parents of their parental rights if they continued to attend. Fearful, Sergey’s mom and dad ceased their church visits.
Despite the threats, young Sergey refused to abide by the rules. Somehow, he managed to find a way to attend services, even though the closest church was over six miles from his home. Because of similar threats that other families had received, Sergey was the ONLY child in attendance.
In 1998, Sergey joined the Slavic Gospel Association (SGA) ministry (https://www.sga.org/). That’s how Stallion Springs Community Church (SSCC) came to know him. Through missions outreach, we met Sergey while he was helping to coordinate SGA ministries throughout Ukraine, plant churches, distribute humanitarian aid, and more.
Yesterday, when I heard Sergey speak of the current unrest in his country, my heart ached. I wanted to jump from my seat and join the revolution. Do something … do anything!
The Ukraine is a country with strong people, but they are facing a giant. The Russian army is a commanding force; however, they’ve yet to subdue the courageous people who want desperately, to experience a United States and European-like democratic government.
The Ukrainian citizens are fighting … and dying … for the cause.
Sergey showed videos of himself attending heartbreaking street funerals only three weeks ago. It was painful to see the images of mothers sobbing, while family members carried the motionless bodies of their children. Beside them, friends marched with painful expressions, boldly clutching their country’s flag.
In addition to the funeral clips, the video revealed Sergey visiting the home of the former Ukrainian president. Hundreds of bullet-proof cars lined a thirty-five mile wide property, a troubling sign of a leader, living in lavish luxury while his people hungered for a voice.
As he closed, Sergey reminded us of Proverbs 11:28: “Those who trust in their riches will fall, but the righteous will thrive like a green leaf.”
Until Jesus returns, our world will not know peace, but I pray that God’s comfort and courage will surround His people and that we will not forgot our brothers and sisters who are suffering.