Evangelistic Bible Study in a Ukrainian Village
UKRAINE—A car showed up at the clinic in New Kubanka from a village I had never heard of--Shamanovka. In Ukraine it is a big deal for villagers to travel between villages, having to hire a car. These people expressed such urgency in their request for me to go see some patients in their village who have no access to health care. They had heard about the free clinics from relatives. Pastor Lonya and I set out over the tractor tracks through the fields, searching for this village with no road signs. I was amazed that Lonya found it! This was one of the poorest neediest villages I had seen. Lonya agreed instantly to their request to start a monthly clinic, which is very unusual for this analytical man. I have had many requests from other villages for medical help. Developing relationships with Ukrainians takes a long time, and their decision to abandon their traditional Orthodox religion of works for a biblical view of salvation takes much longer.
One of my first patients there was a young man asking for help to quit drinking. Alcoholism is rampant in these villages who are expert in producing their own wine and vodka, the medium of exchange for people with little cash. Sasha was very friendly and eagerly agreed to talk to Lonya about spiritual answers to his problem, a rare occurrence. His mother Maria was suspicious of this American venture and asserted her commitment to Orthodoxy the first time I saw her as a patient. His wife Natasha was very pleased with my medical treatment of her young children. His brother Roma suffered from psychiatric problems after seeing their alcoholic father commit suicide 5 years earlier. Surprisingly, in just a few months they all agreed to participate in a Bible Study!
Our ABWE team had just completed the first draft of the Russian translation of The Story of Hope, and Pastor Lonya and I were slated to do the field test of this translation. Even though this family had grown up in the Russian Orthodox Church, they had no idea of what the Bible really taught, having never read it for themselves. They were soon caught up in the story of Creation, the Fall, and further events in the OT that they had never heard of before! They were fascinated by God's love for individuals and the fact that He revealed Himself to us in His Word.
Various villagers came and went during the months of weekly Bible studies, but the core group of four were faithful. When we came to the last lesson and asked for their response, all four wanted to pray to trust Jesus Christ as their personal Savior! This is unheard of in this culture! Maria prayed, "Thank You, Lord, for sending Lonya and Miriam to open our eyes to The Truth". Amen! They wanted more so we studied "The Way to Joy" and "Won by One". the next winter, when we could not get through on the awful roads often, Sasha taught The Story of Hope to his sister and brother-in-law, and they both repented!