God at Work in Ukraine
Storylines // Michelle Velberg
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On a blistering cold night, Ivan*, a volunteer with Athletes in Action®, sat in a dark alleyway in Ukraine, on a journey that only God could have led. As he watched a large, bearded man approach his Volkswagen minivan, Ivan cautiously rolled down his window. His apprehension melted into a smile once he heard the greeting, “Peace be with you!”
This exchange with the pastor of a local church not only confirmed where Ivan would sleep that night, it also opened the door for Ivan to deliver food to hundreds of hungry people.
In partnership with Andrey, an Athletes in Action® staff member in Ukraine, Ivan has coordinated humanitarian aid drop offs to Kharkiv, in northeastern Ukraine. Ivan and his brothers frequently drove the route from their home in central Ukraine, while Andrey supplied him with food, medical supplies and vans.
One day, as Ivan made the journey to Kharkiv, he was stopped by a mother of three small children who had run out of food. Upon hearing this, Ivan hurried to gather supplies and return to help her.
With warm food and bottled medicine clanging around in his trunk, Ivan sped until his very last checkpoint. A mere 87 yards (80 meters) from the destination, he was stopped due to a curfew and told to return in the morning.
“I was outraged, honestly.” Ivan said. “I’ve driven this route countless times. I began asking God why this was happening when there was a family in need.”
Within minutes, a policeman showed up offering to help. He led Ivan’s van down a dimly lit backstreet and instructed him to wait. All of a sudden, a pastor of a local church appeared at Ivan’s window.
Before Ivan could speak, the man greeted him warmly. “I was literally just on my knees praying for you, and here you are!” he said.
"i was literally just on my knees praying for you, and here you are!"
Smiling broadly, the pastor continued, “You are going to Kharkiv, and today we baked 200 loaves of bread with our church for people who are starving there. But we can’t take them because our church car broke down. So, we prayed that God would send us a person who could take bread there.”
Ivan was shocked by God’s care for the details. His minivan contained space for exactly 200 loaves of bread. Following this encounter, Ivan returned several more times to deliver supplies from the church to people in need.
“When the war started, my family prayed about whether we should leave, and God made it clear that we should stay and serve the Ukrainian people. Our garage has become a humanitarian warehouse, and we frequently give out gospel tracts with our food and supplies,” Ivan said. “These trips to Kharkiv are indeed evidence of God’s faithfulness, strength and mercy, and my heart can’t help but be filled with gladness.”
God knows the needs of the Ukrainian people and is working through faithful people like Ivan to bring His provision. Please continue to pray for his trips, as well as his family’s safety during this time.
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*Name changed for security reason