UPDATE 8/10/2014: Sasha Kolbzev has been released and is among the refugees living in the church’s building in Mariupol.
As most are probably aware, since late February there has been a great deal of turmoil in southeastern Ukraine. Beginning with the Russian annexation of Crimea and then progressing to the formation of the People’s Republics of Donetsk and Lugansk the citizens and Christians of this part of Ukraine have endured a lot. These conditions have had an effect on SIBI’s associate school in Donetsk.
The war in Ukraine with its unstable and dangerous conditions forced us to close down UBI two weeks earlier than normal. This also caused us to have to cancel the graduation ceremonies. Jay Don and Mary Lee Rogers (Jay Don is the director of the school) left Donetsk the middle of May. Because flights had been canceled out of Donetsk, they had to fly out of Dnipropetrovs’k’k. They are presently in Canada doing what they can to keep up with the staff, students and multiple needs. It was very hard to make the decision to leave but the Rogers knew that their presence might put the UBI staff and neighbors in danger. There was a lot of anti-American propaganda being put out by the Russian separatists.
The original desire was to go ahead and finish the term and have graduation in August but as most of you know, right now Donetsk is one of the hot spots where heavy fighting is taking place. At this point we are working on several possibilities for the restart of UBI.
- Wait until the fighting is over and begin from that point. In the mean time we would continue to provide some support for our students as many of them are really making a difference working in the lives of people who have had to escape the fighting in the Donetsk and Lugansk regions.
- Begin the school temporarily in a different location. We are looking at the possibilities in Dnipropetrovs’k’k and Mariupol. It would involve renting some additional housing for students and staff and thus it would also involve some additional funding. If this cannot be done satisfactorily then we might have to wait to open in Donetsk as soon as it is safe.
Our hope is that the fighting will end soon with peace as the victor. Satan certainly reared his ugly head in trying to stop the spread of the Gospel in an area of Ukraine where so much good has been done. Of course our brothers and sisters there continue to keep the faith and spread the Word in spite of what is happening. The separatists are against the freedom of Religion, holding that the only true church is the Russian Orthodox Church. Because of this a number of terrible things have been happening:
- Several denominational preachers have been taken and killed by the Separatists. Bodies of some of those have just been exhumed from a mass grave in Slavyansk since the Ukrainian Army has taken over. The bodies have been identified and they are preparing them for a proper burial. We have even known of Ukrainian Orthodox priests who have gone missing.
- Two church of Christ buildings have been taken over by the Separatists in Gorlovka. These churches are now meeting in homes.
- One of the preachers for the Church of Christ in Donetsk, Sasha Kolbzev, was taken by the separatists. Sasha has a wife and 4 children. His wife Svyeta was a translator at UBI for several years. We do not know where or how he is. We have word that people are trying to secure his release. Please pray for Sasha and his family. UPDATE 8/10/2014: Sasha Kolbzev has been released and is among the refugees living in the church’s building in Mariupol.
- Real attacks are going on around the city of Donetsk, even downtown. Galina from the Budjonovsky congregation was almost killed by a shell splinter. Shahterske, which is very close to Kirovskoy where Sasha Maluga has been staying, has seen some very pitched battles. Natasha Maluga, Jay Don’s assistant at UBI, is safely near Kiev with her two daughters. Other staff members have arrived in safe cities as well.
- In Donetsk, Sergei Saenko, one of our UBI graduates, organizes transportation for people. Many people from Donetsk and Gorlovka continue to be evacuated; about 300 from Gorlovka on 10 buses were exported to Iziom, Slavyanogorsk, and Krasnoarmejsk to centers for refugees. Just across the area from the terrorists, our brothers in passenger cars are carrying people out of the hottest spots. Every day from 4 am they receive no less than 1000 phone calls for help.
- A number of our graduates in several cities are helping people who have been displaced because of the war. The church in Mariupol, where Alexander and Ira Piletsky (UBI graduates) serve, is presently housing almost 60 people. The church in Zaparozhya, where Yura and Julia Taran (UBI students) serve are daily seeking out and helping people who have been displaced. And there are many more that are helping. We are so proud and thankful for these brothers and sisters who care so much.
- Alexander Maluga and Dimitry Greschuk, our two Ukrainian teachers at UBI have been going out of their way to provide help to those in need. Church members, orphans, the needy and distressed are being helped with food and care. It is really amazing the influence that UBI has had and continues to have on this region.
- UPDATE 8/5/2014: We got just received word that Sasha Kobzev is alive, but is in captivity. He managed to call his wife and said: "I'm alive, do not return to Donetsk." She and her family will be taken care of by the church in Mariupol.
- UPDATE 8/5/2014: Another UBI graduate, Eugene Frantsuk, was abducted today. No one knows where he is.
People are frequently calling and asking how things are in Ukraine and asking what they can do. Here are some things each one of you can do.
- Pray fervently about the brethren in Ukraine along with Christians all over the world who are being persecuted and killed.
- Help with finances to provide for the orphans, widows, the needy, and brothers and sisters in Christ who have losses because of the war.
- Help with finances to provide for the continued spread of the Gospel and work of UBI. We will be incurring additional expense due to the war.
- Pray also for wisdom for the Rogers and our staff in making decisions about when to go back in and where to continue with preacher and teacher training.
If you wish to help and the funds are for UBI, or to help staff and students, the funds can be sent to Sunset:
Sunset International Bible Institute (for UBI)
3723 34th Street
Lubbock Texas 79410
If you choose to help with funds and they are for benevolence purposes, send the funds to:
Pheasant Run Church of Christ
P. O. Box 872953
Vancouver WA 98687
Information provided by Jay Don Rogers, Director of the Ukrainian Bible Institute