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Serving in a War Zone: Following the Call of God

War in Ukraine

On February 24, 2022, Pastor Sergey Eremin awoke at 1:30 a.m. with a deep heaviness in his spirit. He began to pray. Three hours later, still in fervent prayer and unable to sit still, he went for a walk outside.

“I could hear things going on,” he says. “The sky was filled with military aircraft. Ukraine was being hit with rockets. Thousands of planes were firing missiles.” Other than interrupted sleep, Pastor Sergey had no warning Ukraine was about to be invaded.

Roman Sobol, on the other hand, knew the invasion was coming. The day before, global worker Ed Dickson had called him with the news.

Sergey’s Story

In Poltava, eastern Ukraine, Sergey was 150 km from the frontline invasion in Kharkiv. Seeing the missiles fall, his first thought, as a father, was for his wife and daughter. As a pastor, his next thought was for the lives of the people in his church. At that moment, he was encouraged by Psalm 23. The Lord is my Shepherd; I shall not want. He knew God would guide him, telling him what to do.

The next day, Sergey sent his wife, daughter and parents to Poland. He opened his church in Poltava for refugees, soldiers and anyone who needed a place to stay. After stocking the basement with water, food and supplies, it became their bomb shelter.

Sergey Rescues Families

On the seventh day of the war, the road to Kharkiv was clear of landmines, so Sergey drove to the city to rescue his friend’s family. On the way back to Poltava, people stopped the car, begging for a ride out. He said, “The car is full,” but they did not care. So, he opened the trunk, and they climbed in without complaining.

From Poltava, he searched for shelter in safer areas of the country before moving people out of Ukraine. He started travelling every other day, bringing groceries to people’s homes and leaving with evacuees. Even though he had money from ERDO (Emergency Relief and Development Overseas) to buy food, it took time to find supplies. So, one day, Sergey would drive and distribute food, and the next day, he would scour the city for groceries.

Whatever the challenge, Sergey kept serving. He even started rescuing families from bomb shelters hours after their villages were liberated. As the days progressed, he heard story after story of shelters being bombed weeks or even hours after he’d evacuated hundreds of people.

Roman’s Story

The morning of the invasion, Roman and his wife, Daria, woke up to explosions. Daria said, “Can I wash my hair? I don’t know when I’ll be able to wash it again.” So, Daria washed her hair while Roman put their five-year-old son, Pavlo, in the car.

They left Kyiv and drove towards Poland, away from the invasion. At the border, men were not allowed to leave the country. Daria, heavily pregnant, crossed into Poland with Pavlo, leaving Roman behind in western Ukraine.

Roman Becomes a Humanitarian

Roman grew up active in a church where his father was an evangelist and pastor. He is famous in Ukraine, having played drums in a band that toured all over Europe. Roman would fly back to Ukraine mid-tour to serve on his church’s worship team. So, when he found himself in western Ukraine without his family, he couldn’t sit still.

He had some friends in Poland who asked how they could help. Roman replied that he would be sending people. He posted an update on Instagram, and messages flooded in from morning to evening. Roman gave out his phone number and started contacting people in trouble. But he soon realized his friends in Poland couldn’t take in any more refugees. He began talking to people all over western Ukraine through Instagram, seeing who could take in families. Roman then turned to his church contacts. He called seminaries, helping them convert into refugee centres. He was now arranging logistics for over 100 people a day.

At the same time, Roman went out with believers to nearby villages, bringing food, supplies and Bibles to homes. Often, he didn’t know what to say to people in difficult circumstances, but he found they were open to the gospel. Even when there were no more beds for people to sleep in, the phone calls kept coming. Then, God started working miracles. Roman would think of a need, and God would provide, responding to Roman’s thoughts.

They needed transportation and were given five buses. The buses ran 24 hours a day until there was no gas left. But God would meet each need. They would find gas and continue evacuating people to nearby countries. Funds from ERDO and Mission Global came in the same way. They would think about their next need, and Ed Dickson would call right on time, telling them he was sending resources.

Roman said, “This revolutionized the way I think about God and His genuine care for us—for our little thoughts and sometimes small needs, He is ready to answer everything.”

Still Serving

“To this day,” Sergey says, “we are still taking groceries and medicine to those people who live in areas where the fighting is taking place. The needs are just as great now as the day the war started. People have tears in their eyes every time I hand something out.”

Roman is also still helping churches in western Ukraine. He opened a soup kitchen in Kyiv in partnership with ERDO, where they give out meals and host Bible studies once a week for over 170 people. He is now reunited with Daria, Pavlo and their new baby and has become an army chaplain.

Roman says, “Thank you. The help that came was so important. We had enough energy and resources to help people for two weeks. ERDO allowed us to continue for a year and a half.” Thank you for giving toward ERDO’s efforts in Ukraine and helping our humanitarian partners like Roman and Sergey. Please continue giving to families impacted by the war in Ukraine through ERDO.

In the words of Sergey, “We can rest when the war is over.”

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This article was written by Alicia Kolenda, the Marketing & Communications Manager at ERDO. 

This article was originally appeared in the July/August/September 2023 issue of testimony/Enrich, a quarterly publication of The Pentecostal Assemblies of Canada. You can read testimony/Enrich online or subscribe to the print magazine.