“Comfort My people; tell them their warfare has ended” (Isaiah 40:1)
Dear Prayer Partner
This year, 2016, has been one of the most memorable and powerful years of my life! First the incredible National Day of Prayer in Kiev in June, then the miraculous event in Caesarea in September, which saw some of the most spectacular miracles of my life! Now my visit last weekend to Ukraine. It is one thing to pray for deliverance – and for the Russians to pull back, and for the bloodshed in East Ukraine to stop – from the comfort of, and surrounded by 6500 believers and all the Church leaders in Kiev – but what a challenge to actually go to the frontline, to preach the Gospel and pray with the people under shell fire!
Reaching Slovyansk late Friday, we left the hotel at 7.30 am Saturday, to spend 14 hours in active ministry where the action is! We travelled in a two car convoy, the front one a Russian Lada totally filled with bread; myself and four others in an antique Ford Transit filled with heavy parcels of food and bottled water. We drove through numerous checkpoints, past troops and guns to our first stop. The war has cut the small town in two, most residents have fled, either to the Russian or to the Ukrainian side, but approximately 500 people are left, trapped by the fighting, nowhere to go, or too old and deciding to die in their homes rather than in a desolate camp. They were waiting for us in one of the empty houses, 30-40 people in the freezing cold, no heat or light, no food, no water to wash, no electric power, windows sandbagged, Russian style toilet in the garden – if you dared to even go there! We began the service, singing familiar hymns, then my chance to bring the Gospel and pray with them, mostly unbelievers, but we met some Christians – even some who knew me!Then came the moment when we handed out the food and water, two loaves to each person. One lady, speaking for them all, pleaded for a petrol generator to give some light, and to power for their mobile phones which are their only communication with the outside world.
Our Transit van broke down on the frontier, we got it going long enough to reach the next group 30 minutes away, where we repeated the same, bright Gospel singing, preached the simple Gospel, prayed for the sick, and for God to bring peace and an end to the 2-year-old war, and distributed the food and water. By now help was coming, other Christians sent us two vehicles, a van to carry the food and a car to tow away our vehicle for repair (it was back at work the next day, on the frontline).
It was now getting late, so it was dark when we reached our next stop. This was to meet the military and the commanding officer of that section of the frontline. Again I spoke and prayed, two of the soldiers were born-again Christians and the commanding officer very open to the Gospel. Here it was warmer and they had some light and little food, it was the Command Centre. When I referred to the rebels, most called them ‘separatists’, the officer said no, we are fighting the Russian Army with all its equipment and firepower. It was not far from here that the Russians shot down the civilian passenger airliner from Holland, it was Russian men and weaponry.
Then, still in total darkness, and all now crammed into one vehicle, as we had distributed all the food, we made our way to the final visit. I learned the ‘tricks of the trade’ as they say: when approaching a checkpoint or military base you turn off your headlights to avoid being spotted, then at the last minute put on the interior light, so that they can see that you are civilians and can be recognised.
Just 200-300 metres from our destination we were told to stop as by now the shelling had started. We got out of the car to watch – although I have lived through the war in London – I have never seen how spectacular it is – the flash of white light from the artillery gun, the glow of the red-hot shell as it arcs overhead followed by the ‘crump’ as it lands. Only to be told that by the time you see the heat from the shell it has already landed and the ‘crump’ was probably the returning fire from the enemy, a few hundred metres from you…
Shortly the firing ended and we went the few hundred metres to our next stop, to the men who had fired the gun! They welcomed us warmly, this time a brief stop, a few words, a prayer, many photos and discovering that one of the men knew me well, his brother was in my big meetings in Georgia four years ago! But now some quick hugs and prayers and we must leave quickly before the shelling recommences.
Back to the church in Slovyansk – I will write more in my next letter to you. In 2014 they were overrun by the Russian army – the church taken and occupied by Russian tanks and military. Six months later through powerful intercession – by a miracle of Biblical proportions – the Russians fled 20 miles away, leaving a ruined church – but so under God’s power that they left all their clothes, half eaten food and mugs of coffee, and all their guns and three truckloads of ammunition in the church building!
Next morning, a strong message to this Church and a call to repentance – so many came forward! But this is for them to join an active church, with a house for the refugees, a home for the orphans, and a ministry which takes them every day to the frontline, doing what we did just once, but for them, a year-round ministry. They said, “Come back!” I will! They said that I was the only Westerner to actually visit the frontline, the only one to preach and pray there, but for me it was just another day, fulfilling the Command of Jesus – working with an active church living out the Gospel – proving the power of prayer to change our world. Too many churches are having a wonderful time in their worship, their conferences, living in a different world, celebrating, while a dying world is already living in hell.
In my message on the frontline, I told them that God was not indifferent to their suffering, that is why He sent His Only Son – to live with us in our sinful world. He came to a people suffering under the ‘occupation’ by Roman troops, was born into poverty, not in a warm house or hospital, but in the rejection and dirt of a stable, being pursued by a king who sought to kill him. Jesus said that Heaven will not be filled by the so-called ‘righteous’, but by the poor, the blind, the outcasts, the forgotten ones. That’s why Jesus came, that’s why I went back to the communist countries after my release from prison 40 year ago, that’s why I went to the front line last weekend – to meet and be with those for whom Christ died! The one ‘lost sheep’, not those in the fold.
That’s why I need your help. Together we will, in 2017, reach the lost and learn the power of prayer that the church in Slovyansk demonstrated. They believe that, in answer to prayer, the whole Russian army will leave the Donetsk region in the same way they left Slovyansk. – And as you read this email, we have already had the first meeting in Kiev of all the Ukrainian Bishops, including the one who took me to the frontline in Slovyansk, preparing a new level of prayer for May 27th 2017 in Kiev. And they know that I was willing, for their sake, to stand and pray on the frontline, on a day when only 3 died, not 300, on the frontier.