40,000 BIBLES DISTRIBUTED TO CHILDREN IN EASTERN UKRAINE CONFLICT ZONES
When Vanya received his Action Bible New Testament, he burst into tears.
“It reminded him of his father,” says Voice of the Martyrs Korea Representative Dr. Hyun Sook Foley.
Eastern Ukraine, with the conflict zones of Lugansk and Donetsk indicated
Vanya, a young boy, lives in a village of about a thousand people in the so-called “gray zone” of Eastern Ukraine, an area which formally belongs to Ukraine, but which is under the influence of Russian separatists. “Children in the gray zone hear explosions and mortar attacks nearly every day, but they still attend school,” says Representative Foley. She says it was at the school that Vanya received the Children’s New Testament, at a gathering of about 30 children.
“When Vanya received the New Testament, he suddenly started crying because it reminded him of his father, who pastored a small local church before being detained and imprisoned after the war broke out,” says Representative Foley. “When the event organizers saw Vanya’s reaction, they prayed with him that God would protect his father. Now they now visit Vanya and his mother on a monthly basis, they support them financially and in prayer, and they have begun searching for Vanya’s father with the help of some international organizations.”
Vanya, a boy living in a “gray zone” in Eastern Ukraine, cried when he received the New Testament because it reminded him of his father, a jailed and missing pastor.
Children at a camp in a conflict zone in Eastern Ukraine receive Action Bible New Testaments. A total of 40,000 were distributed through a project conducted by a coalition of local Christians and ministries including Voice of the Martyrs Korea.
The Action Bible New Testament Vanya received was one of 40,000 distributed to children in conflict zones throughout Eastern Ukraine in a project funded and executed by a coalition of ministries including Voice of the Martyrs Korea, Voice of the Martyrs Canada, Mission Eurasia, and School Without Walls.
“This region has been beset by armed conflict, evangelical persecution, and totalitarian politics since 2014,” says Representative Foley. It was recently named by the European Evangelical Alliance (EEA) as the area of Europe where the church suffers the most,” says Representative Foley. “Some people might say, ‘You should wait to distribute Bibles until the fighting subsides,’ but for us and the other ministries in our coalition who are supporting the local Christians, we know that any time a major conflict threatens an area, that’s when people turn to God and become open to the Bible. They’re looking for hope. They still have to go to work and to the market and their kids still have to go to school.”
According to Representative Foley, distribution during armed conflicts requires local Christians who have knowledge about an area that outside groups don’t have. “The hardest work is always done by local believers,” says Representative Foley. “It was not a situation where they could just drive in trucks and hand out 40,000 Children’s Bibles. They had to take great risks and overcome many difficulties to distribute these Action Bible New Testaments to children in each community. They had to cross borders and in most cases move in complete secrecy. They worked with local believers in each place about how and when to move, where to distribute, and to whom. It’s not a project that could have been done by missionaries or short-term mission teams with big budgets.”
Maxim, age 10, received one of the distributed Bibles at a children’s camp while visiting his grandmother in the summertime. He took the Bible back home to one of the restricted zones in Eastern Ukraine, where he reads the stories with his family members, who were previously nominal Orthodox Christians.
Representative Foley says that even though distribution of the 40,000 Action Bible New Testaments is now complete, the ministry work is still underway. “Each Bible was given to a real child with real needs and real problems. Just as with Vanya’s family, local Christians are working with our coalition to locate missing pastors, to help evangelical Christians who are suffering because of their faith, and to answer the questions of children who are excited to learn more about Jesus.”
She gives the example of 10-year–old Maxim, who came from a nominally Orthodox Christian family in an area controlled by separatists. “In the summer he is able to go visit his grandmother in a less restricted part of Ukraine. It was there at a summer camp that he received one of the Action Bible New Testaments. At the end of the summer when he returned home, he took the Bible with him, and now he reads it at home with his family. So, the impact extends far beyond the children who received the Bibles originally.”
Representative Foley says the ministry coalition estimates that this project impacted more than 100,000 family members and also provided resources to approximately 700 Christian leaders from 126 churches in Eastern Ukraine.
“Christians in closed countries know how to reach their neighbors far more effectively and safely than missionaries who come in from the outside and who often have to leave when conflict or Coronavirus comes,” says Representative Foley. “Local believers say to us, ‘Give us the tools’—like these Action Bible New Testaments—‘and we will complete the work.’ That has been the strategy of Voice of the Martyrs globally since the time of the Cold War, and it continues today, as we resource underground Christians in the more than 70 countries where Christians are persecuted or restricted.”
Individuals interested in donating to Voice of the Martyrs Korea to support the work of underground believers can give at www.vomkorea.com/en/donation or via electronic transfer to:
- 국민은행 (KB Bank) 463501-01-243303
- 예금주 (Account Holder): (사)순교자의소리