When Lysychansk was captured by Russian troops and their separatist allies in early July, ministers of the city’s six Protestant churches were forced to flee. Remaining congregation members were driven underground. The house of prayer of the Lysychansk Christian Center, the largest Protestant church, was confiscated for use by authorities. But as the church’s pastor, Eduard Nosachev, told Voice of the Martyrs Korea, it was the yard next door to the church that captivated the attention of the few remaining church members.
“Authorities had thrown the entire church library, along with all of the church’s Bibles and children’s Bibles, into a pile in the neighboring yard,” says Voice of the Martyrs Korea Representative Dr. Hyun Sook Foley.
Representative Foley’s organization operates “Голос Мучеников – Корея”, a Russian language edition of its popular Facebook page on Christian persecution. She says the page is one of several means Voice of the Martyrs Korea uses to stay in contact with churches and Christians from cities like Lysychansk.
According to Representative Foley, the few women from the Lysychansk Christian Center who remained in the city quietly initiated a rescue mission.
“Their goal was to recover all of the Bibles and books and transport them to safe locations for storage and future use,” she says.
Representative Foley says the work was slow and dangerous. “Occupation authorities installed the flags of Russia and the Luhansk People’s Republic (LPR) on the front of the church building and began renovating it for the use of the military-civilian government, including plans to remove the cross from the building steeple,” she says. “To gradually remove books day after day from the yard next door involved risk on every trip, including the risk of being identified as a Christian by occupation authorities who have been detaining and questioning Christians.”
The books were rescued, sorted and packed by the women of the Lysychansk Christian Center.
The church library was thrown out by authorities, but the books were rescued by a few women from the Lysychansk Christian Center.
Pastor Nosachev told Voice of the Martyrs Korea that though many Christians had fled the city when it came under the control of LPR authorities in 2014, more than 200 had remained, fellowshipping in six churches and helping other residents through outreach ministries.
“Before the war, residents received a lot of help from churches,” Pastor Nosachev told Voice of the Martyrs Korea, “but when Russians came the residents immediately reported on the believers and showed authorities where Christians lived.” He says 25 to 30 Christians remained in Lysychansk for various reasons after the city was captured July 3.
“The ministers left because it was impossible to serve,” Pastor Nosachev told Voice of the Martyrs Korea. “If they stayed, they would simply be killed. In 2014, we stayed and served, but [at that time] there were no Russian troops in the city, and they did not act so cruelly as they do now.”
The Lysychansk Christian Center building before the war (file photo).
The Lysychansk Christian Center building was confiscated by occupation authorities, who installed flags for Russia and the Luhansk People’s Republic on the front of the building.
Pastor Nosachev told Voice of the Martyrs Korea that at the beginning of July, Russian soldiers ransacked his apartment. “All the windows were broken,” he says. “The ministers all left with their families. As long as there was an opportunity, they went to the city and distributed humanitarian aid, helped, and evacuated people.”
According to a report in August from Radio Free Europe, an estimated 80% of Lysychansk’s 100,000 residents have fled. The widespread destruction in the city led Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to describe Lysychansk and neighboring Severodonetsk as “dead cities”. Fierce fighting continues as Ukrainian forces recently reclaimed surrounding territory and are advancing back toward the city.
Representative Foley says that Pastor Nosachev is using his forced time away from his home and church to visit and strengthen groups of Ukrainian believers in neighboring areas. Pastor Nosachev told Voice of the Martyrs Korea that his church members remain in contact with each other using various means as often as they are able.
Lysychansk Christian Center Pastor Eduard Nosachev uses his forced time away from his church to encourage neighboring believers. He is shown here in the Khmelnytsky region, the city of Zinkov, preaching the Gospel and distributing food aid to migrants.
The congregation of the Lysychansk Christian Center before the war (file photo).
According to Representative Foley, the women of the Lysychansk Christian Center managed to recover many of the books and Bibles from the yard next to the church. Authorities used the church building to hold a referendum on the annexation of the Luhansk region to Russia.
“Even with the church building confiscated, even with the ministers forced out of the city, and even with most of the city laid waste and empty, the people of God have honored the word of God and are continuing their faithful witness at the front line of the battle,” says Representative Foley.
Representative Foley says that Voice of the Martyrs Korea is providing emergency assistance to local church congregations and individual Christians who are continuing to engage in faithful witness during the present Russia/Ukraine conflict. Donations can be made to the organization’s Ukraine Emergency Fund at www.vomkorea.com/en/donation or via electronic transfer to:
국민은행 (KB Bank) 463501-01-243303
예금주 (Account Holder): (사)순교자의소리
Please include the phrase “Ukraine” with the donation.