By Tom Shanklin
Just as the Lord spoke to me that the Ukraine is a key nation, you too were a vital key to reaching the nation of Ukraine. I’m only a minister willing to go and preach the love of God through Jesus Christ. It was the people that believed in the mission of Tom Shanklin Ministries to take the Gospel to the world that turned the key to the hearts of women prisoners and polio-stricken orphans.
I would like to share with you the things that I saw and heard and what the Lord did during TSM’s Ukraine mission.
I no sooner landed in the Ukraine when I was whisked away to a Ukranian wedding in Kiev. An interpreter for World Light, the ministry I was working with in Ukraine, was getting married in a civil ceremony. The real (church) wedding would come a week later. Ukrainians are required to be married by a government official. Christians then have a second ceremony before considering themselves truly married.
We then drove though the night in our rented van to Kirovagrad (population 250,000) arriving at our hotel at midnight. The next morning, we were off to the Living Hope Church in Kirovagrad. On a very hot Sunday morning, approximately 600 hungry hearts waited to hear what the man from America had to say. There was only one message that was right for them and it was, “If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed.” (John 8:36) During the first service, I gave an altar call for those who needed freedom in their lives from addiction, mental oppression and other problems. Approximately half the congregation rose to their feet and received prayer. FREE INDEED!
I preached two services with 15 minutes in between to catch my breath, but as I went into the hallway to catch my breath, many asked for prayer for different situations.
During the second service, I estimate that I prayed individually for a hundred or more people needing healing or deliverance. The pastor reported hearing testimonies of people being healed and some receiving the baptism of the Holy Spirit during the time of ministry.
After 6 1/2 hours, I left that church very, very tried. . . but very, very happy.
CENTRAL BAPTIST CHURCH
I returned to the hotel ready the rest and recuperate only to find that our team was scheduled to go to Central Baptist Church in Kirovagrad that evening.
The church was about 80 percent women adorned with head coverings with a strong male leadership. The men sat in the front and the female ministers were requested to sit in the back on the platform, head coverings and all! But you know the were allowed to proclaim Jesus just the same. FREE INDEED! We also ministered in several other Baptist churches during our visit.
The next day we were invited to the apartment of Dr. Dorshenko. This multi-talented man is a plastic surgeon, who sidelines in pulling teeth and treating cancers and also serves as the superintendent of the churches of the Baptist Union in the Kirovagrad area. Dr. Dorshenko’s wife served us our first truly Ukrainian home-cooked meal of soup and dumplings stuffed with sauerkraut or mashed potatoes. His apartment was simple and peaceful. Dr. Dorshenko shared vivid stories of persecution of the church in Ukraine during the communist era, as well during as the Nazi occupation.
He told stories of spying, dirty tricks. He told about church members being persecuted in the communist system, and were not allowed into the best jobs and educational opportunities. Thank God, Ukraine is now experiencing a new era of freedom. And you and I have a part of it, by ministering the power of God in this nation. FREE INDEED!
While in Kirovagrad I also preached at the Evangelical Christian Church with Pastor Stephen Lazorischak. Stephen is a missionary from upstate New York who has lived in the Ukraine for about 10 years. Stephen began his work in Kirovagrad by starting an English Club, which provided an opportunity for personal contact with young people and professionals that have a desire to learn the English language. At this church I ministered on “Turning the Church Inside Out” about being salt and light in your world on a daily basis.
At Evangelical Christian Church, and in the church in general, I found God’s people to be very excited about their new political freedom and the overturn of the recent election. The Lord impressed on my heart the need for Christian professionals and people of influence to rise up and take their place in the new Ukraine. We need to continue to pray for the Ukraine and all of eastern Europe that freedom would continue and for an positive environment for the Gospel.
While in the Ukraine the team and I were also allowed to minister in two prisons. This is also a likely sign of a new openness in Ukraine, since World Light had not be allowed to minister in the prison on their last two mission trips.
We took God’s message to the men’s facility in Kirovagrad, where the men’s faces showed loneliness, pain and distress of a life of hard confinement. I saw men made in the image of God! I saw men that God wanted to restore to Himself. Again you and I, as partners, brought freedom in Christ to those yet bound and surrounded by walls of past mistakes. As we were walking through the prison and up the stairways, prisoners lined the walkways. Only they and God knew the real pain and emptiness in their hearts.
We were led to the chapel of “Freedom Church”, so wonderfully named, packed with prisoners from young to old—small-time offenders to murderers. The songs, testimonies and preaching resonated with the prisoners. With considerable encouragement, because of fear of retaliation, several accepted Christ as their Savior. As we were walking out of the dismal surroundings defined with two high walls topped with razor wires, we were all thankful we would not be spending the night.
The second prison we were allowed to visit was a women’s prison in Uman, where we ministered to approximately 80 prisoners. This prison was set up as a colony, with gardens, industry and other attempts at self-sufficiency. Some of the women, we were told, were in prison for murdering their husbands. Wife beating is very common in the Ukraine, and occasionally, a man’s wife will retaliate. Self-defense is apparently not an adequate defense there.
Again we ministered with song, testimony and the preaching of the Word. The women seemed to enjoy it when I told them of my home in America, my wife, my dog, two cats and 13 chickens!
I shared with these precious prisoners the message of freedom from John 8:31-32, “If you continue in my word, then are you my disciples indeed; And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.”
It is not enough to make a one-time commitment to Christ, I told them, but they needed to become ‘every-day’ Christians, follow Christ and not yield to the temptations of the world like we all may face on a daily basis. During this visit to the Uman prison approximately 10 women heralded Jesus as Lord and Savior.
We also had the opportunity to share the love of Jesus was in six different facilities for children. World Light Ministries has had a presence in that country since the early ‘90’s. The team leader, Mike Fuller, was encouraged to see improvements in several of the facilities as a result of financial aid from their ministry. Although these facilities are state supported, they depend on help from humanitarian groups from the United States and Western Europe.
We saw many different faces with many different sets of eyes—some dull, some sad and lonely, some with obvious joy. Overall, I saw the children were receiving good care, but it was obvious that those in charge of the facilities determined who would most benefit from aid from outside sources. For example. in one facility, a washing machine had been purchased on a previous trip, but not yet installed. The director insisted that he needed more money to improve the laundry room before the machine could be used! This pickpocket had a history of taking from the children which was meant for them.
However, God’s love, no one can steal. God’s hope, no one can steal, and no one can steal the forgiveness of Jesus through His blood!
Candy and little stuffed animals were given along with the Good News of Jesus Christ. At one of the orphanages, I had the great joy of sharing with a group of about 200 children and led them in a confession of Christ, with many indicating that they were praying such a prayer for the first time. FREE INDEED!
My trip to the Ukraine would not have been complete without going to a remote village where the Baptist Union was seeking to establish a church. We traveled on a cobblestone road. Our van driver opted to just drive on the side of the road to avoid the constant vibrating of the van that we were riddddddddding innnnnnn.
I loved it out there. But, I love the countryside almost anywhere! There were not many fences there, but along the state-owned farms and fields, the country people take advantage of grassy ditches and rough land to tether goats and cattle..
In the villages, I saw little plots for fresh vegetables. But it was the smiling tan faces and display of hospitality that won you over. We had Sunday School children and real opera singers charm us with music. We, too, sang and testified as team member Daniel Leonard from Alabama preached, in his southern accent, on “Heaven and Hell.” Several people received Christ! FREE INDEED!
After the service, the villager served us a Ukrainian style ‘pot blessing’. It was a feast of bologna, something that looked like chicken and several other delicacies which I did not recognize. Everything was eaten with large soup spoons, no forks. We were all a little nervous about eating such unfamiliar fare but had no ill effects. FREE INDEED!
GOD’S RAPID DEVELOPMENT TEAM
My trip (or we could say ‘our’ trip, partners) was a tremendous experience and fruitful for the Kingdom of God. It was just over a month from the time that I made the decision to go until I was on the plane to Ukraine. I felt like a part of God’s Rapid Deployment Team, listening for instructions from the Commander-in-Chief and moving at a moment’s notice. Approximately $3,000 came in from partners of Tom Shanklin Ministries which was all used for expenses. I want to sincerely thank each of you who helped with this Ukraine outreach.
With the help of the prayers of the saints, the logistics of the trip very smooth. Flights, going through customs, traveling by van and key relationships were uncomplicated. Now, that’s a testimony of the power of our God!
From here, this ministry wants to continue to crusade for Christ as much as is humanly possible. We want Tom Shanklin Ministries to be in the “Rapid Deployment Mode” all the time. When the door is open to go preach Christ to the young or old, the free or imprisoned, the mothered or orphaned, we want to be ready to go. We need partners to give on a regular bases. When you give into this ministry you can be sure the gospel of Christ is preached. You can be assured there’s no other name preached other than the name of Jesus.