New Opportunities Arise in Irpin, Chernobyl-area
Complications Change Camps
We Make Plans But God Directs Our Steps
As we reported in an urgent prayer request late last month, serious challenges arose as the start date of the planned summer youth camp in Russia neared. In the past week, it became very clear that holding the camp there at this time would cause more potential political complications for the local church.
Although the Russians spent several days looking for alternate locations for MIWC in neighboring provinces where the government is not as strict or oppressive, there were simply no options.
As of last week, MIWC agreed with its Russian partners to suspend the camp for this year, but left the doors open with those provincial churches for future ministry, when the right time comes and the conflict between the United States and Russia is not so intense. It may take years for trust to be reestablished, if ever, between the church and the government there, but we are incredibly grateful that we remain in contact with the church and have a strong, positive relationship of mutual trust.
"The Holy Spirit kept us from going into Russia," said MIWC President Steve Benham, "but we heard the calls of those who wanted us to go back to Ukraine."
All of the camp team members quickly agreed it was clear Russia was not the way God was leading and all agreed Ukraine was the right option.
"We know that we are going to the right place and we know that He has prepared good works for us in advance as Paul said in Ephesians 2:10. I’m incredibly thankful for the unity God has given our team," said Benham.
MIWC will join with the Irpin Bible Church to host its youth music camp in Irpin, Ukraine July 4–8. MIWC and the Irpin Bible Church have worked together for the past several years.
As the team prayed about the new plans, the Holy Spirit was working.
Shortly after the decision was made to move the camp to Ukraine, MIWC missionary Vitaliy Bolgar came with news.
During a provincial pastors meeting in Kyiv, a pastor named Valeriy (pictured in the middle with his wife and three children) shared a need. He and his family are refugees from the Donbass region in eastern Ukraine where Russia is currently waging war.
Rather than simply running away, Valeriy's family moved to Ivankiv, which is a small town of about 10,000 people located approximately 20 miles outside of the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone. The area around the 1986 disaster is classified into different zones with varying degrees of fallout impact. Valeriy and his family are living completely by faith, serving there by ministering to the many families who refused to leave the area and were left with poor health situations. A 2011 U.S. National Institutes of Health study found that the thyroid cancer risk for those who were exposed to the fallout as children still has not decreased.
Valeriy told the pastors who were meeting in Kyiv that he had been praying for some sort of summer program for his church, because he had not been able to plan anything himself. Bolgar spoke with him about the possibility of holding a music camp there and the pastor immediately agreed.
Valeriy said, “I can see that this is the answer to my prayer. This is how God takes our thoughts and helps make them a reality.”
So after the Irpin camp, the MIWC team now plans to go minister to these children and families in the Chernobyl zone, hoping to bring the light of Jesus into their lives by holding a music camp there July 11–14.
"I’m overwhelmed with a sense of awe and privilege that we will be able to assist this missionary family in Ivankiv," Benham said.
While a camp schedule and camper logistics are still being developed, Benham said, "I’m convinced more than ever that God has been planning this from the beginning and has something incredible in store for us all."
• Please pray for timely arrival in Ukraine of material and supply shipments from the United States and the transfer of supplies that were heading to Russia.
• Please pray for strength and endurance for all of the team members.
• Please pray for smooth travel as there are several complicated travel plans as a result of all of the changes.
"It's hard to know what the lessons are for all involved, but, as always this is why we claim Proverbs 16:9. We still believe God is at work, and our job is to obey. We pray that we are correctly understanding God’s will for us and that we will be a blessing to all with whom we are working," said Benham.