These Ukrainian Salvationists need your prayers

Major Ronda Gilger, who served in Eastern Europe, remembers the Ukrainian people in a call to prayer.

Major Ronda Gilger and her husband, Don, served in the Eastern European Territory prior to their current appointment at the Coeur d’Alene Kroc Center.

Across the world a new day has already begun. It is Martisor, the first day of spring. When I close my eyes I can see the celebrations unfolding across Eastern Europe: cultural costumes, blintzes, foods, laughter, dances and events, and the red and white fringed ribbons, both worn and tied to budding trees, symbolizing rebirth after the hard winter.

That is what I want to remember. That is what should occur as we enter the Lenten season. I’m having a hard time sleeping, tears just below the surface, as I see the wider reality and progression of what is happening, and spend time listening to the voices of those I know—my dear friends whom I consider family. And they’re speaking hard truths, sharing their humanity in e-prayer rooms, on Messenger and in emails. If you listen closely, you can see and hear them beyond the flickering lights of the nightly news. Their voices must be heard, and justice demands that we listen and engage.

As we read in Micah 6:8, He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?

Allow me to share the promises of God as shared by the officers of the Eastern European Territory (EET), and to put faces to faraway “news stories” to gain your prayer support today and tomorrow.

Captain Oleg Samolenko is a Salvation Army officer serving in Poland. The Salvation Army is an inspirational force for Christ—a family, uniting people in a kinship like none I have seen elsewhere. Oleg, a Ukrainian, is broken as he says, “A bomb just fell into the house next to my home in Kiev, where my mother is in a bomb shelter [in Ukraine, a bomb shelter is actually a basement]. I keep calling my mother, who cannot even speak—stuttering, crying, hysterical.” Pray for Oleg and his family.

Captain Dmitro Rak (Dima) serves at the Dnipro (Ukraine) Corps, and leads worship in the subways. Just hours before he leads, he shares: “I wish I could write that everything is fine, calm. I wish I could write that I can sleep, eat, that I could forgive the enemies who stand before us—who are bombing us, shooting us in the streets on our land—that I’m not mad at the injustice…but it would not be true. The truth is that I can’t pray properly, and I cannot look into my children’s eyes or my wife’s face for I fear that it might be the last time. I’m asking for prayer. Tonight will be a difficult night.” Pray for Dima and his family.

Major Elena Kotrutsa is stationed at EET Territorial Headquarters in Chisinau, Moldova. She lost her husband to COVID and her parents as a young girl when they were sent to Northern Russia during Russia’s occupation of Moldova; they never returned. “I’m calling Ukrainian officers every day to make sure they answer their phones,” she says. “I’m afraid, when they don’t answer, that I may never hear from them again.” Pray for Elena.

Olga and 1-year-old Daniel are now refugees. With her medical background, Olga organized and led Moldova’s Mobile Medical Clinic. When she married, she moved to Ukraine. Recently, she was able to pack two suitcases as she left the country. What would you pack if your life was reduced to two suitcases? Pray for Olga and her family, for, as she asks, the strength to face each day.

Majors Andrei and Olga Iniutochkin, Moldova divisional leaders, have transformed Moldovan corps in Chisinau into refugee centers. They stand at the border with food and personal care items, and have even asked their officers and soldiers to bring refugee families into their homes. Pray for Andrei and Olga.

Captains Sergiu and Galyna Kolyde Nica serve in Lviv, Ukraine, with their little son and daughter. Lviv is famous for its beauty and its chocolates. Sergiu, known for his street work with the poor and with refugees, is a musician who produced a video channel of instrumentals so Eastern European corps can have worship music. He also founded a Velo Klub (Bicyclers Club for Christ). As air raid sirens go off, he takes his family and they huddle in the closet. He gives his phone to Matvei, his son, to play games and watch cartoons to divert his attention. Sergiu says, “This is my reality, but I am ready to meet Christ. Please pray for all Ukrainians who do not yet know him.” Pray for Sergiu and Galyna and their family.

Pray for the officers, pastors and businessmen who have been called to the streets to be “defenders.” This is a role they had never imagined, and most had never trained for. The Women’s Ministries groups are bringing bits of food and bread to them, as well as gathering for prayer and even helping with tasks for the frontline. I share their names with you, knowing that I could write and write and write of these heroes and their willingness to stand against an uncertain tomorrow. Pray for these by name:

Majors Veaceslav and Galina Drozdovski, Major Vera Yefimenko, Captains Daniel and Valeria Lukin, Major Irina Shvab and her husband, Konstantin, Captain Svetlana Bochkareva, Captain Daria Bessmolnaya, Yulia Khoroshilova, Captains Dmitry and Daria Bessmolniy, Dmytro an Nataliya Rak, Corps Sergeant-Major Vera Volf, Captains Yuri and Irina Polytkin, Lt. Dmytri (Dima) and Nastia (Anastasia) Pomytkin and their sweet little girl, Captains Sergiu and Galina Nica, Andrey and Vera Priadko, Lt Tatiana Popova.

Isaiah 43:2 tells us, When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire…the flame shall not consume you.

But how important it is to read this Scripture in context. This is not a get-out-of-jail-free card. This is truth, reality—a promise. And it’s bigger than you ever imagined.

For you—who are passing through the waters, experiencing the deepest rivers—this is a picture of the God who is in the waters. When it feels as if you’re drowning, or that you’ll be consumed by the flames that surround you. When death seems imminent, and the rescue far off: “I AM,” “YHWH,” carries you, surrounds you with his presence of grace and love.

Slava Isusu (Glory be to Jesus).

The Salvation Army is providing hope, healing and comfort to displaced and affected families and individuals through service to those impacted and displaced by the ongoing crisis with food, shelter, and spiritual care. Our faith in God transcends borders and we service those in this humanitarian crisis with compassion and without discrimination or prejudice across Eastern Europe, from Ukraine to Romania, Moldova, Poland, Slovakia, the Czech Republic and Russia. Find current updates on The Salvation Army’s response to the Russia-Ukraine conflict, and more on how you can support the relief effort.

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Ronda Gilger, Major

Major Ronda Gilger is the Associate Executive Director and Corps Officer of the Coeur d’Alene Kroc Center in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho.