This article was originally published in the October 2023 edition of ITMI Monthly.
Her face looks like it can barely contain her smile, doesn’t it?
Why is she so happy? It’s because of what she’s holding; a Bible in Romanian.
She is the wife of a pastor serving in Ukraine. She and her husband were part of the group who were given the gift of participating in the conference in Ukraine hosted by a team from ITMI.
This conference was the result of the pleas from several Ukrainian pastors and their wives who traveled to Romania for a retreat and Biblical encouragement earlier this year.
At that conference in February, Steve Evers shared from the SALT material, and ITMI’s Adi and Ema Ban, who organized the retreat, shared on Biblical family life. After the February conference, the participants asked Steve, Adi and Ema to come to Ukraine and do a second conference because their time at the first retreat had been so effective.
In August, Steve, Adi and Ema crossed the border into Ukraine to provide more of the requested Biblical teaching to encourage and support our brothers and sisters serving Jesus in war-torn Ukraine. They were accompanied by ITMI’s Mark Burritt and Stuart Watkins of Victorious Christian Living, the organization responsible for producing the Seven Areas of Life Training (SALT) material.
After World War II, the Soviet Union annexed a slice of Romania as punishment for war-time disloyalty and added it to the part of the Soviet Union which is modern day Ukraine. The people living in that area still speak Romanian to this day, though they have lived as Ukrainians for decades.
This pastor’s wife is part of that people group. Her first language is Romanian. Now she has a Bible in her mother tongue! She is also excited that this Bible is a newer translation. She told Steve she understands this Bible much better than ever before and is excited to glean greater clarity and closeness with the Lord as a result.
An ITMI donor provided 60 of these Romanian Bibles for Steve and his team to give to the retreat participants and had them shipped from the Netherlands. The care, encouragement and ministry from the ITMI family, “sure meant a lot to them,” Steve commented.
While en route to the conference location in Ukraine, our team visited the prison in Romania where Richard Wurmbrand was held, now a museum honoring and remembering those who suffered there.
For the Americans, it brought to life the trauma-filled past that looms in the back of every Eastern European’s mind, affecting every decision and reaction. These horrific things happened to real people just like them, and now, with Russia’s invasion of Ukraine the terrible past threatens to become their future.
“As you pass through the halls, hundreds of pictures of the faces of prisoners cover the walls and many of the cells contain displays or recorded video interviews telling the horror stories of that terrible period of history.
I couldn’t help but think about the ministries of so many courageous believers, including ITMI founder, Bill Bathman, who spent 22 years working behind the Iron Curtain. I thought of our Eastern European partners who were raised during the Communist years and now enjoy freedoms we take for granted.
Over the next two weeks, I would have the privilege of worshipping and fellowshipping with Ukrainian refugees who saw their churches burn to the ground, had lost their jobs, homes, possessions, and family members.
Yet they remain thankful and faithful in serving the Lord where he has placed them. God often does his greatest work during difficult times. This trip gave me a better perspective of how He brings blessings, even during tragic events such as the current war in Ukraine.”
After the week-long conference, our team traveled through Ukraine, stopping to fellowship with small churches each night.
Most of these groups of Ukrainian believers were people who fled their homes with little or nothing. They’ve started over in new cities, and come together to live as God’s people.
They shared their stories - the terrible realities they experienced as they fled, some escaping narrowly with their lives.
Hearing about the Lord’s faithfulness to them during the most harrowing of times was incredibly encouraging.
Their commitment and drive to live faithfully in their new locations, to be the Lord’s hands and feet to other refugees around them and to serve Him faithfully while bombs explode around them was inspiring for our ITMI team. But it was also incredibly meaningful for those receiving the visit.
One night our team had dinner with a group of young leaders of a church of refugees. One of the leaders was a young man who’d been discharged from the Ukrainian army with an injured leg. The military wouldn’t be paying for his medical treatment.
This young man so didn’t want to miss the visit from our team that he rescheduled his consultation at the hospital, delaying his operation.
In wartime, this probably wasn’t an easy appointment to get. But as Steve later reflected that apparently, “encouragement was more important to him than walking.”
During this meeting, Steve and the team learned that this church had a rent payment due soon and they didn’t know where the funds would come from. The landlord had already cut the rent in half but they still hadn’t come up with the $300 USD needed.
ITMI supporters often generously donate before Steve's trips and ask him to use it as the Lord leads if he comes across needs or ways to expand God's Kingdom while he travels. Steve writes, "The Lord laid on my heart to take some of the funds and use them to lighten their load," by covering the rent for the church for one year.
Steve continues, “I saw firsthand on their faces and shoulders the encouragement to these faithful refugees. It was clearly a heavy burden that had just been lifted.”
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About the Authors
Steve Evers has advocated for and served the ITMI partners as ITMI Director since 2001. Approximately once a year, Steve visits with ITMI partners in their countries and brings stories back to encourage supporters. Steve enjoys photography and mechanics (both hobbies that have greatly benefited ITMI partners!) Prior to becoming ITMI's Director, Steve served on the Board of Directors for 4 years. Steve lives in Arizona with his wife, Darlene.
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