Wouter van Muiswinkel & Onno Weststrate – Netherlands to Ukraine
Early morning September 8th, Onno Weststrate and I left the Netherlands for a 1600km journey to Uzhgorod, Ukraine. Our mission was to bring Russian bibles to the Russian speaking refugees from east- Ukraine, who are temporarily accommodated in Uzhgorod.
A few weeks before we left, Mr. Zelensky had passed a law banning Russian literature from being brought into the country. Full of hope and expectation we decided to try to bring the bibles across the border anyway. Our first wake-up that not everything was going as we had hoped came halfway, when we found we didn’t have the car’s registration certificate in the car. We knew this could cause a problem at the border, so at a petrol station near the Polish border, we prayed and entrusted the situation in God’s hands and asked people via WhatsApp to pray with us.
At the border between Slovakia and Ukraine we were told clearly that we couldn’t cross the border without the certificate. We called Edik and Liana and it was decided that Liana would cross the border from the other side to pick us up with their car.
At the Ukraine / Slovak border…
But then the Bibles were to cause a problem because one of the border guards discovered a small print in the bibles: ‘Printed in Belarus’. This was an unpleasant surprise because when we purchased the bibles they told us the Bibles came from Germany (and we hadn’t checked this..).
Meanwhile we were so grateful to have Liana with us, who could communicate in Ukrainian with the border guards and translate for us. Unfortunately, despite all our efforts, we were finally told that the Bibles were not allowed to enter Ukraine and so we had to leave the Bibles in Slovakia. Finally, having travelled for 36.5 hours to get to the border and then waited a further 11.5 hours, we crossed…but without the bibles! We were disappointed but we had to accept this.
On Sunday morning we had breakfast with Nick who had travelled from near Kyiv to see us. Amongst other things, he coordinates small initiatives such as the distribution of vegetable seeds to a group of people in his town, about 130 km from Kyiv. People in his community are given seeds so that they can grow their own vegetables at home. This years’ harvest has been successful and so they have decided to expand the project. Therefore, Nick will be making a plan for next spring to develop things further.
Wouter and Onno, finally in Ukraine – and then breakfast with Nick
We also attended the church-meeting in Uzhgorod – Edik and Liana’s church. Many refugees were present, also those who had hoped to receive a Russian bible. The gospel was preached and at the end of the meeting eight people came forward to give their lives to Jesus!
Sunday morning at the Rock of Salvation Church
Sunday afternoon Edik drove us to a Roma church in Mukachevo which is led by Kalman. What a privilege to experience God working across language barriers and confirming in our hearts that we are all part of the one family of God.
Sunday afternoon with Kalman and his church in Mukachevo
As I reflect upon the whole trip, I can say that it was a great privilege to visit Ukraine. Onno and I were reminded of Joshua and Caleb who also experienced difficult encounters when they spied out the land of Israel, but they continued to look with faith at the challenges that lay before them.
Let us walk in the spirit of Joshua and Caleb, also!