BREAKING: Explosion kills church member in eastern Ukraine
In the eastern Ukrainian city of Donetsk, a mortar shell explosion — about 200 meters (218 yards) from the meeting place of the Petrovsky Church of Christ — killed church member Galina Chugaevskaya and seriously wounded her son-in-law Aug. 2, church elder Leonid Kryzhanovsky said.
Galina Chugaevskaya, in a 2005 photo. (PHOTO PROVIDED BY STAN BRYAN)
“Galina was the first Christian in our congregation,” Kryzhanovsky said in a message to supporters. She was baptized June 22, 1994, a little less than three years after the former Soviet republic became an independent nation.
The mortar shell that took her life struck a school building — the church’s first home before it moved to its current facility, the elder said.
Twenty years after Chugaevskaya’s baptism, eastern Ukraine is in the midst of bloody conflict as pro-Russian separatists fight government troops. Militants have seized at least two Church of Christ buildings in the city of Gorlovka. Refugees — including church members and orphans — have fled westward, finding shelter with friends, fellow church members and at a Christian camp.
The Petrovsky congregation — one of the largest Churches of Christ in eastern Ukraine — typically had from 85 to 100 people in attendance on Sundays, Kryzhanovsky said. That number is now 20 to 35, as many Christians have left the region.
“We are grateful to the congregations in Mariupol, Dobropole and Ivano-Frankivsk,” he said. “They have rooms for families with small children and pregnant sisters (from the) Petrovsky congregation.”
Stan Bryan, a church member in eastern Oklahoma, first visited Donetsk in 1993, following up with contacts from a gospel campaign conducted by missionary Eddie Cloer, which resulted in about 100 baptisms. Bryan’s mission team helped launch the Petrovsky congregation.
“I have many good memories of Galina,” he told The Christian Chronicle. “She was one of the more mature and solid members of the church there — a very sweet smile and a kindly disposition. She was very hospitable to my family that summer, trying to make us feel welcome and loved. Over the years she has remained a solid member of the church there — through good times and more difficult times.”
The Petrovsky church has produced dedicated church elders, evangelists and missionaries, Bryan said. Sasha Prokopchuk, a former minister for the church, helped launch another congregation, the Transfiguration Church of Christ, in Donetsk and hosts a national gospel television program. The congregation helped launch a church-planting seminar in Ukraine’s Crimea region — where pro-Russian militants recently seized power.
The Petrovsky church continues to meet and take the Lord’s Supper, Kryzhanovsky said. One day after Chugaevskaya’s death — during Sunday worship — a 20-year-old woman committed her life to Christ and was baptized.
“Please inform all our Christian friends that the Petrovsky congregation lives,” the elder said. Despite the bombs, “we praise God and serve him.”