Ukraine - Church Planter
Ion pastors two churches (one in Tereblecea and the other in Bahrinesti), coordinates conferences, and trains disciples. As a gifted preacher and teacher, Ion has had a great influence among the Romanian-speaking pastors and missionaries in Ukraine. He directs the church-planting ministry in both the Transcarpatia and Odessa regions, is the President of Nehemiah Missionary Society, and serves as a teacher in the Theological College in Cernauti. His wife’s name is Lena.
My name is Ion Gireada, and I was born on June 26, 1968, in the village of Tereblecea, Chernovtsy, Ukraine. My parents attended a Pentecostal church when I was born, but moved to a Baptist one later. My mother came from an Orthodox family, but she repented and became an Evangelical Christian. My father was born into a Pentecostal family, and after he was baptized, he married my mother and lived in Tereblecea. There was no Evangelical church there, so they had to go to church in Stanesti, about four miles away.
My parents had six children: four sons and two daughters. I was their fifth child. My parents took me to church since I was little, even though we were living under communism, and it was forbidden to take your children to church. As I was growing up, I became disobedient to my parents and to the Lord. When I was in middle school, I did not want to go to church anymore. I did not have a Bible and had never read the Gospel. I gathered with some friends of mine, and we formed a gang. We used to steal from people during the night, mock people, and do many other bad things. We also started stealing from the stores, but we would only take small things. One night, however, the gang decided to steal some audio electronics, and I was supposed to go with them. But God prevented me from going that night. The next day, the police caught them. They went to trial and received two years in jail. I understood that God was the One who prevented me from going to jail.
I started going to church again with my parents, and my father brought home a Bible from Romania and gave it to me. The problem was that I could not read in Romanian, because I studied at a school that used the Cyrillic alphabet. I started learning the Romanian alphabet, and after only one year, I could already read in Romanian.
In the summer of 1986, the Lord touched my heart. On the Sunday of July 20th, I stepped forward and accepted Christ as my Lord and Savior. I gave up my old friends and started going to church regularly. I would walk several miles to get to church and the youth meetings. My old friends started mocking me, saying that I was crazy and that I had ruined my life. However, the Lord strengthened me, and I was baptized on November 2nd in the Ukrainian church in Chernovtsy.
One month later, I had to go into the army in Moscow, and that is where my hardest trials began. The communists tried to convince us that there was no God, and they threatened us with all kinds of things. They would tell us that we would be sent to the white bears in Siberia if we did not deny Christ. They let the sergeants mock and beat us. During that time, God was so close to me that I felt no pain, and I was able to stay faithful to Christ. God also helped me preach the Gospel to other soldiers and officers.
Many Orthodox people from Armenia, when they saw our faith, joined us and came to pray with us. Then, many Muslims from Cecenia became our friends because they were impressed by our character and perseverance in the faith. God worked in a wonderful way, and after four months of trials, all the Christians received the best duties. We were also allowed to go to the Baptist church in Moscow on Sunday. All the officers asked us to bring them Bibles and to explain to them some things from the Scripture. I could see that God was with me every step of my spiritual journey.
But when things started going well, I forgot about the Lord and His miracles. I did not read the Bible anymore and stopped going to church. But God disciplines the people He loves in order to help them repent. I had my own room and did not have to sleep where the other soldiers were sleeping. I could do whatever I wanted and sleep as much as I wanted. One night, I could not sleep because a fly was bothering me. I was very frustrated, and I wanted to kill it. I did not notice that there was a nail in the wall, so when I tried to hit the fly with my right hand, I ended up hitting the nail instead. I fell down and lost consciousness. When I woke up, I felt a severe pain in my hand and saw a lot of blood. I went to get some help, but I lost consciousness again. Eventually, I was taken to the hospital, where I had three surgeries. I spent two months in the hospital. I still have a piece of that nail in my right hand, and it serves as a reminder to me of my disobedience to the Lord. I had many other accidents like this, but I could see God’s love and the fact that He had a plan for me.
After the my time in the military, I remained in the city and started to work as a bus driver. At the same time, I tried to know the Lord better and did all kinds of Bible studies. I had a thirst to study the Bible and wanted to go to a Bible School abroad. In 1989, I was elected as a youth leader in the Romanian church in Chernovtsy, and I also shared the Gospel with the people in my home village of Tereblecea. We organized an evangelistic event that was attended by about fifty non-Christians. We only had three Romanian Bibles and two New Testaments in Russian. The people rushed to get them!
The next day I was called by the police and threatened for giving out religious propaganda. When they gave me a fine, I told them that I did not have the money to pay it, but that I would not eat for a month in order to satisfy the debt. I also told them that they were fighting against God. When they heard this, they got scared and said that I did not have to pay the fine, but that I still had to stop doing religious propaganda. Despite their threats, I continued having evangelistic events in other places as well, and the police came every time until God brought freedom to our country when communism fell.
On June 29th, 1991, I was married to Lena Zgircia. After a few months, I found out that there was a mission school in Vatra Dornei, Romania, and I went there to study. Six months later, I came back home in order to share the Gospel in Tereblecea together with my wife. We used to walk from Chernovtsy to Tereblecea every Sunday, about fourteen miles in all.
Finally, with the help of several Christians from abroad, we managed to buy an old house. We also bought a tent, put it beside the house, and started meeting in it. A church from Switzerland started supporting us as missionaries, and they did so for several years. When they could no longer help us, the Lord sent Sorin Prodan to our home, and he invited us to become HeartCry missionaries.
In 1994, I went to the Baptist Seminary in Bucharest together with a few other brothers. We were admitted to the distance-learning program, even though we did not speak Romanian very well. While I was a student, I continued to go to Tereblecea because we were often persecuted by the Orthodox Church. In spite of this, many people repented, and in 1999, I graduated from seminary and was ordained as a pastor. We also continued the mission work in the surrounding villages, such as Bahranesti.
With the help of brothers in Romania, we started the ministry in Puieni, where Sandu and Martha Deac came to help. Eventually, we ordained a pastor for that church. He is a brother from Tereblecea who graduated from the Bible College in Chernovtsy. Another village where we started the ministry is Poleana. There we also have a chapel and a brother who works as a missionary.
By God’s help, I serve as a pastor in Tereblecea and Bahranesti, and I also coordinate the missionary team in Ukraine. Since 2002, I have served as the president of Nehemiah Mission in three regions of Ukraine. I pray that the Lord will bring a spiritual revival in other Romanian villages in Ukraine.