In the past, the phrase “circuit rider” referred to ministers who were either assigned or compelled to travel to specific geographical locations to serve communities by evangelizing and planting churches. Their ministries also included making disciples and edifying the body of Christ.
In southern Ukraine, four HeartCry missionaries have taken on the role of circuit riders. For years, Ion Gireada, Ilie Hluscac, Sandu Deac, and Vitalii Rusnac have invested their lives in traveling to various communities to preach the Gospel of the straight gate and narrow way. In spite of sub-zero winters, antagonism from local Orthodox priests, cynical villagers, and ongoing disappointments in their families and ministries, they have not wavered in the work.
Ion is HeartCry’s point man in southern Ukraine, where he works with our other three missionaries in Cernauti County. Although the area was formerly part of Romania, it is now part of Ukraine; however, most inhabitants still speak Romanian and consider themselves to be Romanian. Brother Gireada ministers to different congregations in the villages of Tereblecia and Bahranesti. His pastoral ministries include preaching in churches and homes, visiting the sick, counseling, organizing evangelistic meetings, and leading prayer gatherings. In a recent report, he wrote: “Last Sunday, the unbelieving husband of one of our church members came to church and invited us to have a worship service in his house. After arriving, we found the house full of his Orthodox and Catholic friends. We had a wonderful time together as a guest preacher from Romania preached the Gospel. The host said he wanted to repent and be baptized. We are thankful to God for His wonderful works and for the doors He opens for us to preach the Gospel.”
Ilie was born in Russia. While he lives and serves different congregations in his community in the Ukraine, he also regularly travels back to his beloved Russia to share the Gospel. In brother Ilie’s update last month, he wrote: “Beginning in January, I met with unbelievers almost every day; and in the evenings, we held prayer meetings with the church members. Some of these people that I visited continue to come to our Sunday worship services. On January 6, we had a special program with the children, and many unbelieving parents came to the meeting.” Ilie’s ministry in his church in Poleana continues to grow. Unfortunately, Brother Hluscac could only get to the church one time last month because of a heavy snow.
Brother Sandu has experienced much difficulty and disappointments in his life as a minister. But the hardships have only strengthened him in his ministerial labors. Encouraged and sharpened many times by his HeartCry brothers Ion Gireada and Vitalii Rusnac, Sandu has rebounded from intense assaults from the enemy. Consequently, he has become a burning and shining light among the people in his area. In his most recent report, he related what God is teaching him in evangelism:
“An important thing for me is personal evangelism. I am thankful to God for giving me the opportunity to talk to people. I believe that a Christian and servant of God must testify about the Lord everywhere. I pray every day that the Lord might give me good opportunities to share the Gospel with the people I am going to meet that day. Because of this, I have the honor of telling someone about my Lord almost every day. This is one of the most special things that I can do, and I try to do it as much as possible for my Savior’s glory and for the salvation of souls. I do not have an exact number of people with whom I shared the Gospel this month, but I believe it was about a hundred.
“Most of the people with whom I talked, especially those that do not want to have anything to do with me, did not have a good response when they heard the Gospel. It is also true that most of them were totally uninterested in hearing about God. The majority of both the young and the old here know almost nothing about the teachings of the Bible. In spite of all of this, God has given us a wonderful opportunity by opening the public schools for us so that we might teach the Scriptures to the children in a systematic way. This is indeed an extraordinary thing and is a proof of God’s grace for us and our people. Even if all the people refuse to hear, we must still testify about God’s love and kindness, His faithfulness towards us, and His enduring passion to save everyone who believes. I am praying to God to keep me full of passion for His glory and to help me testify about His wonderful works as long as I live.”
In the little village of Storojinet, Vitalii pastors his flock. His duties as a minister of the Gospel include preaching, teaching, counseling, and serving his fellow ministers in their respective villages. He related in a recent report about how the power of the Gospel was displayed in the salvation of souls:
"On December 31, the Lord searched the heart of Vadim, and he received Christ. Since then, he has received much opposition from his family (his uncle is an Orthodox priest); but he is strong in faith. I gave him some written testimonies about several priests who came to Christ, and the materials helped him a lot. On the sixth of January, we visited his family, sang Christmas songs, and invited them to church. Unfortunately, they do not have enough courage to come. We continue to pray for them. At the same time that Vadim was converted, a young lady named Mariana also made a profession of faith. Her parents came to the Lord five years ago. We are very glad that both parents are active Christians. On January 6th, our church was able to visit fifty homes and sing Christmas songs. People were open as we invited them to come to our church meeting. Six people attended for the first time. We were very joyful for this opportunity.”
Please continue to pray for these men and their ministries. Your intercession for our Ukrainian brothers and their families is invaluable to them. Please continue to pray for their churches and that the Lord might protect them in the wake of the civil conflict that is engulfing their country.