Rev Neil Ross wrote, in the July issue, about the extensive distribution by our friends in Odessa of Bibles, books, and 10 000 Words of Life calendars given by the Trinitarian Bible Society. Mr Igor Zadoroshney says that “doctors of the Children’s Hospital put calendars with quotations from the Bible in prominent places. When certain parents who are atheists arrived at one doctor’s clinic, tears fell from their eyes as they read the words, ‘The fool has said in his heart, There is no God’ (Ps 14:1). ‘For the Word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart’ (Heb 3:2).”
In June, Mr Edward Ross and I travelled to Ukraine in response to a request from the Ukraine Embassy in London to bring aid to a flooded area. A friend in Scotland kindly donated sufficient money to enable the Church to undertake this task. The place of distribution was Rachiv, a town in the centre of the flooded area in south-west Ukraine, close to the Romanian border and 230 km from the Cop border post where we crossed into the country. This meant that we could go on to visit Odessa. It was encouraging that we were enabled to accomplish so much during this visit.
On our arrival at Cop, we were unable to contact our guide, who was to lead us to Rachiv, and so lost most of a day. A teacher at Nagydobroney Orphanage School, Mr Donald Fraser, was very helpful and we were eventually sent in the right direction. We were met about half way by the Rahiv District State Administrator, Mrs Hafia Danyshek, and others, who escorted us on the last part of the journey. Much kindness was shown to us during our stay of about 24 hours in Rachiv.
The load of aid was delivered to the appropriate government department. We had the opportunity of handing out Bibles, literature and other articles to the soldiers who were assisting in unloading and storing the aid. The medical equipment and medicines were checked by a doctor and set aside for the local hospital, while the District Administrator was to send clothing and other items to the homes of flood victims. The remainder of the literature was to be distributed to the local churches, some of them described as Evangelical. We were also told that in the town there were many people belonging to the Orthodox Church, and a lesser number of Roman Catholics.
We were taken to see some of the places which had suffered flood damage – one school was so badly damaged that it had to be abandoned. We were invited to visit the homes of flood victims and distribute the aid personally but we were very sorry that we could not do so because time was against us. It was necessary to reach Odessa (950km to the east) by the Saturday so as to take the services on the Sabbath.
It was a great pleasure to meet the friends in the small congregation there and to preach the everlasting gospel to them once again. Mr Dimitri Levetsky in the Odessa congregation is making good progress in learning English and a few months ago he passed exams which qualify him to go on to study in a college. Already his knowledge of English has proved to be most useful in interpreting sermons and in other translation work during the nine days we spent in Odessa. Igor Zadoroshney diligently continues the work of Bible and literature distribution. His last report informs us that in October he posted 127 parcels, containing Ukrainian Bibles, the Westminster Confession of Faith, the Shorter Catechism, the Mother’s Catechism, and also some humanitarian aid.
In September we again went to Eastern Europe, this time to Brasov, a large city in central Romania. I asked a number of friends in Scotland if they would undertake this humanitarian journey but they were unable to do so at the time, and in the end Edward Ross and I went. On this occasion we visited some of the young men who have broken away from the Hungarian Reformed Church because of is deterioration in doctrine and practice. They have set up a number of small gatherings in Romania and other countries. From my discussions with them, they appear to have their hearts set in the direction of the Reformed Faith as summarised in the Westminster Confession of Faith. I had the opportunity of preaching to one such group in Brasov. The service, which followed exactly the pattern of our services in Scotland, was held in the home of the missionary of the congregation, Mr Siko Mihaly, who interpreted for me. The discussion and questions afterwards lasted for a number of hours. We disposed of our load of aid at Baraolt, where these groups have their humanitarian aid centre. We also gave them 480 Hungarian Bibles, 2400 Gospels of John in Russian, 20 Kulish Bibles, 7500 Romanian Calendars, and 7500 Hungarian Calendars.
Since then, one of the pastors, Mr Szasz Attila in the town of Gherla, has written, “We are glad that you arrived home safely. . . . Our elders decided to use the pieces of furniture and some other things in our conference centre. We distributed the calendars, Bibles and clothes in equal parts for use in the places where our work is going on. . . . The clothes we received here in Gherla are good and useful. . . . The new suits were a special gift from you and a big joy for our men. . . Most of us can’t afford to buy a new suit, maybe not even a used one. . . . I have personally started to distribute the calendars among the people whom I am in contact with. . . . We cannot use the Russian Bibles here in Transylvania, but we will pass them on to our colleagues in the Ukraine. Thank you again for being involved in helping our work in so many ways. May our Lord bless you for it!”
One of the more harassing experiences in crossing into Romania is the mile-long double queue of trucks and the need to be at one’s post all night, inching forward in the queue. More than once we saw frustrated lorry drivers explode in anger against some of their fellow truckers who tried to jump the queue. Thieves too are ever on the prowl and one of them very deftly relieved me of £60. However, despite all these difficulties in sending aid, especially the Word of God, to those in need, it is all well worth the labour because the Lord has promised to prosper the spreading of His Word. “For as the rain cometh down, and the snow from heaven, and returneth not thither, but watereth the earth, and maketh it bring forth and bud, that it may give seed to the sower, and bread to the eater: so shall My word be that goeth forth out of My mouth: it shall not return unto Me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it” (Is 55:10-11).