Ukraine Update: Benjamin Morrison

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Updates from the Frontlines in Ukraine—Part 1
Report from Benjamin Morrison

Testimonies compiled by Kathy Symborski
Photos courtesy of Benjamin Morrison

Missionaries and pastors continue to minister in war-torn Ukraine. Today, we bring you testimonies from Pastor Benjamin Morrison of Calvary Chapel Svitlovodsk, Ukraine. Look for updates from others in the near future.

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Pastor Benjamin Morrison (third from left) stands with a group of faithful, freshly baptized believers. In the last year, through Calvary Chapel Svitlovodsk, Ukraine, “The Lord has brought over 20 new people to faith … most of them through the war,” Benjamin noted.

Celebrating Pentecost
On June 12 here in Ukraine we celebrated Pentecost. It’s a big holiday nationally. But for us, it was also a reminder that God often does His greatest work in the midst of hardships and persecutions. At our service on Pentecost in 2021, we as a church made a few “birthday wishes,” things that we committed to pray for during the next year until the following Pentecost.

One request was that God would bring 15 new people to faith in Christ over the next year through our church. It seemed like a bold and maybe unrealistic request at the time. But as it turned out, the Lord has brought over 20 new people to faith through our church since then—most of them as a result of the war.

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(Left to right) Lena, Abby, & Benjamin Morrison. “The surprise baptism—the only one I didn’t know about ahead of time—and the greatest joy for me and my wife Lena personally was our daughter Abby receiving baptism,” Benjamin joyfully shared.

We were able to celebrate God’s answer to this prayer at a church picnic and baptism on [a recent] Sunday. Six people were baptized. The surprise baptism—the only one I didn’t know about ahead of time and the greatest joy for me and my wife Lena personally—was our daughter Abby receiving baptism. On Pentecost 2021, we additionally prayed for the church to grow in generous financial giving and personally put before each member the challenge to increase their giving, whatever that might look like. You might think that during a war congregational giving would go down—but the reality is that since last Pentecost our monthly giving has gone up a whole 60%! We see the Lord’s faithfulness in answering this prayer as well.

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Benjamin Morrison baptizes a joyful young man celebrating his new life in Christ.

Once Was Blind
Over a month ago, we evacuated an elderly couple in their 70s, Alexander and Lyuba, from the city of Sloviansk in the eastern Donbass.

Alexander and Lyuba were among some of the refugees least able to care for themselves. Alexander has diabetes and has been blind for a few years now. Lyuba also has heart problems and has great difficulty walking. They were both unable to use the bathroom alone or wash themselves, and Alexander couldn’t even feed himself.

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Alexander, blind for a few years now, gets some assistance eating his meal at the nearby retirement facility where he now receives proper medical care.

This meant that our staff, by necessity, turned into elderly care nurses. It was very difficult for them, to be honest. We’ve helped a number of elderly evacuees to get placed in a long-term retirement facility nearby. For Alexander and Lyuba, this process was not as quick as for some others. We were a bit frustrated with the delays in the paperwork—but Jesus had a purpose.

There is another important piece to this story: Lyuba has been a believer for some 20 years. She was glad to attend our services while living in our building. Alexander, however, was not. He was very bitter at life, never smiling. And, given his lot in life, one can understand his demeanor. But Lyuba had prayed for him all these years—and God had an unexpected blessing in store despite and even through the war.

One night a couple weeks ago, one of our shift workers was able to lead Alexander to put his faith in Christ. The change in Alexander the next day was evident: This old, blind man who never smiled was, all of a sudden, laughing at things, cracking jokes. It seemed that the weight of his lot in life had been lifted—because now he had a new lot. Alexander once was blind; now he sees.

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Alexander (second from left) and Lyuba (far right) settle into their new home at the retirement facility where they have their own room and regular meals. For 20 years, Lyuba prayed for her husband to come to faith in Christ. During his stay at CC Svitlovodsk, Alexander put his faith in Christ. Benjamin remarked, “Alexander once was blind; now he sees.”

Shortly after this, we were able to get Alexander and Lyuba moved into the retirement facility (pictured above) where they have proper medical staff caring for them, a room to themselves and regular meals—even if they’re not quite as tasty as the meals we make. Despite things not going according to our plans, we rejoice that they went according to Jesus’ plan. Alexander now has eternal hope and joy. The next time he sees anything, it will be the face of Jesus.

Three Times Saved
The pervasive question I’m asked is: Why do you stay? The answer is: stories like Vanya’s. Vanya (short for Ivan) is, ironically, not a refugee. He is from Svitlovodsk. The mother of a family from our church invited Vanya to come to our Bible fellowship on a Friday evening in early June. He was immediately engaged and had a lot of questions, not even slightly shy to speak in front of a room of 25 adults (he's only 16).

Vanya is one of those very rare young people who had a serious devotion to the Eastern Orthodox church. This has to do with the fact that he ended up in the hospital for a very long time in childhood due to a serious accident and extensive burns. While there, a priest visited him and prayed for him and this started something in Vanya’s heart. Vanya began to recognize that God had saved his life and that it was no coincidence.

After our fellowship time, I took Vanya aside to continue the conversation. It turned out he had already read the entire Bible through (!) and had a lot of right understanding. But the one piece he was missing is the piece that is usually missing in Eastern Orthodox churches: grace.

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Benjamin Morrison with Vanya, the 16-year-old who recently accepted God’s gift of grace. Vanya, now ‘three times saved’, “is convinced that God has a purpose for him here,” Benjamin affirmed.

I went on to tell Vanya the good news that the things he feels condemned for and ashamed of are not up to him to make better, but that they were fully paid for on the cross. He could rest in the fact that his salvation was already accomplished. When I asked Vanya if he wanted to receive that good gift, with a big grin on his face he jumped at the chance and prayed to receive the grace of the Gospel. Vanya was now saved by the grace of God not just physically, but now spiritually.

When I saw Vanya at church a couple days after the [Amstor] bombing, he told me of how God had saved him a third time. He and his friends were on their way to that very mall after class. They got as close as the other side of the street when, for some inexplicable reason, they changed their mind and decided to head the other direction. Two minutes later the rockets struck.

The blast waves rocked the area and Vanya and his friends lunged for the nearest cover they saw, not knowing what would come crashing down. Thankfully, none of them were injured, nor were any of our church members or anyone that they know personally. Obviously they were shaken, but Vanya was once again convinced that God has a purpose for him here. I wholeheartedly agreed. 

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Amstor mall in flames after Russian rockets hit the crowded building. Vanya and his friends, on their way to this mall, turned around two minutes prior to the strike and were not harmed.

But what gives us confidence, in the midst of this, is the same conclusion Vanya made: God must still have a purpose for us. We believe that. We are here on this earth as long as He sees fit for His purpose. And when that purpose is completed—who wants to stick around?

                  

Prayer Points
• the Lord to bring along a new co-pastor
• the world would not grow indifferent to the hundreds of Ukrainians being killed every day
• boldness and repentance among the Russian churches
• protection for the Ukrainian soldiers, in particular for the young men from our church, or relatives of church members that have been drafted to fight
• the hundreds being killed every day would put their trust in Christ
• wisdom and opportunities for finding long-term housing for the many refugees we are evacuating
• strength, stamina, and refreshment in Christ and encouragement in His purpose for us in this time
• comfort, protection, and the opportunity for safe evacuation from the hell that is Russian-occupied territory

                  

To Give
You may give to Benjamin Morrison through Horizon Fellowship, click here.

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Pastor Benjamin Morrison and his wife Lena.

                  

(Learn how you can receive a top-tier educational degree from a totally biblical perspective from one of our sponsors, fully accredited Calvary Chapel University, which is 100% online. Calvary Chapel University is pleased to announce a new partnership with Calvary Chapel Bible College Eurasia. Join us in praying for our friends in Georgia! God is growing CCU! Are you interested in learning about enrolling as a student? Or do you want to apply to serve as faculty, staff, or admin? Contact: Calvary Chapel University)

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All verses above are quoted from the New King James Version, unless otherwise noted.

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