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Avdiivka: when what took so long to mend is destroyed again

There are 6 AMBCU churches in the Donetsk region. Igor Tunik, pastor and coordinator of AMBCU churches in the region, says that with the outbreak of hostilities, no one was in a hurry to leave: “ separate instances, some began to leave, but for the most part we did not move.” In early April, when the authorities of the region began to officially call on everyone to leave the region because of a possible offensive in the Donbass, the churches were evacuated to other regions of Ukraine.

Everyone who was evacuated is now in three places: the city of Zolotonosha, the city of Svetlovodsk and the village Buzovka.

The city of Avdiivka is located a little more than 10km from Donetsk the capital of self-proclaimed “DPR”. It’s been under attack by Russian troops since 2014 because of its strategic value. In 2015, thanks to the joint missionary trips of Igor Tunik and Sergey Panasovich, a Mennonite church was opened in the city. During periods of aggravation of hostilities in 2014-2017, the Association did not stop supporting and developing ministries in the Avdiivka commune.

During the relative calm of the latest years, a children center was organized in the church, where children from problem families were fed and taught Christian principles. Bible study and youth ministry were actively and continuously carried out, where young people could hear the Gospel. There were also summer camps and field trips.

Now Avdiivka is again under constant heavy fire from the occupiers. Air bombs are dropped on the city, rockets are launched at it, it is fired upon from artillery. Not a single night passes quietly, people have to spend day and night in bomb shelters. There has been no water supply here for 3 months, electricity for a month, and a couple weeks ago the supply of natural gas was cut off, too. The cost of gasoline at the only working gas station is $4 per liter.

On May 24, according to information from pro-Russian sources, which was eventually confirmed, the Russian army launched an assault on the city. Later, the Ministry of Defense of Ukraine announced that Russia was preparing an encirclement around the city.

Avdiivka has Europe's largest coking plant, which used to provide the inhabitants with jobs and heating, financed repairs in hospitals, schools, and kindergartens. The enterprise is now regularly shelled from artillery and aviation, dozens of workers fell victims of the bombardments. Now the plant is in the process of "conservation".

About a week ago, the pastor of the Avdiivka community Alexander decided to return to the region in order to provide people, first of all, with pastoral care, which many people need. Prior to that, he was engaged in the evacuation of people from the city Now, together with Sergei Panasovich, they regularly go to Avdiivka and other front-line settlements to distribute humanitarian aid and tell people about Christ.

Just during their last such trip to Avdiivka, shelling of the city began. It happened while talking to the locals. The surprise was that the locals did not even duck from the loud explosions. “Yes, we are used to it already ...”, they simply said. During the absence of the pastor and leaders of ministries, the church did not stop gathering to glorify God. A lot of people joined the church during the war. For people, the local Mennonite community has become a spark of hope in the midst of darkness.

Alexander and Sergey plan to continue making trips to Avdiyivka to support the local church and the people who are suffering from the consequences of the war. The Association helps and will continue to help churches by sending food, medicine and clothing to the Donetsk region. War is human suffering and crying, but it is during war that the light of the Gospel shines brightest, and the church in Avdiivka exemplifies this.

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