As the war continues in Ukraine, life is indescribably hard for the millions still living there. But bringing the word of God to people in their heart language is more vital than ever, says Steven K*, however dangerous
Like the pain of incurable cancer, it cannot stop and there is no relief. This is how it feels to wade my way through living and working in war-torn Ukraine.
The situation gets worse every day. We are under daily rocket attacks for 3-5 hours at a time and haven’t had hot water for months. Humanitarian aid supplies have deteriorated due to a lack of volunteers and donors. As prices for food and energy rise, our families find it increasingly difficult to stay warm and fed.
Despite this, we continue to translate the Bible into more than 540 languages spoken across the countries of the former Soviet Union. This impacts more than 161 million people in Ukraine, and in other countries controlled by the former Soviet Union, who need to hear God’s word in their own heart language, not in Russian.
I go to the store not knowing if I’ll come back alive
Amid the conflict, the Church in Ukraine has become a refuge for many people, regardless of nationality and social status. Now more than ever, lay leaders and church ministers alike need moral and spiritual support.
Deciding to divide
In all of this, my family and I have faced extreme hardship. Two months after a severe attack where we lived in Kharkiv, we made the fateful decision to shut down all social media, split up and travel in different directions.
Having evacuated to bring my parents, nephew and disabled aunt to safety, I was separated from my wife, who was trapped in a Russian-occupied zone.
During the evacuation, I was helped by a church deacon who did not consider the risk to his own life or family to help me. We saved rare copies of the Bible, taking the heavy book drawers with us down from the fifth floor of my building. The local church came to help fill up two-thirds of our van with different translations of the Bible.
Everything I brought with me was to give away to others. Printer, scanner, paper, towels, sheets — everything. I prayed all the way that our van wouldn’t break down, that we wouldn’t get stuck in a deserted place, in the open air.
Eventually, after arriving at a safer location, I was reunited with my wife, bringing us both some vital relief. This deacon saved me, and the scriptures, so that as many people as possible can know the word of God in the future.
Bomb shelters and subway stations
For now, the war continues and is creating many challenges in our work. As rockets could fall on us at any moment, we need to think about the safety of those around us. Without a permanent place to translate the Bible, we have no stability. Our workplace can change each day from a cold room in a bomb shelter to a busy subway station.
In recent months, Bible translators for one of the people groups we work with have been without work or income. At any moment, electricity can go out, which means our water, communications and heat disappear. When they do, we don’t know when they will come back.
I go to the store not knowing if I’ll come back alive. As I use the bathroom, I fear a bomb flying into my apartment. Every day is difficult. Even though we are tired of the unexpected, we continue our work because the need is great.
By the end of 2023, we had completed the translation of 1 and 2 Timothy, 2 John, and the books of Obadiah, Esther and Ezra. If the situation does not worsen, we will now begin translating the book of Nehemiah.
We do this for those from other countries who have been forced to speak Russian for over 70 years under the rule of the old Soviet Union. Many never became fluent in Russian and today, most continue to use their mother tongue at home.
They need this work to continue. They need access to the word of God in their heart language.
*Name changed for safety