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In recent weeks, pro-Russian separatists in Ukraine have shown an increasing hostility against anything deemed of Western influence, especially Christians not from an Orthodox tradition. Many ministers have been kidnapped, beaten, and murdered, and church buildings and worship spaces have been seized by the separatist rebels. Here, a worker with Russian Ministries tells the story of a friend who miraculously escaped death at the hands of the rebels three times in one day.

By Wade Kusack

7/28/2014 Ukraine (Russian Ministries) – The entire Christian world is horrified by the barbarous murder of young ministers in Slavyansk. Almost every day we hear about the abduction of various ministers, seizures of church buildings and worship spaces. Very often the motivation for actions by the separatists is simply the fact that those they attack are not Orthodox Christians.

I want to share with you the miraculous story of my childhood friend, Yuri, who was recently arrested by the pro-Russian separatists, but managed to escape. Yuri and I spent our childhood and teen years together in eastern Ukraine, before I moved to other areas. Yuri stayed behind in eastern Ukraine, and became a lay leader and preacher… here is the story of his miraculous deliverance from what appeared to be certain death:

At daybreak, after praying with his wife, Yuri left for work, as usual. “Today at our church there was a fast for the city. All the churches were praying for God to intervene in the situation unfolding in our town,” he said.

Just a little while later, shooting began in the region where Yuri lives, and his wife called him, saying she was very afraid. “Of course, I immediately left for home, but throughout the town there were checkpoints everywhere, and they weren’t letting anyone through. Well, I know this town, and went by the back roads. I was almost all the way home, but at the last checkpoint, they spotted me and stopped me.”

“The militia immediately decided that I must be a spotter in the service of the Ukrainian artillery. They immediately turned their guns on me and began to threaten me… They tied my hands together. Then they started to rip out the paneling and beat me with the butt of their guns. Then one announced, ‘We’re going to shoot you now.’ He aimed the gun at me, released the safety, but then he was approached by one of the bosses who whispered something in his ear and together they moved aside. I immediately thought of the Psalm: “His angels charge over thee, to keep thee…” and then thought, “God, glory to Thee …”

After this they decided to take Yuri to another checkpoint. They forced him inside the car and began to scrutinize his notebook and documents.

“They didn’t like it when they found biblical quotes in a notebook. They asked me what church I attended. After hearing that I went to an evangelical church, they immediately concluded that it was an American church. I tried to talk to them, tell them ‘There is one God for all: for Americans, Russians, and Ukrainians.’ In response they said, ‘So right here, right now, you’re going talk to us about God?’”

At the second checkpoint, they again decided to execute Yuri.

“One of them walked up to me, pointed a machine gun at me, but the weapon jammed. I didn’t even manage to say a word – I was simply rejoicing that, for the second time, God revealed to me His mercy.

“Then they began to shove me in the back with a machine gun to get me to run forward, but then another militant ran up to us, asking what they were pushing me from behind for:

‘Why is he being held?’

‘He’s a spotter.’

They began to shoot at my feet, threatening, ‘We’re going to shoot off all your toes, and you’re going to confess to us.’ Then they stood me against the wall, and a militant aimed a shotgun at me like he was going to shoot, but then some correspondents begin walking by. They quickly shoved me to the ground. The correspondents walked up and asked the militants:

‘Can we take some photos?’

‘Go ahead.’

And I was so offended. Here these people are reporters, and there I was lying on the ground, tied up, a citizen of the town. It turns out that these were journalists from Russia.”

“And again, shooting broke out somewhere. And I was lying there, thinking that this is, in fact, the third time the militants were trying to shoot me. I saw that the militias were distracted, and I prayed for God to send me an angel. And somehow I noticed that there’s a wooded area nearby, and I got up and ran over there. I suddenly fell into a trench. I got up and thought, where do I go? Everywhere there was shooting. Suddenly I noticed the roots of a tree, and hid behind them. I decided to wait until the shootout was over. I heard the militants start to look for me. They approached the wooded area and began to spray it with bullets, right over my head, thinking that they’ll hit me. And before I hid in the roots of the tree, I was going to lie in those woods. They fired their weapons into the woods and left.”

“I went on sitting in the roots of the tree with my hands bound and thought about what I should do. I did not dare crawl out of there. I looked at the trench, and thought that here I was, in my ready-made grave. I thought that if this was to be my destiny, then this was where I would die. I prayed, and repented once more.”

“The militants climbed all over the place. They combed the woods but did not find me. I had gone completely numb. Little by little I began to somehow let go of everything. I remembered that today was a day of fasting for me. It’s a good thing to undergo fasting, like a prophet, while in a pit. I looked again at the woodlands and thought how good it was that I didn’t run there. And right here, lying in the roots, I looked at the sky and saw an angel. God had sent it to me so that I might live.”

“The branches around me were dry and if I were to begin climbing out the militants would hear it. I decided to make my move when a car drove by. I waited until a car was approaching and started to scramble out and then I saw a fence nearby with a hole in it. But there happened to be a dog there that barked all the time. I decided to climb through the hole. I prayed, thinking, “Lord, I don’t know how to talk to dogs.” But I had no other option. I waited until another car was passing by and then climbed through the hole. The dog and I looked at each other I asked him, “How’s it going?” He looked at me, and didn’t bark. I then thought, well, everything’s going okay.”

“It turns out that I was in a courtyard in the back. Besides the dog, there was some charcoal lying there. Then I heard the caretaker walking around. I got up to his gate-house…”

“What are you doing here?”

“Grandfather, they’re shooting out there. I jumped the fence to get away and saw you here.”

“Alright then, stay here for a bit. Do you have anything to drink?”

“No, I don’t drink. But later I’ll come back with some strong tea and we’ll talk about the meaning of life.”

“Okay then, strong tea it is, then.”

“We talked for awhile longer. His wife was there, also, tipsy. And I heard that the gunmen had been around asking about me, ‘Where is the guy in the striped shirt?’ I quickly took it off. I sat there, shirtless, and couldn’t stop thinking that I hope they didn’t notice. The caretaker said to me, ‘Don’t be afraid of those guys. They’re our guys.’ Then he began to chase me out. He said that soon they would be coming to make a check, and since I was an outsider, it would only cause problems. We agreed that we would wait until the militants walked away and then I would go.”

“Everything quieted down, and I finally stepped out of there and quickly ran across the road. I had to travel almost three kilometers to get to my own street. I made it home and noticed that the time for fasting had ended. I told my wife how I had been saved by God three times. My death, it seems was not to be there, but somewhere else, instead. Thank you all who prayed for me and thank you Lord for your faithfulness and allowing me to continue serving You on this earth! ”

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