by Wendy Turrell
The parishioners of Lakeside Christian Church, on Knollwood Lane, have a close relationship with a family in war-torn Ukraine. The church supports a missionary family – Scott and Oksana Sobie and their children – as they live and serve the Ukrainian people in the dangerous region of Zaporozhye, whose nuclear plant has been besieged by Russia.
Lakeside’s commitment to missionary work in Ukraine predated the Russian invasion. Pastor Petar Nenadov explained that 12 years ago, the Sobie family was back in the U.S. for a brief time because one of their children needed medical attention.
“The pediatrician they met was a member of our church, who was also planning with her husband to do mission work in a developing country,” Nenadov said. “Their families formed a deep friendship, and as the church learned about their work, we have supported them ever since.”
Lakeside Christian Church supports missions in Haiti, Serbia and Thailand, as well as Ukraine, through a portion of its annual budget, fundraisers, and sending supplies or work teams when possible. The church’s website describes the congregation’s motivation to help in far-flung places: “To love God; to care for all people; and to communicate the word of God.”
Scott Sobie and his wife Oksana, a Ukraine native, have lived in Ukraine since 2004, regularly traveling back to the U.S. for the births of their children or renewal of documents, according to Sobie, who answered questions through email in spite of living under renewed Russian shelling.
Sobie said prior to the war, he and his family had a home in the village of Balki where, “We had a quiet ministry in the church where I was pastor. Oksana led Sunday School with the children of our village, and we would have vacation bible schools in the summer, teach free English lessons, and travel to other churches to preach, sing, and bring encouragement and Bible teaching.”
That changed radically when Russia invaded.
“In many ways, we are refugees ourselves, since our home, church, and village, where we lived, is under Russian occupation,” said Sobie. “We had to evacuate after two months of occupation, when it became extremely dangerous for us, as Americans, to remain.”
Friends of the family fled the city of Zaporozhye for Poland, and they offered the Sobies the use of their home there.
Sobie said, “Our ministry has become drastically different. We are living in a large city that is often under fire from Russian missiles, and there is a heaviness and fear that the war has brought.”
He and Oksana give what aide they can, continuing to bring the encouragement of faith.
“People are so grateful, not simply for the humanitarian help that we can give, but for the presence of an American Christian family, who is standing with them in this dark time and sharing the love and hope of Christ with them in their adversity,” Sobie explained.
Three of the Sobie’s children – ages 9, 15 and 18 – remain with them in Ukraine. Their oldest son and two daughters are studying in the U.S. They are concerned for the safety of their family, but Sobie said, “Each of them desperately wants to remain here in Ukraine as long as possible because this is a country and people whom they love. It’s where they grew up, and they have friends here and a deep loyalty to this nation.”
He continued, “We know that the time may come when we must leave, and pray about this every day, and try to wisely use every moment we have here to do good and point others to the One who can walk with them even through the valley of the shadow of death.”
Nenadov said the Sobie family was able to travel to the United States for three weeks in August. While stateside, they gave an update to the congregation on how their ministry has changed. Nenadov said the Aug. 28 service is available for viewing on the Lakeside Christian Church website or YouTube channel.
Nenadov said while the Sobies were in the states, other congregations joined with his to gather clothes, school supplies, towels, blankets and medicines to send back with the Sobies to Ukraine. Volunteers boxed and shipped the donations.
“Even before the war, the Sobies impacted many people simply through their presence,” Nenadov said. “People were amazed that, although they had the opportunity to live in the peace and prosperity of America, they willingly chose to live in Ukraine and serve people that much of the world had forgotten.
“Now, the Sobies continue to assist in spiritual and humanitarian aid, leading prayer services and distributing basic needs.”
After Russia took Crimea, the family still chose to stay. “And now, in spite of this terrible war, they are choosing to stay and serve where needed. … Through their lives they are pointing people to the hope Christians have because of Jesus. … When we have hope that transcends death itself, it enables us to do the good we can do and to trust God with the things we cannot control or understand,” Nenadov said. ∞
Featured Photo: Scott Sobie kneels among items donated by Lakeside Christian Church and other area churches for the people of Ukraine.Photo from screenshot.