The Ukraine is a country of 45 million people located in mideastern Europe. In 1922, this country was one of the founding republics of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR), which disintegrated in 1991. The Ukraine is the largest contiguous country in continental Europe, and is the home of Chernobyl, a city known for one of the most devastating nuclear accidents, which cost many lives and has lingering effects on the people. Only 2.2 percent of the population professes any type of Protestantism. Currently, there are around 61,000 Seventh-day Adventists church members in the Ukraine.
An Adventist World Radio (AWR) affiliate studio in the Ukraine airs a 15-minute program four times a week on the national radio network. The cable radio network, installed in every public building, including every hotel in the country, still functions, so through this network, our programs potentially reach millions of listeners there.
In 2010, more than 10,200 people contacted the AWR affiliate studio, with 5,219 requesting a Bible correspondence course. Most listeners are young people and children who really love their age-appropriate segments.
The following stories come to us from Kiev, the capital of the Ukraine, and the nearby city of Chernobyl.
“Those good words were not for me”
“Those good words were not for me.” This is what Andrej Bilek said when he first heard the Voice of Hope broadcast in his native Ukrainian. “They just were for somebody else,” he continued.
Andrej was living a good life as a former military person. “I was quite prosperous, had a house, a car, money, and friends.” He had even taken a short training course at an Orthodox seminary, so he had some knowledge of the Bible, but his life was still not complete. There was something lacking.
A turning point
After listening for some time to the AWR Voice of Hope radio programs, he felt the urge to sit down and write a letter, asking to be enrolled in the Bible study course. By listening to the radio programs and
studying the Bible course, he began experiencing the beauty of God in the Bible and the world around him. He compares
his condition to a blind boy that “regained his vision and, looking at the blue sky and flowers around him, asked his mother, ‘Mother, why didn’t you tell me earlier that the world was so beautiful?’ ”
During his study of the Bible, Andrej noticed some steady changes in his own character and lifestyle. Along with other bad habits, he was a heavy smoker. He really wanted to overcome these problems, and asked God to help. After some time, by God’s grace, Andrej quit smoking and gave up other habits that taunted him for years. Now free from his enslavement to these addictions, he concentrated more on the study of the Bible; discovered the truth about the Sabbath, among other things; and began attending the Seventh-day Adventist Church.
The test and triumph of faith
That is when problems began between his family and him. Until then, they were a united family with one common faith: Ukrainian Orthodox. There were six Orthodox priests in his family who were considered the guiding lights in spiritual matters. Needless to say, they were all against Andrej and his newfound faith. This produced a tension that had never been felt before among the family members. Andrej was at a crossroad and had to make some tough decisions.
Although he loved his family dearly, Andrej was determined to follow the Word of God. As he sought for comfort and direction in his life during this difficult time, he recalled reading the Bible text in Isaiah 30:21 that says, “Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, ‘This is the way; walk in it.’ ”* Andrej says, “That voice behind me was the Voice of Hope radio broadcast.”
A new life
After some time, Andrej made his decision to fully surrender his life to God. He was no longer the person he used to be; his life had changed dramatically from where he started earlier. He was no longer under the slavery of his addictions, and he knew that only God could have brought him through that far. He was determined to live the rest of his life for Jesus.
Six months after he made that crucial decision to surrender his life to God, he was baptized into the Seventh-day Adventist Church. He then became an active missionary to his acquaintances in the Orthodox church. He claimed the words of the apostle in Acts 4:20, “ ‘For we cannot help speaking about what we have seen and heard.’ ” He decided to do something with his newfound faith.
Andrej wrote many articles and two books that he uses in his missionary efforts. The bishop of the Orthodox church and the bishop of the Greek Catholic church gave positive feedback and reviews on his books and even allowed them to be distributed in their churches!
After some time, Andrej also found a life companion, and out of that marriage came a son that brightens up his family.
All these things, Andrej says, “Just started by listening to the radio for fifteen minutes a day.” He laments that we all sometimes have so little time to hear God’s voice. How true! We can be so very busy, dealing with our own problems, that we cannot hear what God says or listen to each other.
They are for you also!
At first, Andrej thought these words were not for him. “They just were for somebody else.” But later he discovered they were meant for him also. He rejoices in the fact that many people can hear God’s voice and are encouraged to think about eternal values through the Voice of Hope radio programs.
We are reminded of what Paul wrote in Romans 10:16, 17: “But not all the Israelites accepted the good news. For Isaiah says, ‘Lord, who has believed our message?’ Consequently, faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word of Christ.”
Andrej says he is glad that the Voice of Hope was, for him, a beacon through which he met God, heard His voice, and believed in Him.
And we, too, rejoice with him!
“My journey with God and to God”
“My journey with God and to God,” this is how Maria Goryuk describes her life.
Tragedy strikes Chernobyl
Maria lived in a small village close to the Chernobyl nuclear power station where she worked. Maria’s parents were away on a holiday over the April 26, 1986, weekend, so Maria stayed home, not knowing what had just taken place at the plant.
The following Monday, as she always did, Maria went out to the bus stop to catch the bus to work. After a much longer than usual waiting time, the bus did not show up, so she decided to walk to work—a 45-minute hike to the station. Then she noticed that there were no cars on the roads or people walking around. Everything seemed so strange and suspicious, but she still did not know what was going on. Maria sped up her steps to get to work as quickly as possible.
As Maria turned the last curve on the road leading up to the plant, the fourth nuclear reactor building quickly came into view. Suddenly, she could only see black ash covering everything around her, even blocking the road. She stopped, trying to figure out where this ash was coming from. It was not there two days ago. Then she looked up and saw that the fourth nuclear reactor was actually destroyed!
I am going to die, was the first thought that came to her mind. She knew what radiation was and the consequences of exposure. She ran away as fast as she could with the thought pounding in her mind, I am going to die; I’ll be dead soon.
By the time she reached her house, she was very thirsty. The water tasted bitter. She had some food, but that, too, had an awful taste to it. She tried some sugar but that was bitter also. Maria was only nineteen years old. She wanted to live. She made up her mind to not tell anyone where she had been.
The evacuation and relocation
The next day, her parents returned from their holiday; and they were all evacuated from the area, and checked by doctors at a nearby hospital. Although the doctors told her she was fine, she did not believe them because she had been in a highly contaminated area.
Life after the accident
Some years went by, and Maria got married and had three daughters. However, the thought of dying from her exposure to the radiation haunted her continually. She watched news programming showing how many people had died and how many were still affected by that terrible accident. She wondered why she was still alive. Both of her girls were healthy and beautiful, but she still wondered.
Touched by the Voice of Hope
In the autumn of 1998, Maria, along with her daughters, tuned the radio from one station to the other, looking for something interesting to listen to. “Suddenly, we stopped on one of the frequencies [on] which we heard a talk about God. At the end of the program there was an appeal, ‘If you would like to study the Bible, send a letter to the radio [program] the Voice of Hope, and request a Bible correspondence course.’ ”
Every Sunday morning at 7:45 A.M., they anxiously awaited the program. The girls were so enchanted, they would “hold their breath just to listen carefully to what [was] said.” Indeed, the programs were filled with love, life, and hope; they always pointed the listeners to the Bible and a new life beyond this world.
The turning point
After listening week after week to the programs, one day the girls said to Maria, “Mum, we have chosen to follow these Bible studies.” When they began studying the Bible, Maria confessed, “I did not know Him, but He knew me from the very beginning of the world, and He has answered my question, Why am I still alive?” Maria took comfort in the words of the psalmist: “ ‘My God, in whom I trust’ ” (Psalm 91:2).
Finding the church
Through the study of the Bible, Maria and her daughters found the truth that led them to the Seventh-day Adventist Church. After attending and learning more about Jesus, Maria surrendered her life to God and was baptized. She was 30 years old.
Later, the girls were also baptized.
During this time, Maria had a fourth child, a boy. Maria says, “I’m very grateful to [Jesus] for He saved me from the nuclear contamination and gave me four wonderful kids. But most of all I am grateful to God because, through the broadcast of the Voice of Hope, I have this hope of an eternal life with my Savior, Christ, and the hope of His soon coming.”
Today, Maria is active in her church and has become a successful literature evangelist.
The stories of Andrej and Maria exemplify the incredible impact that the programs from Adventist World Radio have on the lives of many listeners. They also underscore the enormous influence the Bible correspondence school has on those who request the free Bible courses and complete them. These two elements—the broadcast and the follow-up—lead people to Jesus and His church.
These stories also tell us how God meets every one of us where we are. But He does not leave us there; God takes us to an ever-increasing understanding of His will for us, leading us to fellowship in the church and to be faithful colaborers with Him in reaching others with the saving knowledge of His Word.
As He did for Andrej and Maria, He can certainly do it for you too.
* All Bible verses are from the New International Version of the Bible.