BROADVIEW HEIGHTS – “Only God would take something as horrific as a war and turn it into a positive. That’s just what we’re seeing. It’s right from the book of Genesis, Chapter 50,” says Roman Skalsky, deacon at Slavic Full Gospel Church.
The church, at 5851 East Walling Road, will be expanding from one to two worship services beginning on Sunday (September 11). Its 9:30 a.m. service will be conducted in the Ukrainian language, and its 11:30 a.m. service will be in the English language. The church will provide Sunday School for its children at both meeting times.
Slavic Full Gospel was seeing its church grow in attendance, mission and evangelism activities before February 24. But when Russia began its wanton and unwarranted war against Ukraine, everything changed. Many members of the church emigrated from Ukraine to the United States, and still have relatives and close ties to Ukraine.
“We were busy before, sending mission teams to many places, but our members responded like never before once the invasion happened,” Skalsky explains. “Since February 27, every Sunday, we have special collections to help Ukraine’s people. Response from our members, neighbors, other churches is overwhelming. So far close to $400,000 has been donated through the church to help those in need.”
Slavic Full Gospel Church’s special weekly collections were put to immediate use in refugee relief for Ukraine. Soon the church’s leaders began obtaining first aid kits, tourniquets, and bulletproof vests for both soldiers and civilians on the front lines in countering Russia’s invasion. The reaction from the church and its members was profound, powerful, and personal.
“Suddenly we were getting calls from family members, asking us to provide them with funds to cover major hospital procedures, or asking for help in evacuating,” recalls church member Diyana Gabyak of Richfield. “As the brutal invasion continued, many of us had friends or family members whom the Russians murdered. We prayed, and we felt God compelling us to act on behalf of our bleeding, wounded and dying brothers and sisters in Ukraine.”
Next, members of the church stopped their daily schedules and used their own funds to travel to Ukraine and to Eastern Poland to be involved first-hand in refugee relief and rescue activities. More than 30 members of Slavic Full Gospel distributed food to refugees who fled to western Ukraine cities like Lviv from war-torn places such as Kharkiv and Kherson. The former was under Russian control until it was liberated; the latter is still held by invaders. Some members traveled further east and helped distribute bulletproof vests to soldiers near the front lines.
In addition, many individual donations took place beyond the church. Donors and volunteers helped fill up ten, 40-foot shipping containers with food and medical supplies that the church and its members loaded up for refugees in Ukraine.
The church has had these containers driven to Connecticut, then placed on gigantic cargo ships which sailed across the Atlantic to Gdansk, Poland. There the containers are mated again with truck cabs and driven to refugee centers in Western Ukraine and eastern Poland.
“We’re so grateful to non-profits which came alongside to help us, heart-to-heart and hand-to-hand, with relief,” Skalsky adds. “The group Impact With Hope provided us with hundreds of its bucket brigade disaster recovery meals, which we shipped to Ukraine. “Rise in Love, a non-profit based in the southwest suburbs, has also provided assistance and found apartments for two of our refugee families, and paid for a year’s rent in the homes as well.”
A small church with about 280 members and an annual budget of only about $500,000, Slavic Full Gospel saw its numbers swell as the Ukraine crisis and war intensified. Eventually the church helped about 30 families which have come to the U.S. from Ukraine. “All of them received temporary protected status from the U.S. State Dept. due to the war. Some are war widows and orphans. (Here is one story: https://eyeoncleveland.com/2022/05/08/ukraine-widow-spending-first-mothers-day-without-husband-more-than-5000-miles-from-home/). Many don’t speak English. All have great needs, and we’re doing what we can to assist them as well.”
Skalsky also gives thanks to “great American friends” such as Cuyahoga Valley Church, Moody Radio Cleveland, and WKJA Heartfelt Radio for supporting and spreading the word about the church’s relief efforts. “We’ve been blessed to have so many partners helping Ukrainian people in times of great distress such as this,” he adds.
Slavic Full Gospel believes that the two services will also help relieve overcrowding, as its church is over maximum capacity most of the time with just one service.
Here’s are photos with details about the two church services at Slavic Full Gospel Church: