July 2017 Prayer Update

It has been a while since we have written about our lives and ministry here in Ukraine. First, we just want to express our thanksgiving to all of you who support us with your prayers and finances. The Bible reminds us not to be ignorant of our enemy’s devices, and we are also told that the prayer of the righteous availeth much! While being here in Chernivtsi we experience both. The Apostle Paul tells Timothy, “As Christ’s soldier do not let yourself become tied up in worldly affairs, for then you cannot satisfy the one Who has enlisted you in His army.” This is where I (and you) must be a wise steward: with our time, with our resources, and with our life in general. There is much to share as it’s been five months since our last report, but I will do my best to be brief and clear. I feel like the Apostle Paul when he said, “I wish to be present with you and not write to you,” but for now I don’t have this opportunity so I will try my best to share with you in writing what God is doing in our lives and ministry here in Ukraine.

One of the greatest testimonies we would like to share is of God’s work in me and my family. Maybe this sounds self-centered, but I will explain what I mean. Since coming to Ukraine, our goal here has been (and still is) to be missionaries who are concerned for and working with other people, seeking to help them find God’s answers to their problems. But, we know that before He can find us fit for His work here in Ukraine, He must first do the work in our hearts and in our lives. We were beginning to feel that, over the past few months, our ministry was somewhat stalling as it hasn’t grown much from what it was or taken any drastic steps. But, then, we realized that we were looking with our human eyes, and not with God’s eyes. We were overlooking God’s working in the everyday, “little” things by looking for big, grand things. It seems that God is taking this time and teaching us day by day how important it is to seek His interest in this life and not our own (Phil. 2:20-21), and to be faithful in even the smallest of “little” things. After going through four years of Christian college, and gathering much head-knowledge of God and what He wants from us, I feel like I’m just now starting in God’s kindergarten. It is one thing to know, but it is totally another thing to live! It is this truth that we, as a family, are trying to learn and seek after. Someone said, “It is better to know one verse of Scripture and to live it out, than to know the whole Bible yet not live by it.” Praise the Lord for His abundant mercy and grace that He is showing toward us as we seek to learn and incorporate His truth into our hearts and lives.

These past few months have been our busiest yet, even though it hasn’t always been with what may sound like your standard missionary outreaches! I will try to divide our recent activities into two categories: one is family/home activities and the other is ministry activities. First, our family and home activities. To simply put it, we are living and working around the house. We keep a large garden, just like most other Ukrainian people do, while continuing to chip away at years’ worth of neglect of the house and property. These seemingly simple chores help us and people around us to understand each other. We don’t want to be seen as “the Americans” here amongst our neighbors, but we are trying to live simply and show them that we’re just normal people like they are. At home, Sarah’s main chores consist of cleaning our house and our grandmother’s house, daily meals, and, lately, a large chunk of her time is spent on maintaining the garden and preserving the harvest for the long winter months. This past year, as we arrived right at the beginning of winter, we had to buy most of our produce either at the bazaar (market) or at the grocery store. Here in Ukraine, that means paying very high prices (sometimes 10x higher than in summer) for oftentimes very questionable quality. Aside from the price, food here is usually produced with very heavy levels of chemicals and pesticides. While those things are pretty much unavoidable no matter where you live these days, here in Ukraine, the problem is that their use is almost completely unregulated. Pesticides and synthetic fertilizers that have been banned in the States and EU because of serious health concerns are freely imported here under the table from China and often used in high concentrations. We have heard directly from the farmers how they won’t let their families eat the very produce that they grow and sell. A Sister from our Church here is a nurse in the city hospital and she says that spring is always the busiest time at the hospital as so many are sickened by the produce that floods the markets as the weather warms up. We are thankful for a big garden and the opportunity to fill our root cellar with lots of homegrown food that we can use both for our family and also with which to help others as we are able! I have also been keeping busy around the property in my spare time, not only with seemingly never-ending repairs, along with many projects for various churches and ministries, but the Lord has also given us the opportunity to begin supplying some of our own meat through raising meat rabbits. Meat here is often similar to the produce–very expensive and better left on the store shelf or meat vendor’s table. The 20 rabbits growing out back are a very low-maintenance and economic meat source that, along with the garden, will help to drastically reduce our food budget and free up those resources for other areas. As for the last member of our family, Andre also has work around the house! His favorite things are helping to weed the garden (translation: anything green gets pulled–weed or not), helping feed the rabbits, and sampling all of the various fruits and vegetables. We often find him simply sitting quietly out in the garden, with his puppy at his side, munching away on whatever berries or vegetables he finds. His constant smile and friendly, outgoing personality endear him to all he comes in contact with. We have found that he can sometimes open a door to reach people that we never would’ve been able to open ourselves. Often, when people would not have stopped and talked with me or Sarah by ourselves, they will stop and gladly begin a conversation with or about Andre. He is such a blessing to us! We only pray that God will give us wisdom and grace to raise him for His glory.

As far as ministry activities, we haven’t added much new, but we have been continuing on in many of the same things that we’ve mentioned in previous letters. I still preach regularly both in our local church here in Chernivtsi and also in various villages. Please keep me and my preaching in your prayers as I strive to bring the truth of Scripture to light, even if it may sometimes go against some of the old, strongly-held Slavic traditions. Pray that God’s Spirit will open and enlighten hearts. I also continue to spend Saturdays working with the village children in Maliy Kuchuriv. Next week we will be holding a summer Bible camp (similar to American VBS) there Monday-Friday during the day. This gives us the opportunity to reach children from the surrounding villages as well as those children we have been already working with. Much work and long preparation has gone into this and we look forward to it! Please keep us, the other camp workers, and the children in your prayers. The Lord also continues to keep the door open to work with the two families that we’ve mentioned previously (the new converts, and the family struggling with personal/marital issues). Please, we ask you to continue to pray with us for these families. The latter of these families especially is a very difficult situation, and progress often seems almost impossible to our human eyes. The Bible clearly states that, when a man and woman become married, they are to leave their old families and cleave to each other as a new and separate family. In Ukraine, however, we see a big problem in the Churches in that this “leaving and cleaving” is not happening. Most newlyweds remain nearby their families after the wedding, building houses next to their parents or, for financial reasons, simply continuing to live in their parent’s home. This is Ukrainian culture, but not Biblically wise. Often, the parents simply continue to control their children like they always have, without letting the new family be a separate family with the new Husband as the head. We are seeing firsthand the havoc this wreaks in those new families. In our friends’ case, they’ve been married for over 10 years and the families are still interfering and trying to control everything about them. In particular, the wife’s family strongly disagrees with the Husband and does everything they can to turn the Wife against him. It’s a very, very difficult situation. However, we know that nothing is impossible with the Lord, and we want to trust Him and wait on Him to do His work in His way and in His time. We also continue to seek opportunities to witness to our neighbors, trying not to forget that our biggest witness to them is oftentimes in the smallest, most mundane, everyday things of life. Most of them are Orthodox believers and are already very religious–they’re not looking for someone to come and give them a presentation on the ABC’s of salvation. We realize more and more that they are watching us very closely to see how we live day-to-day–this is our biggest witnessing opportunity with them right now. We pray that they see that our religion doesn’t just end when we walk out the Church doors on Sunday afternoon, but that it encompasses and transforms every aspect of our lives, every day. They don’t want to just hear what we have to say–they want to see it for themselves in our lives. Pray with us that we show them Christ in everything!

We have one last prayer request to share with you, and we’ll make it in the form of an announcement. After much prayer and counsel with others, we have decided that we will visit the States for a few months this fall for Sarah to have the baby there. There are many factors that contributed to this decision, but the biggest one is that finding reliable, good medical care here is very difficult. In our small local church alone, several women have been left unable to have more children as a direct result of the poor medical care and doctors’ interventions during/after birth. Unfortunately, their stories are all too common. Here, in Chernivtsi, we have so far been unable to find suitable prenatal and birth care. However, we have been in contact with the Christian midwife in the States who delivered Andre for us, and she has agreed to work with us again for the birth of this new baby. Lord willing, we will visit the States the beginning of September, and–barring any complications–hope to return to Ukraine in January. We praise the Lord for this opportunity, and ask you to pray that everything will go smoothly.
Now I shall close this letter with these words, “Grace be with all of you that love our Lord Jesus Christ in sincerity.”

The least servants of Christ,
Yuriy, Sarah, Andre, and Baby Gula


Our garden, tilled and ready to be planted!


Andre, with his puppy, Bella, helping plant raspberry plants along the back fence.



The greenhouse, currently full of cucumbers.


My garden helper, all worn out from the day's labors!


Yuriy rebuilt some old, dilapidated cages on the back of our property to house our new meat rabbits.


Preparing to pour a concrete floor in the garage – improper street drainage means that all rainwater comes down the hill and washes through our property, turning the dirt garage floor into a mud pit every time it rains. This makes it very hard to keep tools and materials from getting ruined, and also makes it difficult to work in the garage, which also doubles as Yuriy's workshop.


New concrete floor to keep the water out and new, sealed ceiling to give two separate, useable spaces.


Pouring a concrete floor in the puppy's pen and in the chicken coop to keep them out of the mud too.


Andre helping feed the rabbits–his friends for now, and his supper in the near future!


Preparing for upcoming Children's Camps by making sets of cornhole boards with friends from church.


Ministering with the Church in the village of Pashkivtsi, the village where Yuriy's Grandparents and Father grew up.


Ministering in the village of Rzhavyntsi.


Brother Sergei (left) and the Pastor of the church at Rzhavyntsi (right).


Traveling through the Carpathian Mountains to visit a small village church there in Berkhovina, planted in part by our local church here in Chernivtsi.


Snow still on the mountaintops in June!


The church here in Burkhovina was celebrating their 20th anniversary with a Jubilee Celebration and invited many area churches to participate in a big, outdoor service.


Yuriy preaching during the Jubilee Service


Shuttling kids home in the pouring rain after our weekly Saturday meeting in Maliy Kuchariv–how many children can fit in one small car? 🙂


Baby Gula – praise the Lord for a healthy, growing baby!


Pea season is everyone's favorite season–especially Andre!


The River Prut isn't too far from our house – a wonderful way to cool off on a summer day!


We are thankful for God's faithfulness to us!

An Exciting Announcement!


We are excited to announce that God is blessing our family with new life! Lord willing, a new baby will be added to our family this upcoming November. We are thrilled and so blessed! Please pray for our family during this time, especially for Sarah and for this new little one. Rejoice with us, and pray with us! Thank you, dear friends and family. May God bless you all!

-The least servants of Christ,

Yuriy, Sarah, Andre, and Baby Gula

January/February Prayer Update

Dear praying friends and family,


It has been a little while since we wrote about us and about the Lord’s doing in and through our lives. Therefore, it is our joy to share with you all again. First, I want to say that I, as a young minister, learn more and more about the vitality of these two truths: first, the unity of the Church, and second, our personal walk with our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. To accomplish unity in the Church, you need more than to just be a regular attendee—you need fellowship with your Brothers and Sisters. Only ten minutes of fellowship before or after the church service is not enough! What I’m trying to say is that we are often concerned more about the physical well-being of our Brother or Sister than about their spiritual well-being—how their cough is doing, or how their remodeling project is going rather than asking how we can pray for them, or encouraging them as they battle some sin.The latter takes much more time and effort and involvement in lives. While physical needs are also very important, they’re not the most important. Our primary goal when we meet with Brothers and Sisters should be to share about our spiritual life, to be iron sharpening another iron, until we’re fit for the Master’s use (Prov.27:17). When we see our Brother or Sister fall, we can’t just leave them there alone, but we have to come along and help them back up with our prayers and presence (Gal. 6:2). There’s so much more to say, but I’ll stop here for now. Second, I mentioned the importance of our personal walk with the Lord. If I claim to be a Child of God, and I’m truly walking in the Light as He is in the Light, good words, thoughts and works should naturally flow out of us always, wherever we are. After all, we are given only two choices: having fruits of the Spirit, or having works of the flesh (Gal.5:19ff). May the Lord help us all to consider our ways and our lives, that when we do stand before Him, He will not be ashamed of us. “According as His divine power hath given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him that hath called us to glory and virtue” (2 Peter 1:3). Hallelujah, what a Savior!

We want to thank you so much for your interest in our lives and your prayers for us. We have been staying very busy, whether with continued work in and around the house, or with ministry work here in Chernivtsi and the surrounding villages. Both are greatly needed! We are very thankful for our house here, but it needs a lot of basic work done (see pictures at bottom of post). The original house was built in the 1930’s, then my father added a two-story addition onto the side some 40 years ago, after he got married and started his own family. For years, our grandparents lived in the one-story original house (my grandmother still lives there) and my family lived in the addition. After my parents moved our family to the States in 2001, our side of the house sat empty for years, until my grandfather passed away in 2010. Since then, a series of tenants have been in and out, but no one really has done much upkeep since we left over 15 years ago and the house is in need of much general repair. From replacing leaky plumbing and worn out electrical lines to building cabinets and shelving units to store our things, it seems there is never-ending work around the house. There are also several large outbuildings which required lots of cleaning-out and organization, as well as reinforcement from theft (which is a major problem here) since I store all of my tools and other things there. We are also preparing for gardening season, which is coming soon! We have a very large garden area as well as a greenhouse, which we will need to take full advantage of so that we can preserve adequate produce for the long winter months. Here, gardening isn’t just a hobby—it’s a means of survival for many people. We are thankful for physical work and for the ability to keep busy with our hands and skills.

Ministry opportunities are also keeping us very busy! I regularly preach in our local church here, and opportunity has also opened to minister and preach in other surrounding villages. Particularly, in one small church in a largely Romanian village named Mahala. They currently have no pastor for the few families that gather, and they rely on other churches to send preachers for their services. One benefit is that the churches here usually have their midweek services all on different days. One church gathers on Wednesday, another on Thursday, while yet another on Friday or Saturday even. This gives us ability to minister in other churches throughout the week while still being faithful to our own local church. We have also been traveling to a small village, Maliy Kuchiriv, every Saturday to work with the children there. For several hours during the afternoon, we meet with them, sing Christian songs, teach them Bible stories, do craft projects with them, and play games with them. These children, many of whom are living with grandparents while their parents work in Europe and send money home, are always eagerly awaiting us when we pull in. It’s clear to see that no one is working with these children, and many simply want attention and affection. We are doing our best to build relationships with them for the ultimate purpose of bringing them to Christ. Lastly, the Lord opened an unexpected opportunity to work with two Christian families who are simply in need of Christian encouragement and fellowship. We see an unfortunate trend in the Churches here of simply shutting out a Brother or Sister when they fall in one way or another, instead of gathering around them and helping them back up. One of these families had a very serious problem several years back that almost led to divorce. Instead of helping them, the Church placed them on discipline and effectively closed them off. They have been struggling on their own and trying to come back since then. We struck up a friendship with them and, seeing their struggles, have tried to simply encourage them in following God’s plan for how the Christian family should function and fellowship with them. The other family with whom we have been meeting are simply new converts trying to learn what the true Christian life is. We have been meeting once or twice a week and having simple Bible studies—singing, reading and discussing God’s Word, and encouraging each other in the things of the Lord and how they apply to daily life and practical matters. What a simple thing, yet what a difference it can make in lives! When we genuinely care for our Brother’s or Sister’s well-being, and take the time and effort to be involved in their lives, God is glorified and only then can the Church grow and be truly unified.

We are busy, but we are blessed! We have enjoyed a steady stream of visitors from the States since December, and they have been a blessing and encouragement to us in many ways. Valera Polishchuk, a dear Brother in Christ from the Slavic church we attended back in the States, came for a month for the purpose of fixing his teeth (believe it or not, you can find dentists here that do higher-quality work than many dentists in the States, and for a fraction of the price once you consider the exchange rate! Many Ukrainian people find it cheaper to buy a ticket and fly back, enjoy a small vacation, and fix their teeth than to have major dental work done in the States). He was such a blessing to us, and to so many people while he was here! He did much work around the house, and also in hearts and lives. We thank the Lord for the many blessings He sends to us.

Thank you for your prayers and support, dear friends and family, and we ask that you continue to pray for us. We need spiritual strength and physical strength both for the work that God has called us to do. Pray that we will be faithful to Him in all things! Pray for the ministries the Lord has given us here, both those specifically mentioned and for the everyday interactions with our neighbors and those around us. We are praying for you all as well! May God bless you.

The least servants of Christ,

Yuriy, Sarah, and Andre Gula

Our family
We have a car! Praise the Lord! We purchased it in Germany for a very good price and brought it back. What a blessing!
Andre enjoying our last snowfall (hopefully!!) before spring.


With Brother Valera (from the Spartanburg, SC Slavic Church)
Andriyko helping Tato install cabinets in the kitchen
Yuriy preaching in the Mahala church
Mahala church
Singing with the kids at Maliy Kuchiriv
The kids get points for attendance and verse memorization, which they can later spend for treats


Playing wagon wheel with the kids–one of their favorite games!
The house(s) as seen from the street
One of the outbuildings – the original house, predating even our grandparent’s house. The walls are made of woven straw and twigs and plastered with a mixture of clay and manure, the original Ukrainian insulation technology!
My grandmother made her livelihood from this greenhouse (and one other not currently in existence) years ago, now we are hoping to replace a few broken panels and use it again
Half of the garden (and today was diaper-washing day, as you can see from the clothesline!)

December Prayer Update & New Year’s Greetings!

Dear praying friends and family,

First of all, we want to thank the Lord our God for allowing us to enter this new year! Many people, and perhaps you as well, have some resolutions for this year. Perhaps they have to do with your physical life (which is also needed!), but I trust you are concerned most of all for your inner man. A dear brother, Alosha, from our local church here asked me about my resolution, and I knew without thinking very long what it was. I desire for my family and myself that we will know our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, more intimately in this new year than in the past year. Jesus said, “And this is life eternal, that they might know Thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, Whom Thou hast sent.” I am a firm believer that the true knowledge of Him changes a man’s life–both inwardly and outwardly–for the glory of God the Father. This is my great desire for myself and for you all.

I also want to briefly share an update with all of you who have been praying for our container and its safe arrival. As you already know from our previous update, I traveled to Odessa with my cousin to take care of some important details related to our container. Thank you for praying–we had a very profitable trip and were able to accomplish many needed things. We had a long but safe trip, thank the Lord. Our container arrived here at the house on Friday, December 30th. We had 15 men waiting to help unload everything, and we were able to do so in only 1.5 hours. So far as we’ve unpacked, our belongings have been completely safe and without any damage, praise the Lord! We can hardly believe it–we have yet to find anything broken! My family and I want to thank you once again for your many prayers and the care you’ve shown for us.

Unfortunately, while I was traveling to Odessa, I received a text from Sarah saying that Andre had become very sick with a case of norovirus. He was unable to keep any food or fluids down for two days and had a very difficult time. Then, on the way back from Odessa, I came down with a bad case of the flu. We both had a rough few days over that weekend, but thankfully we were well by following Monday. However, right as Andre and I were getting better, Sarah also came down with a severe chest cold and flu. Unfortunately, Andre followed Sarah after a day or two. Thankfully, after two weeks of illnesses, we are finally, slowly regaining health. Pray that we will continue to get over the last traces of illness and that we will avoid coming down with anything else–there are many, many people sick right now here in Ukraine. Our postman said that nearly every house on his route has sick people. Pray for them as well!

In Ukraine, as some of you perhaps already know, the church has a tradition of celebrating New Year’s together. Normally, they gather at church around 9pm on December 31 and have an extended program with youth choirs, congregational singing, several sermons, and a children’s program. Finally, a few minutes before midnight, everyone kneels and the church together prays in the New Year. After the service ends, the youth (teens/college-age) gather and continue their fellowship until morning light. I’m sure this all sounds very tiring, (and it is!) but when done in a right manner, and in the fear of God, it is a joyous and memorable time for everyone. Sarah and Andre were still sick over New Year’s, but I was able to greet the New Year with our local church here. We are looking forward now to Christmas! Here, in Ukraine, Christmas is celebrated not on December 25th, but on January 7th.

A quick praise! The Lord has provided a Ukrainian language teacher for Sarah, and a very good one at that! We have been praying for months, since before we even left for Ukraine, that God would provide a good teacher for Sarah as the language barrier is really her biggest limitation. She understands spoken Ukrainian well, and can follow conversations and preaching without a problem generally, but is only able to speak very little. She will need to learn the grammar structure (which is very, very different from English grammar structure), build her vocabulary, and learn to read and write. After asking around, the Lord provided a wonderful teacher–and she just so happens to be our next-door neighbor! She is an English instructor at the best university here in Chernivtsi, part of which involves preparing students for an exchange program with Oxford University in London, England. After being recommended to us by some of her English students, we spoke with her and asked if she would be able to teach “backwards” and give Ukrainian lessons. She agreed to try, and we couldn’t be more pleased with her! She comes to our house (easy when you only live on the other side of the fence!) twice a week for an 1.5 hour lesson each time. Sarah’s grasp of the language is growing by leaps and bounds, and she was able to read and write within a week’s time. There is still much to learn, but we are excited and thankful for the Lord’s provision of a wonderful teacher.

Finally, I want to ask you to continue to pray for our family: physically, that we will stay healthy and strong, but also spiritually, that we would conform more with each day into the image of our dear Jesus Christ. Also, pray that He would give us wisdom in training our son, Andre – he is growing quickly, and we see a great need of wisdom and strength to raise him in a right and Godly way. Also, pray that the Lord will open door of ministry to the people around us, beginning with our neighbors. We are praying about starting a small group meeting during the week at our house to build relationships, study Scripture together, pray together, and ultimately grow in the knowledge of our God. Please pray with us for several particular neighbors: Valeria & Luba (two sisters, Orthodox–Valeria is Sarah’s Ukrainian teacher), and Stas & Suzanna (brother and sister, Catholics). We have had good contact and fellowship with them thus far, and we are hoping and praying that they will visit our meetings once we begin. We are also hoping to start meeting with some young couples from church during the week for fellowship, who could be like “iron sharpening iron” for us in our walk with the Lord.

We have many prayer requests, yet we have a Heavenly Father Who loves to hear them. If there is something about which we could pray with you, please let us know–we would love to do that. I want to close with the eternal Word of God, Who said, “The Lord bless thee, and keep thee: The Lord make His face shine upon thee, and be gracious unto thee: The Lord lift up His countenance upon thee, and give thee peace.” We love you, and desire the best in the Lord for you and your families.

The least servants of God,
The Gula Family

Andre is finally beginning to feel better, praise the Lord!
The truck and container waiting to unload
Unloading the container
1.5 hours later, it’s empty!
Sarah’s Ukrainian lessons
Laundry day!
Staying warm on our trip to the bazaar
Andre trying out Yuriy’s hat
Sarah and Andre trying out our piano–it handled the long move very well!

Our Container – Update & Important Prayer Request

Dear praying friends and family,

First of all, thank you for praying about our container–it arrived safely to the port here in Odessa last Thursday! We are thankful that it is back on land safely and, it seems, without too much damage. However, we want to ask you to continue to pray with us about it especially right now. It’s a long and detailed story, but to put it simply, we have had a lot of trouble over the past week since our container arrived and we are still facing several large hurdles as we try to clear customs and get our belongings here to the house. The corruption here in Ukraine is hard to accurately describe. We are being put through the wringer with “regulations” on everything from our moped down to miscellaneous food items. Every “regulation” comes, of course, with an additional price tag attached to it. In addition to the extra “fines” that the brokers and government agents are trying to line their pockets with, we are now at the end of our 1-week deadline we were given to clear the container and return it, so we will also begin paying storage fines for every additional day our container stays in the port warehouse. Our broker informed us tonight that they have also decided to open our container, unload it, and inspect the items personally tomorrow. This has potential to open a whole new bag of issues along with giving them even more things to “fine.” Yuriy has decided that our best option right now is for him to go to Odessa personally and try to work through these issues. He left tonight with our cousin, Greg, to make the 900-mile roundtrip. They will drive through the night to be there in the morning, then are hoping to leave tomorrow afternoon, drive through the night again, and be back sometime Saturday morning. It’s a 24-hr roundtrip at best, on bumpy and pot-holed roads, two border crossings, and not much sleep. Please pray that their car will run smoothly, that Greg and Yuriy will remain alert and safe, and that their trip will be fruitful. Thank you, dear friends, for your prayers. We are hoping to being able to send a positive update on our container soon! May God bless you!