As Long As It Is Day

With the shackles of communism behind them, the older generation in Ukraine is recovering the lost hope of the gospel.

Julia Oblets has a sense of both peace and urgency in her ministry. Peace, because God’s Word is saving many in the cities and villages of Ukraine where her team serves. Urgency, because those they serve are running out of time. Julia is the in-country director for Marcel Fund Ministries, a Christian charity that cares for the elderly. As workers deliver much-needed food and supplies, they share the gospel, pray, and fellowship.

Julia Oblets

Julia Oblets leads a team of volunteers in Ukraine who care for the physical, emotional, and spiritual needs of the elderly.

We must work the works of Him who sent Me as long as it is day; night is coming when no one can work.
—John 9:4

Many of the elderly in Ukraine face poverty. They are often hungry, without medicine, and isolated. Some have no electricity or running water. Such issues are difficult enough. But this generation suffers from another problem that goes perhaps even deeper: They remember what life was like under the brutal reign of Joseph Stalin. Ukraine was part of the Soviet Union from 1922 to 1991. Communist policy favored the development of the collective over the individual. Taken to its extreme, this concept devastated people’s sense of self-worth.

“The dynamic was to destroy,” says Debbie Sutton, president of the Marcel Fund, “to destroy the individual, to destroy the family, to destroy the nation.” The older generations in Ukraine grew up under censorship and propaganda, without freedom of speech, and the terrible result was a loss of personal identity. “So they suffer from a sense of not being needed, wanted, or valued.”

Health care services were, and continue to be, lacking to the point that Marcel Fund volunteers find themselves training the elderly to use a toothbrush. “No one has shown them the value of caring for themselves.”

When people have no sense of their own worth as human beings, it’s hard for them to imagine a God who loves them. And because the communist government promoted atheism, no one encouraged them to try. Religion was mocked and schools taught that God did not exist. “There were some believers during the days when the church was underground,” says Debbie, “but the vast number of them don’t believe in God and don’t understand why [faith] is so important to us.”

When people have no sense of their own worth as human beings, it’s hard for them to imagine a God who loves them.

Elderly woman with In Touch Messenger

For several generations, the Ukrainian people have been taught that God does not exist. Today, many are finally hearing the truth through In Touch Messengers.

If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature.
—2 Corinthians 5:17

Today, religious observation can sometimes be strictly cultural. People may think that occasional church attendance makes them Christians. “But,” says Julia Oblets, “they don’t know what it means to believe. Maybe they’ve heard about God, but they don’t know exactly who Jesus Christ is. They don’t know Him personally as Savior.”

“So for us,” Julia continues, “it’s very important to tell them the truth. Sometimes it changes their lives just before they die.”

Percentage of Ukraine’s population aged 65 and over:

16% of the elderly, or 7 million people

The In Touch Messenger is helping Marcel Fund workers share the true gospel of Jesus Christ. As they carry food and water, toothpaste, and adult diapers into villages and up flights of stairs, they bring the Bread of Life. To timeworn hearts that have never felt seen, needed, or wanted, they explain that there is a God who says, “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you” (Jer. 1:5). A God who created them with value and purpose, wants to spend eternity with them—and has made a way, through the sacrifice of His Son.

The Messenger gives them a chance to hear it for themselves. The device plays God’s Word and dozens of sermons out loud for the many who don’t have a Bible, have vision problems, or are bedridden.

Marcel Fund Ministries has distributed approximately 1,300 Messengers to the elderly across Ukraine. “And they listen and listen,” says Debbie. “Some of them have listened to the whole thing two or three times, and they’ve become believers.” The Messenger then becomes a source of comfort, companionship, and learning. When they hear that “they are loved, that they were created with a purpose … that Jesus loves them,” she says, “it is profound for them, and life-changing.”

Number of Marcel Fund workers in Ukraine:


Number of regions in Ukraine where Marcel Fund workers are active:

17 of 27

And God is multiplying His Word. In nursing homes, volunteers can play a single Messenger aloud for 8-12 people in a room. As residents become interested in this God of love and forgiveness, Bible study groups are forming, sometimes with 20-30 participants. In a mighty move of His power, weekly meetings of up to 200 people have been reported. This is a far greater impact, says Debbie, than was possible with one-on-one ministry.

Julia and her team know that those they care for are approaching the twilight years of life. “We believe our ministry is so necessary,” she says. “There’s no time to think, just act.”

Marcel Fund Ministries has seen thousands of people find new life in Christ over the 20 years of its existence. Since they began distributing In Touch Messengers, says Debbie, they’ve seen God working more rapidly than ever before. “This device,” she says, “has single-handedly changed everything about our ministry.” And they rest in His faithfulness to keep opening hearts as they share the truth about the God who loves us personally.

“This device has single-handedly changed everything about our ministry.”

—Debbie Sutton, president of the Marcel Fund

Elderly woman with In Touch Messenger

An elderly woman holds her Messenger. The device helps recipients put their faith in Jesus. It also brings comfort and strength during long hours of loneliness.

“The Word of God recorded on the Messenger brings me joy and life.”

—Lyudmila, a recipient

Because of your gifts and prayers, elderly men and women in Ukraine are hearing the gospel of Jesus Christ near the very end of their lives. Thank you for giving them the chance to know Him.

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