In 2 Corinthians 1:8, the apostle Paul wrote, “We do not want you to be uninformed, brothers and sisters, about the hardships we suffered in the province of Asia.” Our family of churches in Eurasia has recently suffered a wave of heavy trials of illness and injury in the lives of several families who serve the church in either part-time or full-time ministry positions.
Natasha Tkachenko, of Ekaterineburg, Russia, was diagnosed early last year with a rare, extremely debilitating disease, affecting her ability to breathe and move about normally. She now qualifies in the Russian social welfare system for invalidnost, and can receive some benefits, such as free medication. She is no longer able to work, and doctors say her condition will continue to deteriorate. As she cannot manage stairs, the family is forced to move from their current apartment and find one located on a ground floor. She and husband and two adopted children (under 10 years old) would appreciate your prayers. Sasha Milnikov, leader of the church in Ufa, Russia, as reported in another article here on Disciples Today, was in critical condition after a serious, head-on car accident on the 26th of December, resulting in multiple fractures and a head injury. He has now regained consciousness. He has a strong body and his prognosis is good, though his recovery is expected to be long and slow. He and his family, too, appreciate your continuing prayers.From Minsk, Belorussia, staff couple Igor and Vika Kozlyonok were traveling home after spending the Christmas holidays in Poland, when their car hit a ditch on the side of the road. Vika and her mother, who were in the car, are all right. Tragically, Igor sustained fatal injuries to the brain and spine, and passed away on the 19th of January. Igor and Vika have two children, a 12-year-old boy, and a six year old girl. Our hearts are broken at this loss, even as we are thankful and confident in the knowledge that Igor finished his race faithfully, and that his soul is safe with God. Please pray for the strength, comfort, courage of his family and for the heart of the church in Minsk.
Three months ago, on Saturday morning, November 5, the preteens and their families of the Vladivostok church in Russia’s Far East, were about to gather for a special school-holiday program. One of the three staff couples, Denis and Vika Artiyukin and their 10-year-old daughter, Vera, had come early, and had just entered the church hall, when Vika went to put her bag down on a table. She suddenly collapsed into her husband’s arms, unconscious and not breathing. Denis and others nearby immediately called an ambulance, performed artificial respiration and massaged her heart. She was taken to intensive care at a nearby hospital, where she remained unconscious and was unable to breathe independently without the assistance of a ventilator. Sadly, our sister Vika remains in a coma to this day, more than two months later.
News about Vika’s condition and updated prayer requests have been posted regularly on the ICOC Facebook page (where the tally of responses as of this writing is 1057 likes, 515 comments and 174 shares) and the Eurasian churches’ news page (www.icocnews.ru) as well as on other social media platforms, which has been of tremendous encouragement to Denis and all those close to the Artiyukhin family.
One of the first specific prayer requests broadcast by Denis was that Vika would be able to breathe independently. This prayer was answered on the 6th of December. At various times, Vika has seemed to respond to outside stimuli, such as bright colors or voices; her eyes are open, but overall there is, unfortunately, no indication that she is truly connecting with the outside world. She has been fighting recurring pneumonia and is on her second course of strong intravenous antibiotics. She has lost significant weight.
After about six weeks, the hospital which initially cared for her was ready to discharge her home, even though she required a catheter, intravenous feeding, and still had pneumonia. There is a good level of socialized medicine in Russia – everyone is entitled to a comprehensive annual physical checkup, several annual diagnostic tests such as an x-ray, necessary and urgent care for free. However, people in Vika’s situation fall into a bit of a black hole in the care system. Understandably, Denis could not provide the care she required at home. After much difficulty, he found a pansionat (a cross between a sanatorium and a hospice), about an hour from his home, which agreed to take Vika. Denis earnestly wishes there could be more focused rehabilitation for his wife – such as massage, speech therapy – but at the moment the primary concern is to lower her temperature and overcome the pneumonia. It costs Denis 45,000 Russian rubles per month for Vika’s care (approximately $758 US Dollars). Lest this seem like an incredible bargain to some of our first-world readers, this amount is nearly equal to the monthly take-home salary of a typical minister in central Russia.
Denis and Vika have been in the full-time ministry in Vladivostok for fifteen years. They lead one-third of the marrieds and a group of 14 singles.
One of the greatest challenges for Denis and his daughter, Vera, now that Vika has been in a coma for so many days, must certainly be that they are caught in an agonizing tension between two groups: those loved ones who look at Vika and feel there is no hope of recovery and that they simply need to “deal with it” and say goodbye; and those loved ones who cling to the hope of full recovery with great faith and hope. Please pray with great faith for Vika, for Denis, and their daughter Vera. May they have physical and emotional strength, may they remain thankful, may they bring honor and glory to God, in this tremendous trial of faith.
"We wait in hope for the Lord; he is our help and our shield" – Psalm 33:20.