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Russian-speaking Ukrainians arriving in Israel. Video.

Despite battling cancer, Ukrainian couple ministers to victims of Hamas war

A Ukrainian couple facing their own life-and-death battle with advanced cancer are helping others suffering from anxiety and despair on the frontline of the Israel-Hamas war.

Ukrainian-born pastor Yura and his wife Luda, who is battling Stage 4 cancer, are reaching out to suffering Israelis living on the frontline of the war, near the Gaza border. They’re leaders of a Russian-speaking evangelical church in Israel supported by Illinois-based Slavic Gospel Association

Ukrainian-born Yura, 51, and his wife Luda, 53, who has undergone major surgeries and multiple rounds of chemotherapy to treat Stage 4 cancer, left Ukraine to live in Israel, only to find themselves facing Hamas’ rockets — and a devastating medical diagnosis.

Initially, doctors gave Luda only three to six months to live. But she has defied expectations, with doctors saying her condition is currently stable, a miracle that she attributes to answered prayer. The couple serves as Christian missionaries supported by the U.S.-based Slavic Gospel Association in the Israeli city of Ashkelon, just eight miles from Gaza. Ashkelon has come under attack since the war started last October.

“Despite her illness, Luda bravely comes with me everywhere,” said Yura, the pastor of a Russian-speaking evangelical church in Ashkelon. “She helps serve food to those affected by the war and shares God’s love with others who are homeless, anxious and suffering great distress.”

READ: Israel gets support of interfaith group in Washington

While undergoing cancer treatment, Luda encouraged other women going through the same or similar struggles, giving them hope. “I pray that God will give me strength to go through these trials and, most importantly, keep on sharing the gospel,” she said.

Despite their own crisis, Yura, who was born Jewish, and Luda have started a new church through the Slavic Gospel Association. Since last October, evangelical churches in Israel sponsored by the association have supplied more than 200,000 free meals to Israelis reeling from shock and grief, some left homeless by the terrorist attacks.

The grassroots aid effort is helping change perceptions of evangelical Christians in Israel, who often are viewed with skepticism and indifference by the secular Jewish majority.

“Roughly a third of Israelis are Russian-speaking Jews from the former Soviet countries, including thousands of immigrants from Ukraine,” said Eric Mock, senior vice president of the Slavic Gospel Association. “I see the same thing in Israel now that I see in Ukraine. People are in a pit of despair. There is no normalcy in the midst of the craziness.

“Israelis are searching for something solid to cling onto. They’re asking, ‘Where’s the hope?’ Everything around them is sinking. But the church is a rock of stability, and that’s drawing people. Some evangelical churches have doubled in size since the war began.”

The war with the Hamas terrorist group in Gaza has entered its fourth month.

–Alan Goforth | Metro Voice

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