In 1999, Roman Lebedev (photo right, with family) was a staff member of an alcohol and drug rehabilitation center in the town of Kazatin. Because of Roman’s activities, he met a Nazarene missionary, Robert Skinner (current missionary to Poland) and Pastor Volodymyr Masyuk (сurrently district superintendent in Ukraine). Roman was impressed by the number of charity programs and aid services the Church of Nazarene had for Ukrainian people and after a long period of praying and searching for God’s will, in 2001, Roma and his wife Oksana accepted Bob Skinner’s offer to move to Vinnitsa and plant a church.
From the very start, the focus of the ministry has been on the people who were labeled as “outcasts” by society, those who were left on the sidelines of life. They were not wanted by the state and even some of their relatives rejected them, having left them alone to die of drug and alcohol addiction and AIDS. At the time, there was no church that provided effective help to these people and the Nazarenes became the pioneers.
A number of people who were raised up in Christ from the Vinnitsa church are serving as missionaries and church planters. Sergey Talalai, who came to faith in Christ through the Nazarene rehabilitation ministries, became the first missionary in Chisinau, the capital of Moldova (watch a video about the Talalai's ministry in Moldova: http://medialibrary.nazarene.org/media/wef-opened-moldova). In 2016, another former rehabilitation graduate, Oleg Kuz, plans to start a church in the city of L’viv, Ukraine.
Today, the Vinnitsa church is growing and extending the scope of its ministry. They have a children’s club, Sunday school for children, and an active youth ministry with 30+ young adults. The church oversees three rehabilitation centers and two adaptation centers, where people can re-learn to how live in society and also learn a trade to support themselves. There are support programs for family members of addicts, HIV/AIDS program, and a drug abuse prevention ministry in all educational institutions of the city.
Besides those ministries, a coffee house also functions actively where people in need don’t only drink hot coffee and have a sandwich, but hear testimonies of addiction recovery through faith in Jesus Christ. The church provides worship services for prisoners in three prisons of Vinnitsa region. Seminars and conferences are regularly conducted in the church for married couples to help young leaders grow and develop.
The Vinnitsa church also has a dream to open a day care center to serve disadvantaged. There are also plans to open "Kitchen of Life," a special cafe, where ex-prisoners will receive training and re-education.
One of Vinnitsa church’s top priorities is collaboration with other Christian organizations for effective service to the people in Vinnitsa, in Ukraine, and around the world. The Vinnitsa Church of Nazarene hosts such international organizations as Teen Challenge, Youth with A Mission (YWAM), Youth for Christ, and a Ukrainian Evangelical theological seminary. With a desire to reach the whole world for Christ, the Vinnitsa Nazarene Church has set its sights on an unreached people group in Central Asia where it is planning a mission trip in 2016.
The church’s motto and motivation for service is from Proverbs 24:11, "Be the savior of those who are given up to death, and do not keep back help from those who are slipping to destruction.” We praise God for the work He has accomplished through a committed local congregation in Vinnitsa, Ukraine, and a loving international church committed to missions.