Kris Malinoski, cheeks bulging with compressed air stood outside the inglorious turn of the century hotel, in Ivano Fronkievsk, playing Amazing Grace on his saxophone. Those walking by were immediately arrested by his forceful and faultless playing of the all time favorite hymn. Ivano Fronkievsk, is accustomed to street musicians of various kinds so these pedestrians passed by giving him little more than an interesting smile. Their attention gravitated instinctively beyond this sidewalk artist glancing in wonderment at the newly generated activity at the hotels entrance. As I stood alongside Kris, I heard the cough and splutter of ill tuned four cylinder diesel engines of the “Masharootka’s,” or oversized vans pull up to the curb, offering an unsolicited background hum to the music. Passengers in their ‘Sunday’s-best’ regalia were disembarking from the rattle-trap busses to make their way into the dingy and dimly lit building. Their posh clothing, with bright colors, contrasted and even contradicted the gray old hotel of a past era.
This edifice which once boasted of a hundred or more beautiful suites, now offered only a paltry fraction of those rooms which had been moderately refurbished. Today’s patrons would be the basement bargain hunters seeking low priced accommodation at the convenience of city center privileges. Guests taking advantage of such deals know they would have to acquiesce to communal bathroom facilities, a relatively small inconvenience or trade off for having such great central locality. All new renovations started and ended on the third floor, leaving the rest of the hallmark building to a fate of a slow and lingering demise. One glance at the antique chromatic pictures hanging on the walls instantly took you back to a rich history of this being a prestigious hub for the musical arts. The theater’s two well-designed balconies, wrapped around the main floor which gave its customers a full coverage on any performance on a stage of unusual depth.
Tonight though, this small auditorium with its well worn floor boards, which creaked and groaned at the slightest provocation and its former luxurious seating, long overdue for new upholstery and much needed padding, hosted a different sort of audience. On fire Christians filled the seats downstairs, in what they now considered church pews, for a combined worship service. Inside there was an unmistakable sense and expectation of what God was about to do. At the very least, He was meeting with His people. Amidst all the hubbub of guitars being tuned and the electric piano being tested, there was the buzz of close friends and new acquaintances greeting each other with ‘Slava Bogo,’ or ‘praise God.’ Above this joyful commotion there was the distinct manifest presence of God in the house. You could feel His smile over this naive group of believers from 10 different backgrounds and churches.
Young and old were coming together for two hours of collective prayer, praise and the preaching of God’s Word. Pastors and congregants were bravely crossing all denominational and doctrinal boundaries for the sole express purpose of worshipping God together! Kept apart over the years by Satan’s stratagems of fear and somewhat grounded lies, they now momentarily left all their individual differences behind and linked arm in arm to boldly shout God’s praises. For all they cared, the entire world was welcomed tonight to hear them worship God. This, my friend, was revival! From past political and present religious oppression, these Christians had a shout in their heart for the King of Kings.
There is a simple integrity of trust being fostered among leaders and saints in and around Ivano Fronkievsk. Everyone is discovering afresh that God does not ‘steal’ sheep, but He adds daily to the church as should be added. This revival is not a ‘flash in the pan,’ ‘fall to the ground,’ ‘taking up three offerings kind of service.’ In fact, there are no offerings received at all. Ten pastors are now standing together in unison and praying for each other’s sheep. This is a miracle in the making. A year earlier there was not this level of trust among the churches. The music and worship teams change every month and are being conducted by one of the participating ten churches. Everyone has a part, everyone is benefitting and everyone is being honored and respected regardless of the size of their congregation. The word preached is exhortative and convicting. People are responding to the Spirit’s wooing and salvation is being given to the hungry and the hurting.
No one could have planned for this; no one could pay for this. God has chosen to place His hand on this religious war-torn area of Ukraine. He started it and He will finish it. The constant prayer that is prayed is no one touches His glory.
Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity! It is like the precious ointment upon the head, that ran down upon the beard, even Aaron's beard: that went down to the skirts of his garments; As the dew of Hermon, and as the dew that descended upon the mountains of Zion: for there the Lord commanded the blessing, even life for evermore. Psa. 133:1-3. KJV