Prison Ministry Update - Pastor Alexander Mazepa

Peace to you, dear brothers and sisters! I thank you for your prayers and financial support that allows me to visit prisons in remote parts of our country. I live in Kiev and nearby there are several prisons, but they are visited by churches of 12 confessions. Each of them tries to prove that their confession is truest. This leads to conflicts between pastors and as a result – to conflicts between prisoners. Therefore, the administration of the Correctional Establishments in Kiev has limited prison visits by churches; however, I drive to prisons that are further away, where the inmates have few visitors.

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We live in difficult times in Ukraine. From a communist dictatorship, our country turned to democracy - but people remained the same. Our country has a peculiarity: after the collapse of the Soviet Union, all the property in our country was divided between one dozen people, who also control the mass media, and use it to serve their interests. The Communist regime trained us not to think and investigate events. In former days we were used to getting all our information from television, and now by means of mass media, these oligarchs rule over us in order to reach their goals. People are trapped in the net of mass media. They don’t know what is true and what is false. They are afraid for their future. Lies, darkness and ignorance have swallowed up our country.

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And in these circumstances, I see how much people need the Word of God that brings light to their lost hearts. Thanks to your financial support I can visit prisons 3 or 4 days each week. I have been doing this for over 14 years. During this period, I have learned that our constancy is very important for the criminals. We bring them the bread of life. And every time, when we leave, they ask us to be sure to come again.

Until now, prisons have been under the Ministry of Interior Affairs, but now they have been turned over to the Ministry of Justice. It happened once, due to disorganized paperwork, the new prison authority would not allow me to come to lead the Bible study, so the prisoners threatened to start a rebellion. Certainly, in my ministry I face many problems. I work among killers, violators and robbers. Sometimes new people come just to upset the Bible study. But I have a goal and a Great Helper!

Every 2-3 months I arrange evangelistic meetings for all the prisoners. Usually 200 – 300 people are present there. God has given me a gift to compose and sing songs. Music helps to open the hearts of people. By this I give new prisoners the opportunity to hear the Good news. I also invite new people to join to our Bible group, where they can know more about the Savior and enter into fellowship with Him. Often after the meeting, I distribute humanitarian help. It is very important to visit them regularly. It helps me to lead them in the knowledge of Jesus Christ and to establish a relationship of trust. Many prisoners are good psychologists, many have spiritual wounds. Giving attention to their questions, offences, experiences and traumas, I have developed methodical lessons, that help prisoners to have a right understanding of Bible. My lessons also have homework. It makes them thirsty for knowledge and communication with me.

I also like to discuss different characters from the Bible. We will talk for two hours about a certain person. I try to show them the way of God’s providence, to show them how God leads His chosen people, how He attains His ends.

More recently attendance at my Bible study has risen. For the last few years I would have 12-15 people. Now I have 20-25. And during the last four months, nearly each time I had two or three converts. I don’t know how to explain it. It means that every month about 20 people turn to God! Amazing! The big churches in Kiev don’t have so many converts! It shows that the thirst for the Word of God is stronger amongst prisoner than those who are at liberty.

 Pastor Mazepa (far left) with inmates

Pastor Mazepa (far left) with inmates

I like to watch how our Almighty God works. When I look at the prisoners, it is hard to know what they are thinking. These people are used to hiding their feelings. But their words say a lot. One brother told me, “What a proud and mean person I was, that God had to use so strong means to humiliate me and to bring me to repentance!” One old prisoner who was unjustly sentenced and lost his family, answered to his malicious neighbor: “Yes, I lost my earthy family, but I found a heavenly family and Jesus Christ!”

I like to see how God changes their appearance. Little by little He changes their faces. Before all of them looked like wolves - because of their style of life they behaved like wolves and took care only of themselves. But now they are ready to defend each other.

I teach them to sing Christian hymns. Singing unites them, and praising our Lord makes them stronger. Most of all they like to sing old Baptist Psalms. Last quarter I brought to each group a Book of Christian Hymns. The wardens of the prisons thank us for our ministry. They can’t believe that the Word of God can change these people, and often they guess that it is only in pretense, or temporary. What a surprise for them when they see former prisoners again who come to the same prison to witness how God changed them! Almighty God said: “So shall my word be that goeth forth out of my mouth: it shall not return unto me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it” (Is.55:11).

It very important for me also to teach the people that they should not stop and think that their life as a Christian is complete. I encourage them to find a local church in the place where they will live, and continue to grow in grace. I also ask each of them to come to Kiev and visit my church after their release. And I have a joy in my heart, when I see them at liberty, in normal clothes, witnessing to others what God did for them.

More recently the rules for visiting Correctional Establishments have changed and it may affect my ministry. My rule is to be at peace with God and with the laws of my country. “My God hath sent his angel, and hath shut the lions' mouths, that they have not hurt me: forasmuch as before him innocency was found in me; and also before thee, O king, have I done no hurt”.

I thank you for supporting this ministry, and I thank you for the faithfulness of our relationship, now for more than 10 years. The Word of God to you and to us is alive: “For the eyes of the LORD run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to shew himself strong in the behalf of [them] whose heart [is] perfect toward him” (Chr.16:9).