Russia releases captive Christian ministry workers: 'Prayers are still needed'

A Ukrainian serviceman stands guard on a street in front of a damaged church in the city of Irpin, northwest of Kyiv, on March 13, 2022. - Russian forces advance ever closer to the capital from the north, west and northeast. Russian strikes also destroy an airport in the town of Vasylkiv, south of Kyiv. A U.S. journalist was shot dead and another wounded in Irpin, a frontline northwest suburb of Kyiv, medics and witnesses told AFP. |

A group of ministry volunteers and refugees taken captive in Ukraine were released after they were reportedly beaten by the Russian militia, although those familiar with the situation warn that the crisis is not over yet.

Orphan’s Promise is a nonprofit organization operating in over 65 countries that works to transform communities impacted by poverty, war or starvation. The group offers education and employment programs to help enrich families in addition to ensuring children receive a healthy meal to better their learning experiences. 

The group is headquartered in Virginia Beach, and it has a center and residential home in Berdyansk, Ukraine.

As CBN News reported Friday, the ten ministry volunteers taken captive in Berdyansk were released. Orphan’s Promise director Nataliya Khomyak thanked everyone who prayed for the volunteers. 

“All are alive and have been released (even though they have been beaten severely and tortured and one is currently in a hospital after a heart attack),” she said. 

"Prayers are still needed for their recovery after being detained. But it's a miracle that they've been released... Thank you for all the prayers!"

One of the men from the group was elderly, and another man still being detained is a Mariupol refugee who attempted to escape to Ukraine-controlled territory, according to CBN News. The man passed through a “filtration camp,” which is reportedly similar to concentration camps, and those detained there are said to have been mistreated.

Another two people from the group who tried to evacuate are still being held captive, and while all the other volunteers have been released, they are not permitted to leave Berdyansk. This means those who were taken captive are still within occupied territory.

Yulia, an Orphan’s Promise worker in Ukraine, shared the details of the volunteers’ captivity in a Tuesday statement published by CBN News. 

She explained that on Tuesday, a group of volunteers and a local church evacuated people from Mariupol in a van to Ukrainian territory before the Russian military seized them. 

A group of ten people was then released after a few days, according to Yulie. 

“It turned out that the elderly man had a tattoo,” the Orphan’s Promise worker said. “The invaders did not like it, because they thought that this man was a military man from Azov.”

“They grabbed the whole group. They were holding them captive,” she continued. “Men were abused, beaten, humiliated, and tortured with electric current. They took a means of transport belonging to the church.” 

Yulie thanked everyone for their prayers, adding that “everyone is alive.” 

However, another Orphan’s Promise volunteer taken captive earlier this year is still missing. 

As CBN News reported, a volunteer named Valentina was abducted by the Russians last March. The woman worked in an area near Mariupol for Orphan’s Promise Children of War Project, helping to distribute food to people hiding in bomb shelters. 

Eyewitnesses claim that they saw the people who took Valentina captive throw a bag over her head and abduct her in the street. Russian troops besieged the area where Valentina was volunteering, and it is believed that someone the woman knew betrayed her to the Russian troops by telling them she was helping the Ukrainians.

"No one knows where they took her, where she is. So please pray for Valentina,” CBN's Terry Meeuwsen, who founded Orphan's Promise, said in a statement published in March. "We're asking that she would be released, asking God to send angels with her that she would be released without harm."

According to the United Nations, more than 6.5 million people from Ukraine have crossed international borders into neighboring countries since Russia began its military campaign in the country on February 24.

Over eight million Ukrainians have been displaced, and at least 13 million people are reportedly stranded in affected areas, unable to leave. 

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