There has been an immense gospel harvest in Ukraine, among both Jewish people and Gentiles. Indeed, the largest Messianic congregation in the world (at least before 2022) was in Ukraine. This article will tell the story of Chosen People Ministries in Ukraine—from early efforts in the Soviet Union to our current refugee relief.
Efforts to Minister in the Soviet Union
In the early twentieth century, much of what is now Ukraine, including the key cities Kiev and Odessa, was part of the Russian empire or Soviet Union. So, the seeds of Chosen People Ministries in Ukraine were planted in Russian soil. In 1929, the Mission’s president made an appeal for donations to support preaching halls in Kiev and Odessa. The Mission hired Gregory Guberman to be their missionary in Russia. He was to oversee the ministry center in Dnjepropetrowsk. Today, this city is still in Russia, but close to the Ukrainian border.
Unfortunately, the Soviet government seized the property almost immediately after the center opened in 1929. Soviet persecution had a devastating effect on ministry in eastern Europe. This oppression deeply affected Chosen People Ministries. Despite the risks, Guberman continued to minister as well as he could. He met with Jewish people who had attended the Mission’s meetings. In 1930, Guberman disappeared. Though his fate is unknown, he was likely killed or exiled to Siberia for his faith. This event marked the end of Chosen People Ministries’ official work in the region for several decades. At times, the Mission was able to smuggle in a few Bibles or tracts. Only God knows the seeds these resources planted. Still, it was not until the Berlin Wall fell that open ministry in eastern Europe was once again possible.
Rekindling the Mission’s Work in Ukraine
Seeing the opportunity to rekindle the Mission’s work in eastern Europe, Sam Nadler and Albert Davis visited the Soviet Union. Nadler would later serve as president of Chosen People Ministries. Davis was from Georgia (the country) and trusted in Yeshua after immigrating to Canada with his family. They started in Moscow, where they distributed gospel tracts. Many people were open to talking with them about faith. But nowhere did they find a greater spiritual harvest than in Kiev (John 4:35).
Nadler and Davis met with the pastor of a church who then invited them to speak at the congregation the next evening. They gladly taught on Romans 1:16: “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.” While the message of eternal life in Yeshua must go to all the earth, God has established that this message go first to the Jewish people. This Kiev pastor invited Davis and Nadler to return on Sunday. He also encouraged the congregation to invite their Jewish friends and neighbors. So many Jewish people came that the congregation’s regular attendees gave up their seats to accommodate them.
The Ministry in Kiev
Nadler and Davis proclaimed the gospel, and more than seventy Jewish people put their trust in the Messiah. Seeing how greatly God was moving in Kiev—among both Jewish people and Gentiles—Davis and Nadler stayed for some days. They were even able to give an interview on Radio Kiev. Before leaving, they had set up a weekly Bible study to disciple the new Jewish believers. They also pledged to send more Bibles to Kiev.
Albert Davis made several more trips to Kiev. Still, it became clear that a facility and a full-time worker were necessary to best serve the community there. Vladimir Winer led Chosen People Ministries’ work in Kiev from 1990 to 1992. During that time, the Mission procured an apartment for meetings and the worker’s living quarters. Dan and Arlene Rigney came to Kiev to take over Winer’s role. This couple had previously worked with the Mission and had ample ministry experience. Their work supporting and discipling new Jewish believers were instrumental in developing a Messianic community in Ukraine.
Revival in Ukraine
The fall of communism gave way to an amazing revival in eastern Europe in the 1990s. This revival was by far most fruitful in Ukraine. The Holy Spirit moved in the hearts of both Jew and Gentile. Many came to faith. David Sedaca, one of our long-time staff members, visited Kiev in 1996. He recalls teaching eight hours a day at a pastors’ seminar. In the evenings, he preached for one or two hours to packed churches. There was an intense hunger for God. As the psalmist wrote, “My soul longed and even yearned for the courts of the Lord; My heart and my flesh sing for joy to the living God” (Ps 84:2).
Chosen People Ministries was the first Messianic ministry to serve in the former Soviet Union. In 1989, we founded the first Messianic congregation in the region in decades–Beit El Gibbor (House of the Mighty God). While this congregation no longer operates, it has played an immense role in God’s work among Jewish people in the former Soviet Union. Vladimir Pikman went to this congregation right after coming to faith in 1992. The Mission helped disciple and train him. Pikman now oversees our partner ministry in Germany. Much of the Jewish community there emigrated from the former Soviet Union. Indeed, Pikman estimates that 80 percent of the Messianic community in Germany is from that region.
Impact of the Mission in Ukraine
Many Ukrainian believers who put their trust in Yeshua in the 1990s later moved to other parts of Europe, the United States, and Israel. For this reason, Pikman even compares the Messianic community of Kiev with the Jerusalem church. The gospel went forth from Jerusalem (Acts 1:8). It was in that city that the Holy Spirit first came upon Yeshua’s followers (Acts 2:4). God has also used Kiev in a strategic way to transform people in eastern Europe and around the world.
In the years following the end of the Soviet Union, Chosen People Ministries had several missionaries in Ukraine. Many of them, however, moved to other countries. By God’s grace, there were always vibrant Messianic communities in Ukraine.
In the past several years, the Mission has taken more of a supporting role regarding Ukraine. The congregations there are independent of Chosen People Ministries. They have their own leaders and make their own decisions. Still, the Mission has had the privilege of partnering with about twenty-three of these communities. We provide training opportunities through conferences and seminars. If needed, we have given material aid. Of course, we also provide fellowship, accountability, and encouragement. The last seminar we gave in Ukraine before the Russian invasion was in November 2021.
The Mission and the War in Ukraine
When war broke out, Chosen People Ministries responded immediately. We have been sending aid to our contacts who remain in Ukraine. Many Messianic believers who fled to the western part of the country have found each other via social media. They have formed a community to encourage one another. Most of these people have nothing except the clothing on their backs.
The Mission has been able to send money to provide basic necessities as these brothers and sisters begin to rebuild their lives. We have also been hard at work assisting those who have fled Ukraine. Many of our Ukrainian- and Russian-speaking staff have traveled near Ukraine’s border to help refugees on the ground. They are providing whatever they can—water, blankets, food, clothing, prayer, and more.
To help us continue this work, please pray with us and consider making a donation. None of us know what the future of Chosen People Ministries in Ukraine will look like. Still, God has sustained and used us for more than 120 years. Two world wars and the Cold War did not stop or slow God’s work in the world. Neither will the present crisis in Ukraine.
“For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Messiah Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:38–39).
 Joseph Hoffman Cohn, The Chosen People, vol. XXXIV, no. 7 (April, 1929), 9.
 Harold A Sevener, A Rabbi’s Vision: A Century of Proclaiming Messiah: A History of Chosen People Ministries, Inc. (Charlotte, NC: Chosen People Ministries, 1994), 155–58.
 Albert Davis’ original surname was “Israeli.” His family changed it to “Davis” when they arrived in Canada.
 Sevener, A Rabbi’s Vision, 586.
 Sevener, 585–87.
 Vladimir Pikman and David Sedaca, interview by Rachel Larsen, March 28, 2022.