Match Made at Ice Cream Factory

Vasily and Rosa celebrated their 17th anniversary at our Kyiv training seminar.

March 2020 Newsletter: Vasily and Rosa Zhugylov are child/family coordinators for MP in Ukraine. I have known them many years but recently during a training seminar in Kyiv, I spent some time with this very special couple. Amazingly, they spent their 17th wedding anniversary at the seminar, as they did not want to miss it. – Jeff

Q: Rosa, please tell us a little bit about your family

I grew up in an unbelieving family in a small town in central Ukraine. My father is still an unbeliever. My little brother was the first who came to Christ. It happened in 1992 in Christian children’s club AWANA in his school. Sadly, the school director was a communist and she banned the club.

My mom however, went to the school to check out this club and someone invited her to church. My mom went and she liked it. The next year she opened her heart to Jesus. I followed her and eventually I got saved and baptized at 16 years old. I made friends and joined the youth group.

When Rosa paused, Vasily anxiously continued the story.

Vasily shares a song he wrote.

I am nine years older than Rosa and I came to Christ about the same time as she did, but in very different circumstances. I repented while in prison in the town of Cherkassy.

Originally I am from Kyiv. In the Soviet Union times, of course no one talked about God. Churches were mostly forbidden. I remember when I was about nine years old; I really wanted to know about God. There was no Jeff, no Mercy Projects mission in Ukraine to explain it to me. I asked my mum: “What happens when we die? Will we just stop being alive? We will never exist again?” She said: “Yes, son, never.” I remember crying myself to sleep that night.

I was raised without God, and like most of my friends, I began to drink alcohol and get in trouble. I did my compulsory Soviet military service, and after that worked at a factory. I began stealing stuff, pretty much like everyone else, but my thefts became serious. Eventually I served my sentence in a maximum security regime at Cherkassy-62 prison.

In the prison, I met Pastor Anatoly Perepalitsa. He preached the Gospel to us and I repented there. They baptized me in prison in 1994. The Christian group grew so quickly that they needed a bigger meeting room. Our congregation grew to around 150 men. The prison director allowed us to build a House of Prayer on the prison territory.

The Ice Cream Factory

Jeff and Pastor Anatoly at the MP Ukraine 25-year celebration.

I was released in 1997 and began to evangelize everywhere I could. A few years later I worked at a private ice-cream production factory in Kyiv. The owner was not a believer but he liked to hire Christians because they did not steal the ice cream. He always put the Christian workers on the night shift because unbelievers would steal from him at night. The owner totally trusted Christians and this is why Rosa was also hired. We met working at the ice cream factory and got married!

Q: Vasily, how did you and Rosa join Mercy Projects?

An American missionary named Paul visited Cherkassy and told pastor Anatoly about Mercy Projects. The director, Irina, called and invited him to visit the Kyiv office. Anatoly asked me to join him. At the meeting, he shared about his ministry and just trusted God for his spiritual and financial needs. Back then I lived in Kyiv but served at the Cherkassy church. Jeff met pastor Anatoly, and they asked if I could bring support to Cherkassy when I would go there to church. Mercy Projects started supporting pastor Anatoly and soon thereafter, began sponsoring children and helping families. The ministry grew and Irina asked us to be child/family coordinators.

Set Free in a Prison Church Named Freedom

I remember my doubt when I was in prison about repenting and becoming a believer. I thought that I could never leave everything behind. That seemed so impossible. How could I give God my life? Instead, I just tried to be a better person. I was constantly thinking, “How can I become better so I will be good enough to come to God?”

One day a guest speaker in the prison church said, “Don’t wait, come to God now!” And there and then I repented. It felt like my entire life I had been a slave of something. That day in the prison, however, I was set free. I felt like the freest person in the universe! I felt like flying! Pastor Anatoly gave the name FREEDOM to that church in the prison.

Alongside his day job doing construction, Vasily visits hospitals and military bases sharing the love of Jesus. Pastor Anatoly still preaches in the FREEDOM church he started many years ago. Vasily and Rosa have two children, a nine year-old son and a three year-old little girl. After the seminar, they were thinking about getting some ice cream.