SIOUX CENTER—A native of Sioux County asks for prayers for the country she calls home.
Maranda Heytsi, daughter of Mary Hoogland of Mauritius, has been a missionary in Ukraine since 1999.
Russia launched a full-scale invasion of Ukraine today (February 24), marking a major escalation in the ongoing Russian-Ukrainian war. The campaign was preceded by a prolonged Russian military build-up from the start of 2021.
Heytsi, her husband Vasya and their six children live in Tyachiv, located on the western border with Romania.
Their work revolves around New Life Church and its Bible Study Ministries, Youth Group, Children’s Bible Club, Feeding the Hungry, Youth Camp, Evangelical Summer Camps , a Creative Center ministry for affected youth in camps and worship services. They also have a passion for helping homeless and drug addicted people, as many Ukrainians suffer from alcoholism. For this reason, they also provide housing/shelter to those in need.
Although Heytsi is an American citizen, her husband and four adopted children cannot leave the country, so they stay together and continue their ministry.
Heytsi’s sister, Martha Hulshof of the Ireton campaign, spoke with her sister on Thursday.
“We just ask for prayers for my sister and her family in Ukraine,” she said in a phone interview. “It seems a bit silly in retrospect, but I’ve never really worried about them because they live right across the border across the river from Romania and Hungary, which is about an hour from distance, therefore very distant geographically from all previous violence.
“I got up late to chat with Maranda last night and while we were talking Russia was bombing a town just three hours away from them. The town is in central/western Ukraine and far from a border , so it is clear that Russia is attacking the interior of Ukraine and western Ukraine, not just “precious” cities.
Heytsi told Hulshof that her family is safe at the moment, but there is so much panic everywhere.
“They don’t get the news like we do and Russia will control the news so they don’t know what’s going on,” Hulshof said, noting that the American news she shares with her sister helps her. to stay informed. “The banks are all closed, there is no petrol and the shops are all empty of food. They call on all men under 60 to fight. They hear the shelling all around them but do not see the destruction in their town. They don’t know when the internet will be cut.
Heytsi reached out to his family and church supporters in the area, including his local family’s church of Bethel Christian Reformed in Sioux Center, asking for prayer and financial support about a week before Thursday’s invasion in preparation for the start of the war.
Local financial support enabled the couple to buy a generator in the event of a power outage. They also bought canned meat because “most of Ukraine doesn’t have grocery stores stocked with food like America. Ukrainians often go to the market for food, so getting supplies is not easy,” Hulshof said.
Besides Hulshof, Heytsi’s siblings are Jennifer Vliestra of Waupun, WI; Jordan Hoogland from rural Mauritius; Janna Aukes of Beaver Creek, MN; Marlena Fanning of Hudson, SD, and Svetlana Schubert of Orange City.
Originally from Russia, Svetlana joined the family as a foreign high school student over a decade ago.
“It’s been so interesting getting to know Russia through it over the years and seeing the news now, knowing that a lot of Russians aren’t for it, but Putin is just going to do whatever he wants,” Hulshof said. “We are all in this together, praying for our sister.”
So far, Heytsi has been able to keep in touch with her mother and siblings and let them know they are fine, but they anticipate that communications will soon be cut off.
The message that Heytsi asked her sister to convey is: “Although we desire security, our main desire is the will of God, his kingdom, the salvation of souls and the coming of our husband for his wife. Let’s all say together: ‘Come Lord Jesus, Come!’ »