Joseph Bondarenko, a former prisoner in the Soviet Union before its demise, recently visited worship leader Sean Feucht and told him that the American Church must wake up and resist religious persecution before it is too late.
“I am here to beg you to call the church to wake up, stand firm, conquer!”
“Don’t they realize what is happening now in America is exactly what happened to us in Communist Russia?” Bondarenko said, as was reported by Feucht in a Facebook post. “It started with ‘Don’t gather. Don’t sing. Spread apart. Listen to the government.’ Then it quickly turned into full-on persecution and the church did not wake up in time.”
Feucht has received much media attention for the worship services he has been holding since early July in defiance of government orders against large religious gatherings. Thousands have gathered at his events nationwide, which have been held most recently in places like Los Angeles, Seattle, and Portland.
During their meeting, Bondarenko prayed for Feucht and anointed him with oil, a practice common in many Christian denominations that can symbolize a commissioning based on Biblical stories.
Bondarenko was born and raised in the Ukraine in the mid-twentieth century when it was governed by the Communist Party under the Soviet Union. He was an active member of the underground church when persecution of the Ukrainian Christian Church was severe.
In an article he wrote of his experiences, Bondarenko recounted being persecuted for his faith at a young age, getting grades lowered and being kicked out of class for his beliefs.
As an adult, he printed illegal religious material, and ministered to young people – an act especially offensive to the Soviet government. According to Bondarenko, the government at one point banned churches from baptizing anyone between the ages of 18-30 in order to curb the conversion of young people.
After the collapse of the Soviet Union in the 90s, Bondarenko worked with Billy Graham’s ministry and organized mass religious events through Russia and former Soviet Republics.
In a video Feucht posted later, Bondarenko – with the help of a translator – told Feucht’s viewers: “Vote for Biblical values because the freedom that we have was given to us by God. God paid a great sacrifice for us.”
“God bless you,” he concluded in English. “Do not compromise!”