“If you don’t use me, God, my life is rubbish”:  Husband and wife risk life and limb to serve the people of Ukraine

Salt&Light remembers all who are caught in the crossfire of the Ukraine war, as the country marks one year since fighting started (Feb 24).

by Christine Leow // February 24, 2023, 4:27 pm

war 4

Rudy Taslim (left) and his wife Lam Bao Yan (right) have been made chaplains in Ukraine and are allowed to enter war zones to pray with people and provide counselling. All photos courtesy of the Taslims.

Lam Bao Yan and her husband Rudy Taslim recently got residency permits in, of all places, Ukraine.

While millions of Ukrainians, more than eight million by the most recent count, are fleeing Ukraine, this Singaporean couple has been doggedly making their way into the war-embittered country.

Since Russia invaded Ukraine in the wee hours of the wintry morning of February 24, 2022, the Taslims have been to the war zone four times. Each time, they stayed for long periods to help those too old, too young, too weak, too ill or too entrenched to flee their homeland.

This grandfather has been left to care for his two young grandchildren who lost their mother during the war. He is ill and concerned that he may not live long enough to care for them.

Many of those left behind in Ukraine are the vulnerable elderly, the ill and the handicapped – the ones who most need help to fend for themselves during the war.

The couple, both 39, has narrowly escaped death several times.

Once, Rudy was yanked back from a field of landmines. On several occasions, they escaped being bombed – by minutes.

Protective gear, as what Rudy is wearing, is mandatory for volunteers in the war zones.

When Bao Yan sat down with Salt&Light for this interview, she had just returned from Ukraine.

Pentecostal Summit 2023

“I was pleading with God, ‘Don’t pass me by, please. If You could just look my way, this life is Yours.”

Asked why she went where most fear to tread, she told this story: “I was in Poland, having driven from Germany to get to Ukraine. We had stopped for the night because it was a 15-hour journey. The next day we were to be at the Ukraine border.

“For two hours, I experienced weighted glory. I was flat on the ground weeping and weeping.

“I found myself so longing, so desiring God until it came to a point I was begging God, ‘If You don’t use me, there is nothing I’m living for, nothing I’m interested in, nothing I’m satisfied with. My life is rubbish.’

“I was feeling like God was draining all earthly desires away and my life had no more meaning if it was not for His purposes. I was pleading with God, ‘Don’t pass me by, please. If You could just look my way, this life is Yours. Spend it however you want it.’

“That encounter got me. If not for it, I would not have the courage to go on.”

How it began

Bao Yan and Rudy are not missionaries. They own Genesis Architects, an architectural firm in Singapore. He is the architect; she takes care of the business end of things.

“They were lost – no fathers, no husbands. We cleaned, we cooked for them, we counselled them and did Bible study.”

But the pair has always had a heart for missions.

In their 20s, they had separately gone to Mozambique to study at missionary Heidi Baker’s Harvest School of Mission. That led to several years of mission work in Africa, teaching in churches, sharing the Gospel, building schools and working on programmes to alleviate poverty.

So when the Ukrainian war erupted and the principal of Tung Ling Bible School needed someone to lead a missions team, Bao Yan’s name naturally came to mind. The task was to spend a month in Germany to help the Ukrainian refugees who were flooding the country. The place was a refugee centre that was the first stop for people entering the country before they moved on to more permanent housing. The centre could accommodate about 100 people each time.

Said Bao Yan: “We lived with the refugees at the refugee centre. Because men were not allowed to leave the country, there were mostly women and children.

Often, it is just enough for the Ukrainians to know that they have not been forgotten and that help is available, say Rudy and Bao Yan.

“They were lost – no fathers, no husbands. We cleaned, we cooked for them, we counselled them, did Bible study, shared the Gospel every day, basically served them.”

Though the refugees said they were Christians, most seldom went to church.

But in the month that Bao Yan and her team shared the Gospel with them, many prayed to receive Christ.

Dreaming of Ukraine

When the month was over, Bao Yan returned to Germany in preparation to go home. 

The pastors had been praying for big international powers to come to their aid. Instead, God sent a “small person from a small country”.

But God had other plans.

“I had a dream from God. I felt Him say, ‘Go to Ukraine.’ ”

This was May 2022. With the war raging, entering the country as private citizens was near impossible.

“So I thought: Maybe I’m too zealous, maybe this is not from God. Then I had a second dream to go into Ukraine.

“God told me to do two things: To bring light into darkness and to be with the most broken people.”

Bao Yan had faced obstacles like these before in her work in Africa. This was nothing new. She decided to, in obedience, simply turn up at the Ukrainian border.

“Maybe the assignment was just to be at the border. I just wanted to be obedient,” she said.

Rudy briefing the caregivers hired to help the vulnerable left behind in Ukraine.

When she and some other team members got to the border, instead of being turned away, they were allowed official entry into Ukraine.

From there, they made their way to a conference of some 800 pastors that Heidi Baker had told them about.

The Taslims have been to Ukraine four times and are planning more trips into the country to help.

“For 800 pastors to gather, it really took effort. There was no petrol then and Ukraine is 800 times the size of Singapore.

“God was telling them, ‘My help will come from places you cannot even imagine.’”

“I told myself I had to get to that conference to find out how the pastors were doing and the situation on the ground. I invited myself.”

At the conference Bao Yan’s foreign face stood out. Many of the pastors came to talk to her.

“They asked, ‘Why are you here?’ Through a translator, I told them, ‘I’m here to serve you. God has sent me here.’

“They laughed because they said, ‘Oh my, you are so yellow and your eyes are so small.’

“After that, they cried and they repented.”

The pastors had been praying for big international powers to come to their aid. Instead, God sent a “small person from a small country”.

“God was telling them, ‘My help will come from places you cannot even imagine.’ It was a deep encounter for them and for me.”

“Don’t go” 

One of the first stops the pastors wanted to show Bao Yan was Bucha.

“I felt a pain in my heart. I thought I had over-exerted myself but God told me, ‘I’m sharing with you My broken heart.’ ”

The city was the site of a brutal battle in late February 2022. After the Russian forces retreated, photographic and video evidence emerged of a massacre there.

“The pastors told me, ‘At this conference, you won’t be able to know what we are going through. If you want to help us, you need to go to Bucha.’

“And God told me: Help the most broken people. If you don’t go, how will you know how broken they are?

It was an eight-hour drive from where she was in Lviv, the largest city in western Ukraine. But Bao Yan was ready to travel to Bucha. Her team had strong reservations.

“They felt something very bad was going to happen to me. While they were telling me this, a live snake appeared like an omen.

“In my heart, if I were to shut all the voices out, I didn’t feel God telling me not to go. But I didn’t want to be ahead of myself.

“I was very confused. How am I going to tell the pastor? I had told them I was here for them.”

The Taslims bring aid into war zones such as these. Many residents have no way of escaping and no sources of help unless volunteers like the Taslims bring aid.

So she called Heidi Baker and asked if the snake was an omen. Heidi told her: “No, the snake is for you to kill it.”

With that, Bao Yan made the trip to Bucha where the first person she met was an 89-year-old woman.

“We are very ordinary people. God really uses ordinary people.”

“She screamed when she saw me. She said, ‘You have taken everything from my house. Please, I beg you to just leave.’ ”

The woman had feared that Bao Yan was a Russian. It took 20 minutes to calm her down.

Then the woman told Bao Yan her heart-breaking story. Russian soldiers had wrecked her house, tortured her sexually and tortured her husband to death.

“She was old and she was poor. All the others who could leave had left. By then, there were bodies on the floor, buildings were hollowed, cars burnt. There were bullet holes everywhere.

“It was then that I understood. I felt a pain in my heart. I thought I had over-exerted myself but God told me, ‘I’m sharing with you My broken heart.’ ”

Bao Yan returned to Singapore to gather help for the people of Ukraine.

In the year that the war has raged on, she and her husband have built over 400 emergency homes, started a project that provided generators to key buildings, supported pregnant widows and provided audio Bibles in the Ukrainian language to children and soldiers on the war front.

Like many women in Ukraine, this woman has lost the men in her life – her husband and her father. She is alone caring for her child who has cerebral palsy.

Funds for the work started with money from the Taslims’ own pockets, but churches, organisations and individuals from Singapore and around the world have since come in to help. 

“We are very ordinary people. God really uses ordinary people.”

To support the work of providing emergency housing, helping vulnerable groups and distributing audio Bibles in Ukraine, go to


Cancers healed and a divinely-coordinated escape: A missionary shares stories of hope amidst the Ukraine-Russia war

From Russia-Ukraine war to tremors in Singapore, the signs are clear: Time to arise as the End-Times Church

Photos of Ukraine war taken by men and women who see mercies in the midst of misery

About the author

Christine Leow

Christine believes there is always a story waiting to be told, which led to a career in MediaCorp News. Her idea of a perfect day involves a big mug of tea, a bigger muffin and a good book.