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Despite conflict in Ukraine, Gospel outreach still strong

December 5, 2014 No Comment
Children at one of SELCU's summer camps.

Children at one of SELCU’s Vacation Bible Schools pose with their leaders.

UKRAINE – In a year that has seen violence and political discord descend on their country, the Synod of Evangelical Lutheran Churches in Ukraine (SELCU) continued to reach out with the Good News of Jesus Christ. The church recently reported on the joys and struggles that accompanied their outreach to youth and to young adults over the past summer.

College students take part in a SELCU event in Odessa.

College students take part in a SELCU event in Odessa.

“This year had a very difficult start,” Rev. Oleg Schewtschenko explains, noting how conflict in the country disrupted many students’ education. “Some of the students left town and some even had to leave the country before they were able to finish all exams.” Despite these issues, ministry continued, and the situation even led to new opportunities to share the Gospel. “A few times we gathered together to sing and pray for the situation in the country, for the election in Ukraine and Odessa. All these events brought opportunities to invite new people and share the hope we have in Jesus.”

Regular outreach to college students also continued throughout the year, with more than 25 people gathering together every Tuesday to study the Gospel of Mark. And large group events on Valentine’s Day, Student Day, and Easter brought crowds of more than 100 people. Over 25 English Bibles and 50 Russian Bibles were handed out to students this year. And the community grew deeper in their faith, with Rev. Schewtschenko baptizing the daughter of one young family who attended Bible studies, and leading other students through pre-marriage counseling before their marriage.

This year's leadership team for SELCU's Vacation Bible School events.

This year’s leadership team for SELCU’s Vacation Bible School events.

SELCU also continued its regular Vacation Bible School (VBS) camps throughout Ukraine this summer. Vicar Sergey Bevz reports that five young adults devoted most of their summer to serving in these summer camps, meeting together at the seminary in Odessa in mid-June to plan. The theme this year was the “Academy of Heroes” and focused on heroes of the faith. Three full camps were held in Odessa, Ocheretnye, and Bogomaza, with an average of 60 children attending each camp. Moreover, the team led two addition events for youth at the “Days of Faith” conference and the youth camping trip on the shore of the Black Sea.

“The team was able to do more than just speak about heroes,” Vicar Bevz noted, saying “they also had to walk their own paths as heroes,” given the current political situation in Ukraine’s eastern region. “Parents had to agree to let their children serve at a time when many were afraid of letting their kids be away from home for any extended period of time.” “The team wasn’t serving in dangerous areas,” he continued, “but many are living in fear. The team—and their parents—needed to display a special trust in the Lord when they committed to serve, leaving their homes for six weeks.”

“I really liked how open the kids were,” said Anastasia, a 24 year old volunteer from Odessa, “and I wanted to spend even more time with them through the Bible stories, skits, crafts, games, and songs; they are a great way to share God’s Word in a simple and understandable form. At the end of each camp it was sad to have to leave; we had gotten close to the kids and they didn’t want to let us go. Each time we had to promise that, if the Lord is willing, we will come again next year.”

“We are grateful to everyone who supported this ministry with prayer, finances, and other help,” Anastasia continued. “May God bless you abundantly, giving you everything you need for a life of godliness!”

“We are grateful to everyone who supported this ministry with prayer, finances, and other help,” Anastasia continued. “May God bless you abundantly, giving you everything you need for a life of godliness!”

Lutheran Church–Canada has a special relationship with SELCU, and supports its work in a number of ways, including financial support for college ministry in Odessa and SELCU’s summer VBS ministry. It also supports other social ministry projects in Ukraine as well as SELCU’s seminary program.

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