Prison Ministry in Ukraine Changes Lives
UKRAINE – Beginning in January 2016, Bishop Alexander Urchenko of the Synod of Evangelical Lutheran Churches in Ukraine (SELCU) and other Ukrainian pastors began making regular visits to inmates of the prison in Nikolaev. That outreach has made a significant impact, with more than 27 people confessing faith in Jesus Christ and 19 of them baptized by October 2016.
From January through October, pastors made more than 30 visits to the prison, leading 24 worship services for converts to Christianity. The group also held three outreach events for the entire prison, including prison staff, on the major festivals of Christmas, Easter, and Thanksgiving, with up to 80 people participating in each event. “I was pleased to see that such hard people who suffer from human rejection could enjoy the Gospel of Jesus Christ,” writes Bishop Urchenko.
The ministry doesn’t end at the prison, however. Following release from prison, SELCU encourages former prisoners to participate in Christian rehabilitation programs. The work is particularly important, as many Ukrainian prisoners find themselves back in prison within months of release. Through SELCU’s work, a number of former prisoners were able to engage in churches, restore family ties, and participate in ministering to those who are still prisoners. “Currently, I know of seven men who became Christians in prison before being released, and now visit the prison along with me to serve others,” notes Bishop Urchenko.
In addition to spiritual care, SELCU delivers humanitarian aid to the prison and rehabilitation centre. “We help them obtain clothes, bed sheets, towels, and shoes from Christians in Germany,” Bishop Urchenko explains. “In winter time, we provide medical treatments for the prisoners, as well as offering them worship supplies, Bibles, Christian wall-calendars, and literature.”
“We are eager for you to pray for our ministry to prisoners and rehabilitants,” Bishop Urchenko writes. “Now we are praying for the opportunity to extend our ministry and to purchase another facility for Lutheran rehabilitation.”
Lutheran Church–Canada (LCC) has long supported mission outreach in Ukraine, with special emphasis on social ministry, missionary support, and theological education. Thanks to the prayers and financial support of LCC members across the country, Lutheran Church–Canada remains a strong partner to SELCU in its ongoing ministry throughout Ukraine.
In December 2016, LCC was blessed with some significant donations designated for ministry in Ukraine. In total, that month saw $25,460 donated to support LCC’s outreach in Ukraine, including missionary support, seminary education, orphan ministry, and prison ministry. Those special gifts will allow LCC to continue its regular support of missions in Ukraine, while allowing other mission funds to be directed to other deserving mission projects around the world.
For more information on LCC’s work and how you can support it, contact Dr. Neitzel at firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling 1-800-588-4226 (ext. 215). You can support LCC’s Missions and Social Ministry services through online giving at www.lutheranchurch.ca, or by sending donations by mail to LCC’s office in Winnipeg:
3074 Portage Avenue
Winnipeg, MB R3K 0Y2