Student ministry in Ukraine marks 20th anniversary

by James Morgan

Alpha and Omega students share Christmas as part of their ongoing ministry with orphans.

In 1991, Ukraine was rejoining the rest of the world. The Soviet Union had collapsed, the country regained its independence, and the Christian faith was no longer something that had to be observed in secret.

This year, the Alpha and Omega Christian Youth Society (A&O) in Dnepropetrovsk, an organization with close ties to Lutheran Church–Canada is currently celebrating its 20th anniversary. Special celebrations are scheduled May 4-9 in Dnepropetrovsk.

The ministry started in 1991 after a group of Christian students from Canada visited Dnepropetrovsk National University and shared Christ with the Ukrainian students. What began as a small gathering of three to five students has grown to 300 attending weekly services, in addition to weekly Bible study groups of eight to 20. “We tell them (the students) about love and forgiveness, about hope and peace, which God wants to give to all people, and which we have experienced in our lives,” states the group’s website.

Lutheran Church–Canada’s link with Alpha and Omega was made in 1993 when Rev. Roland Syens, currently serving Holy Cross Lutheran Church in Kitchener, Ontario, was sent to Ukraine, along with Rev. Keith Haberstock and his wife Barbara (Prince of Peace, Calgary). The Haberstock’s went to serve in Lviv and Pastor Syens went to Dnepropetrovsk. He remained in Ukraine as LCC’s missionary until 2005.

“Many students of the former Soviet Union have responded in faith to the life giving message of the Gospel and many lives have been changed for eternity because of the Lord’s work through this ministry,” says Pastor Syens in a 20th anniversary message to Alpha and Omega members.

Areas of A&O ministry include outreach through television, sports, drama, summer camps, special retreats, and work with orphans. “It is easier to reach today’s students with the Gospel before they become tomorrow’s presidents, doctors, teachers and lawyers,” says the narrator of a video outlining what the ministry is all about and why it focuses on reaching students.

“The purpose of Alpha and Omega is to help people come to know God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit,” the narrator further states, noting that many people who have newly come to faith in Jesus Christ use the ministry as the first step to finding a church to attend.

“When the Lord comes into a student’s heart, and opens their eyes and their heart, they can’t shut up about Jesus Christ,” says Pastor Syens, adding that out of the approximately 1.5 million people living in Dnepropetrovsk, only about 10,000 people are identified as protestant Christians. “Once a person responds to the Gospel in faith, they want to do something,” further states Pastor Syens, explaining how students become involved with Alpha and Omega after coming to faith, and want to continue sharing the Gospel with their friends.

The Alpha and Omega Student Centre, as the ministry is more commonly known, also received congratulations on its 20th anniversary and strong efforts in the mission field from LCC. In a letter to the organization, Synod President Robert Bugbee thanks the Lord for all of the good work it has done over the past two decades. “Only God Himself knows all the people who came to Christ…or who were comforted in their struggles…or who were deepened in their wisdom…or who overcame their confusion…because you proclaimed His Word all these years,” says the president about the work of Alpha and Omega, noting Pastor Syens’ efforts were crucial to the ministry and expressing thanks for his 13 years of ministry in Ukraine.

President Bugbee highlights how the ministry has been a significant part of opening Ukraine to the Gospel since the end of communist rule. “You were the people whom God used to help us enter the former Soviet Union for missionary purposes. Through our involvement with you, the Lord opened many other doors and gave us partnerships that continue to take root and bring us gladness,” he says. The president concludes his message to Alpha and Omega by assuring them that the Lord will continue to work in Ukraine. “The Bible says in Acts 1 that what Jesus did up to the day He ascended to Heaven was only what he began to do and teach. This means the mighty Risen Christ is still busy doing and teaching among His people today. He is by your side good friends!”     

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Posted By: Matthew Block
Posted On: May 2, 2011
Posted In: Headline, Mission News,

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