A Christmas Story of Hope from Ukraine

Christmas is the most wonderful time of the year – there is even a song written about that!  While we look forward all year to this special holiday, imagine having Christmas repeated two weeks later!  That’s how it is in Ukraine. Part of the Christian church in Ukraine celebrates Christian holidays according to the Gregorian calendar and part of the church uses the Julian calendar.  This split even exists within SELCU (Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Ukraine) so most congregations celebrate Christmas twice, on December 25th and again January 7th.   While this increases the number of services and the work for the pastors, there is greater opportunity to minister to a larger segment of the population, to both those who attend regularly and those who do not.

In the fall of 2019, Rev. Navrotskky’s congregation in Nikolaev announced the year 2020 as “The Year of Mission”, taking the Great Commission from Mathew 28:19-20 as their motto.  Their plans were to reach extended family members and neighbours with the Gospel.  

Last Christmas season the Nikloaev congregation began with a potluck supper on December 25th, inviting church members’ extended families and friends.  Everyone attending heard about Jesus, born in a manger and come to be our Saviour. On January 6th the Candlelight Service was mainly attended by church members. On January 7th a Christmas Concert was held with a meal, with personal invitations again made to non-church members.  The Sunday School presented a great program with the Youth Team singing and a Christmas video was shown.  The congregation joined in singing Christmas carols.

More than fifteen new people came to this service.  Three of these started coming to Sunday services.  Two ladies asked Rev. Navrotskyy for a Bible, which he gave them along with Small Catechisms.

SELCU Head office initiated the “Christmas Gifts for Orphans” program in 2019.  With money received from LCC and from mission partners in Germany, more than 1000 Christmas gifts of food and other necessities were packed and delivered to the orphanages, hospitals, retirement houses, prisons and homes of poor people during this Christmas season. These gifts were given because Jesus gave Himself for us all!  All SELCU pastors and congregations were involved in this mission program.

Candles are lit because Jesus, the Babe in the manger, came to be the Light of the world.  Ukraine continues to have dark times (Russia looms just across the border) with many suffering from poverty and now having the added stress and  hardships of the Covid-19 virus.

The year 2020 did not turn out as the Ukraine congregations had planned, but they continue to do what they can to alleviate peoples’ day-to-day suffering and to bring the hope of the Gospel. During the Covid lockdown, church services were presented on-line.  Most services are back to being held in-person with care to be social-distanced and following safety precautions.

Yes, the candles are lit at Christmas, and throughout the year, to remind us all that Jesus’ message still shines out to the darkest corners, bringing hope to all hearts that welcome Him.

Ukraine Prison Ministry during Pandemic

When the CoVid-19 lockdown occurred in Canada and across the world this past March, many felt they were prisoners in their own home.  Children could not attend school and many parents had to work from home, if they still had a job to do, that is.  Visitors were no longer allowed in hospitals and care facilities, leaving our elderly and ill without the comfort of family and friends.  Yet despite our hardships we are reminded there are others who live in lockdown too.  And of course, they are in prison for a reason, and not sent there for their health!

Bishop Sasha Yurchenko has for a number of years been a faithful visitor to the prison near Nikoleav, Ukraine.  The men he visits are a tough group, as you can see in the picture.  Despite their history, these men are open to the Bible studies and catechism classes offered by the Bishop.  Through his persistent efforts and the working of the Holy Spirit, he has seen lives transformed in this darkest of places.  Jesus truly is the Light of the World, even in a cold, bare prison.

Ukraine Youth – Who Knew?

       Youth from every SELCU congregation gathered on January 8, 2020 for their four-day Winter Youth Conference. Most of those who attended were male and many came from non-Christian homes.  These 60 young people gathered at the Seminary in Odessa to hear, in a nutshell, “Human life is a great adventure as God the Creator gave each of us the gift of life.  He leads us through life’s challenges, the hills and the valleys.  Yet through all this, God is with each of us and He will meet us at the end of our journey.  Along the way He gives us families, friends, church, and work to do.  Sometimes our journey is joyful and bright, but sometimes it is dangerous and difficult. The Bible provides guidance on all these different areas of life.” 

While the organizers of this conference knew there would be uneven ground ahead for these youth, none of them could have known that they were all about to face one of their greatest challenges, life with CoVid-19, a world-wide pandemic. 

Thank the Lord that these youth were given an opportunity to be together and hear about God’s loving care for them so that they could be encouraged in their faith. Because of the strict and long quarantine there, many people have become angry or depressed and always hungry. 

Join CLMS in our prayer, “Dear Lord, please keep these youth faithful to you, giving them strength to face all that will come their way.  Help them daily to look to You as their strength and stay. Thank you for them, for the facilitators of the conference, and for their desire to serve you. Amen”.

Support for Rev. Navrotskyy in Ukraine

Rev. Oleksiy Navrotskyy continues his varied ministry in Nikolaev, Ukraine as he serves two city congregations, two rural mission stations, visits patients at a drug and alcohol clinic, teaches at the Odessa seminary, supports various SELCU mission projects and distributes humanitarian aid to orphans and others in need.

I want to support the Pastor Navrotskyy in Ukraine.

Project 2012 Goal: $11,400

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Ukraine Prison Ministry

Bishop Alexander Urchenko and other SELCU pastors attend the prison near Nikolaev weekly where they visit and counsel inmates, lead Services of the Word, teach Bible studies, and provide formal catechism instruction. This ministry has received a great response from the prisoners, the prison administration, and even the government.

I want to support the pastor and his prison ministry in Ukraine.

Project 2016 Goal: $2,000

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Ukraine Days of Faith Conference

This annual conference for all the congregations of SELCU brings together over 150 people for services, Bible studies, youth and small group activities, meals and a keynote speaker. This has also become an evangelism event with some congregants bringing their unchurched friends and family members to hear the Word of God.

I want to support the Days of Faith conference in Ukraine.

Project 2017 Goal: $5,300

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Mission and Ministry in Zorya, Ukraine

Rev. Sergey Bevz and members of his congregation in Dnipro visit the village of Zorya 3 to 4 times per week, leading Bible studies and youth gatherings, engaging with teachers and students at the local school, and organizing social events for nonbelievers. Recently, a house in the village was donated for this ministry and work is underway to make it a more suitable venue for church activities.

I want to support the mission and ministry in Zorya, Ukraine.

Project 2018 Goal: $2,400

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Ukraine Seminary Program

Odessa Seminary

Three students are currently studying at Concordia Theological Seminary in Odessa, two are in their vicarage year and the third is entering his final year of studies. This project provides a stipend for the students’ families, transportation, meals, the cook’s stipend, coal for the furnace, translator costs for visiting instructors, and books and teaching supplies.

I want to support the preparation of pastors in Ukraine.

Project 2014 Goal: $13,150

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Relief Aid for Ukraine Pastors

 

Three elderly pastors, all in need of medical treatment, are serving in rural Ukraine communities without any financial support. They provide for their needs through farming small parcels of land and selling produce at market. This new project will provide an aid fund for these men.

I want to support the pastors in Ukraine.

Project 2013 Goal: $4,000

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Support for LCC Missionary Navrotskyy in Nikolaev

A graduate of Concordia Lutheran Seminary, Edmonton, missionary Rev. Oleksiy Navrotskyy is busy with two urban Lutheran congregations and two country mission stations. He is also busy with various humanitarian projects and missions and teaches at the Odessa Seminary. Help him continue this mission and ministry work.

I want to support the Pastor Navrotskyy in Ukraine.

Project 1915 Goal: $7,650

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