Ukraine Pastoral Ministry Update

12 Mar 2022

Ukraine today is going through its 16th day of war.  For the past two weeks the lives of the people of Ukraine have been changed forever.  Over 1.5 million Ukrainians have fled their homes and country into neighboring Moldova, Romania, Hungary, Slovakia and Poland, and then further into Germany, Holland and the UK.   The mission work of LCC with SELKU (Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Ukraine) has moved into emergency help mode.  At the time of this writing all of our pastors are alive and relatively safe.  Here is an update on some of them.

  1. Bishop Alexander Yurchenko and his family remain in the mission house just outside of Odessa in the village of Usatova.  The Bishop and his sons are working hard transporting evacuees from Odessa and the SELKU congregations to the border.   He and his family have decided to stay and do all they can to share the Gospel and help others.   Since he has two sons and a daughter, the sons are not allowed to leave because men between the ages of 18-60 are not allowed to leave Ukraine. The Bishop’s wife and daughter are both nurses and they have decided to stay and help using the gift of nursing that God has given to them.  The Bishop continues to help make decisions for the church and also continues to serve as prison chaplain.  
  2. Pastor Oleg Schewtchenko, his wife and two sons have left Ukraine and are now living in Germany with his wife’s father, Bishop (emeritus) Victor Grafenstein.  Pastor Oleg has dual citizenship both German and Ukrainian. This enables him to leave Ukraine and connect with those on the other side of the border.  This is helpful as he can then receive cash or goods and bring them back into Ukraine.  What a sacrifice he is making as he is the only man who can leave Ukraine and yet he chooses to stay and help his fellow brothers and sisters in Ukraine.
  3. Pastor Alexei Navrotsky (see his video update below), his wife and two boys have also been evacuated out of Ukraine and are with Oleg’s wife in Germany staying with the Russian/Ukrainian Lutherans in Germany.  Pastor Alexei continued to stay in Nikolaev to help all the women and chldren of his congregation to leave but also his mother did not want to leave Nikolaev.  It is just within the past two days that he was able to convince his elderly mother to leave Nikolaev and they are now living in the building of our Lutheran Seminary in Osatava outside of Odessa.  Here at the Seminary they are housing refugees and gathering goods and humanitarian aid to bring to differnet villages and towns.  
  4. Pastor Valery Verba, his wife and son have left Ukraine and are with the wives and children in Germany.  Pastor Valery and his family serve in the village of Nova Kahovka and were visiting his mother in Odessa when their small village were taken over by Russian forces.  He is now trying to get food into the village and helping the other pastors transport people to the border and transport aid where needed. 
  5. Pastor Yuri Popel, his wife and children have left Ukraine and are also with the families in Germany.  He continues to stay in his small village of Kamenka on the road from Odessa to Moldova.  He is safe and caring for those in his congregation who have not left. 
  6. Pastor Yuri Timerkana, his wife and three children have left Ukraine and are in Germany and will be cared for by members of a congregation of our sister congregation part of SELK (Independent Evangelical Lutheran Church of Germany).   
  7. Pastor Sergei Bevz, his wife and two small children have joined the other wives and families in Germany and are safe.   Pastor Sergei continues to serve in Dnipro (Dnepropetrovsk) and in the small town of Zarya.  Here they have prepared homes and the church to receive refugees and help to care for others with food and medical aid.  The city of Dnepro has been under attack as some bombs have gone off in this big city along the Dnepro river just over one hour south of Zaparojia (this is where the nuclear plant is).  
  8. Pastor Rudolph Krause, his wife and daughter are safe in Yalta, Crimea. Since this has already been in Russian hands since 2014 they are already considered by Russians as part of the Russian Federation.  

The other pastors are safe and caring for refugees that come their way.  

Soon when all the refugees are gone the pastors will need to think about next steps. These will be caring for those who are left in the cities and towns and helping to get humanitarian aid to people in need.  

What is needed

Prayers are needed for the Lord to bring this war to an end.  Prayers for funds to come in to be used to buy fuel and fix vehicles and provide food and help with other needs.   Funds will be needed to help those who are in other countries trying to survive without putting too much of a burden on those who have so graciously opened their hearts and homes to care for and shelter.

Wisdom for pastors to know how care for themselves and comfort their wife and children and then continue to brings God’s message of hope and love, compassion and forgiveness to all. 

You can give to the special fund that Concordia Mission Society has set up, where finances will go directly into the hands of those who need it most.  Thank you for your prayers and giving to the LORD and His servants in Ukraine. 

Below is a video update from Pastor Alexei Navrotsky.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g-7RzE7k72U

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Notice of 2022 CLMS Annual General Meeting

Annual General Meeting

You are invited to join in the Concordia Lutheran Mission Society Annual General Meeting on Sunday, March 20, 2022 at 5 p.m. Eastern, 4 p.m. Central, 3 p.m. Mountain, 2 p.m. Pacific. 

Please email Pastor Mark Lobitz at  if you would like to have the Zoom Link sent to you the week before the AGM Meeting. 

Join us to hear about the Mission Projects of CLMS.

Blessings!

Pastor Mark Lobitz, President

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”.

Answered Prayers in Nicaragua

How did you travel to church last Sunday?  For pastors in Nicaragua the trip to hold services or visit with parishioners can be a complicated one.  Often pastors serve more than one congregation and may live in yet another community.

Some pastors rely on bicycles, some take the local bus or bicycle taxi, and then walk the remainder of the way.  Some have motorcycles. Very few have a car.

This is Pastor Geronimo who serves a number of congregations, all of which are rural.  The roads leading to these small villages are not paved and in some cases are not graveled either.  If you look closely you can see a machete in a sleeve he has attached to the rear wheel.  We asked why a machete?  Are there bad men?  He said no, there were bad dogs that he had to hold off or they would topple him over and take whatever foodstuffs he was carrying to his home or to his parishioners. 

For the last couple of years Concordia Lutheran Mission Society has had Motorcycles for Pastors as one of our projects.  Last year three pastors received a motorcycle. In this past month two more pastors received motorcycles!

Wow!  Look at Pastor Geronimo now!

He has the keys and the helmet (not shown) and is ready to get on the road!

What a blessing for him and for all of his parishioners.  Because there is still a need for more motorcycles CLMS will have this project again in 2020.

CLMS sincerely thanks all those who have given to this project.  Pastor Geronimo’s prayer for a motorcycle has been answered, and our donors were God’s instrument to have this come to pass. 

God bless you all!

         

Report on Special Project to Rwanda

Concordia Lutheran Mission Society occasionally receives a request for a special mission project.  Last year the A-BC District’s President Rev. Glenn Schaeffer approached CLMS with a request for CLMS to accept a special project for Rwanda.  Rev. Schaeffer assumed responsibility for raising funds for two teachers to instruct a week-long course to church leaders in Bible and theological training in the Beth Ammi Christian Fellowship and the Reformed Christian Fellowship Church of Rwanda.

Following are excerpts from Dr. Glenn Schaeffer’s report on his teaching trip to Rwanda in early 2019.

Greetings!

My wife Sandra and I just returned from a two week trip to Rwanda.  It is amazing how the bonds of faith and the shared love we have for Jesus connect us to one another despite differences in ethnicity, language, and social class. 

I led a four day conference on Romans 1-8 with heavy emphasis on the doctrine of justification – a doctrine that was “foreign” to them. There were about 35 church leaders present for the conference, mainly from the Beth Ammi Christian Fellowship Church and two pastors from the Reformed Christian Fellowship Church of Rwanda.

They are passionate about worshiping and serving their Lord, but most of the Christians, including the leaders, have a limited knowledge of the Bible and tend to live under the burden of the law. 

They are eager and hungry to learn more.  Our daily sessions at the conference started at 9 am and concluded at 4 pm with a one hour lunch break (during which they huddled to talk about the lessons).  Otherwise, they listened, discussed, debated, and prayed…with no other breaks!

Both churches are requesting ongoing biblical/theological training.  In fact, this matter is quite pressing as the government of Rwanda has mandated that all pastors of congregations are to have a theological degree/certificate from an accredited school. 

I am thankful for the opportunity that Sandra and I had to travel to Rwanda. Aside from the conference we visited four additional congregations that are extensions of the Beth Ammi located in various regions of Rwanda.  I also preached at a worship service there.

The congregation I now serve in Michigan is quite supportive of my work in Rwanda.  Sandra and I plan to return to Rwanda to continue to develop relationships with them and to provide them with biblical and practical training.

In Christ,

Glenn Schaeffer

Dr. Schaeffer and CLMS are very grateful to the people of LCC who heard about this special project and supported it both financially and with their prayers.

Exploratory Visit to Rwanda for Theological Education

Brothers and sisters in Christ gathered in Rwanda.

After an initial visit from Rev. Dr. Glenn Schaeffer early in 2018, Beth Ammi Christian Fellowship Church and other Lutherans in Rwanda have invited Canadian Lutherans to return to help them train pastors, elders, and deacons/deaconesses through theological education and mentorship.

While this is not a Lutheran Church-Canada sponsored project, from time to time Concordia Lutheran Mission Society adopts special projects, which allow for exploratory work that falls outside of LCC’s mission areas.

We have set up a project, 1825 – Exploratory Mission to Provide Theological Education in Rwanda, to provide you with an opportunity for you to make a financial donation, with the goal of raising $7,000.00 so that two Canadian instructors can travel to Rwanda to teach a week-long course, to visit/preach in some of the churches, and to continue to build trust with the leaders of the churches related to the Beth Ammi Christian Fellowship Church and other Lutherans in Rwanda.

Rev. Dr. Glenn Schaeffer meets with church leaders in Rwanda in early 2018

I want to support an exploratory visit to provide Lutheran theological education in Rwanda.

For additional information about the project, Dr. Schaeffer has provided a video.

Youth Music Program in Nicaragua Gets Financial Boost

On the afternoon of June 11, 2017 at Messiah Lutheran Church in Waterloo a local group, Ebytown Brass, held a concert called “Pastimes in Good Company”. The concert was well attended by nearly 60 supporters who generously donated $1302 in support of CLMS Project 1713: the Nicaraguan Children’s Music Program.

The event was not only well attended and supported by compassionate and mission-minded friends, but also by the local FaithLife chapter who provided refreshments. Thanks also to FaithLife Financial for providing a matching grant of $300 in support of this project. Praise God for the offering from Ebytown Brass who shared their talents in order to help young Nicaraguans discover theirs!

The Music Program for Children and Youth in Nicaragua helps by providing the funding to purchase musical instruments and training time for children and youth so that they can accompany congregational singing and lead fellow Nicaraguan Christians in the musical component of worship services.

If you’d like to support this project click here.

If you are interested in hosting, leading or suggesting an event in support of a CLMS project, please let us know how we can help with supplies, promotional materials, background info, etc. We can provide you with information and, in some cases in-person presentations, to assist you with connecting people with the projects and mission work that they feel passionate about.

 

CLMS announces projects for 2017

The Concordia Lutheran Mission Society is pleased to announce our 2017 list of projects.

Children being fed

Children enjoying a nutritious meal at a Nicaraguan feeding program.

Canada

1701 – South Asian Radio Ministry – $5,000

Cambodia

1702 – Gospel Outreach In Cambodia – $12,000 *NEW*

Costa Rica

1703 – Cartago Missionary Support – $25,000
1704 – Children’s Christian Education in the communities of Cartago -$6,500
1705 – Youth Outreach in Cartago- $1,600 *NEW*

Nicaragua

1706 – Children’s Christian Education Materials- $9,600
1707 – Deaconess Support – $8,000
1708 – Rancheria Earthquake Relief – $10,000 *NEW*
1709 – Support for Pastor and Deaconess Morales in Sebaco– $12,000
1710 – Assistance for Worship and Outreach facilities in Rivas – $6,400
1711 – Nutrition for the children of Rancheria – $2,000
1712 – Central America Church Worker Medical Fund – $7,000 *NEW*
1713 – Music Program for Children and Youth – $5,000 *NEW*
1714 – Computer Training for Deaconesses and Children – $2,500 *NEW*
1715 – Motorcycle for Pastor Guillermo’s Mission Outreach to Masaya – $3,000 *NEW*
1716 – Microfinance Program for Church Workers in Central America- $2,800 *NEW*

Thailand

1717 – Mission and Ministry to Kokkloi, Thailand – $8,500

Ukraine

1718 – Bible Study Outreach in the Village of Zorya – $1,600
1719 – Support for LCC’s Missionary Navarotskyy in Nikolaev – $9,800
1720 – “Days of Faith” Theological Conference – $1,000 *NEW*
1721 – Summer Youth Camp – $1,400 *NEW*
1722 – Men’s and Women’s Gatherings for Reformation 500 – $1,100 *NEW*

Detailed information on each project will be available on our website in the coming weeks.

If you wish to support any of these projects now, you may do so here.