In January, 2012, I was invited to go to Kiev Regional Bible College and Seminary under the auspices of International Theological Education Ministries (I.T.E.M.) in order to teach students the book of James. I was there in November, 2011 to teach theology, and this time I had most of the same students, 25 in all. I arrived at the Boryspil Airport in Kiev on May 19 and made my way to Vishneve, a city of about 50,000 which is primarily comprised of high rise apartments, reminiscent of the images we remember seeing of apartments in Communist Russia. The weather is very pleasant in the Ukraine during May.
The economic situation is most difficult for the Ukranians. They have attempted to follow the west in the free market, but for the majority it is a daily struggle since for many years the government took care of their financial needs. However, they eat very well, and most have or share a small garden which yields wonderfully since the soil is some of the richest in the world. They told me that all of my meals were organic, and by that they must have meant that no pesticides were used on the crops. Yogurt, rice, potatoes, a variety of vegetables, breads, chicken and pork, as well as hot tea are standard meals in the Ukraine—for breakfast, lunch, or dinner.
I preached at the Church of the Gospel, a church affiliated with the Association of the Churches of Evangelical Christian Baptists of Kiev, which is also located in Vishneve. The sermon was interpreted into Russian, and the choir beautifully sang in the Russian language. Though I did not know the words, I recognized the melody of many of the selections since I grew up as a Baptist. The students are bright and they are in particular interested in how the Scriptures apply to their daily lives.
World War II had such a devastating effect upon the Ukrainians, and in Vishneve’s Memorial Park, there is a statue of a Ukrainian soldier and a memorial with many names of those who lost their lives in the war. There is also a memorial to those who died in the recent war with Afghanistan. In the midst of their difficulties, they express warmth and enthusiasm for life.
What a delight to minister in this part of the world!
Dr. Jeffrey J. Richards is pastor of New Gilead Reformed Church in Concord.