Friday, May 24, 2013

Spiritual Transformation in Ukraine

My recent trip to Ukraine in mid April of this year was one of the most rewarding trips I can recall in a long long time!  No, I didn’t preach to thousands of people, nor did I have the opportunity to give away a boatload of money to needy churches or orphanages.  It was a relatively uneventful trip with only 3 of us sharing in this journey.  What made the trip rewarding, however, was the picture God gave me of the ministry fruit from our Converge MidAtlantic partnership in Ukraine over the past 10 plus years!  It was absolutely thrilling!

It started out with the special opportunity to preach on a Sunday in April at the Orghiv Church, a larger village outside of the main city of Rivne, Ukraine.  The Orghiv Church is the name of the church that our Old North Church in Canfield, OH has been sistering with for the past 10 plus years.  I saw the beautiful church facility that Old North helped to build.  I saw the young adults leading worship and children’s ministry, leaders that Old North has helped train.  The church was packed on Sunday, mostly young adults and young families.  Old North’s partnership with Pastor Nick and Olga has literally put this church on the map in its community, and it has raised up some solid young leaders for work in God’s harvest!  What a blessing to see!

Mlnyv is the name of the town and the church where Lakewood Baptist in Lakewood, NY has partnered over the past 10 plus years. Lakewood’s involvement has been primarily in leading and more recently in supporting the church’s summer adventure camps with children and youth.  Teams from Lakewood came over every year for the first 6 years, and in recent years, funds and personal encouragement continued for these summer camps.  When Pastor Dan Cook and Youth Pastor Tim Sullivan visited the Mlnyv Church this Spring, they were blown away to see the fruit from these adventure camps.  The kids who were in these camps 8, 9, 10 years ago, are now leaders in the camps that will be held this summer. Dan and Tim were literally in tears as they heard the stories of how these early adventure camps had made such on impact on these kids’ lives. The Mlynv Church is alive and well, due in some measure to the strong partnership with Lakewood Baptist.  How cool!

While I was riding in the van with Ukrainian leader, Michael Ilyuk, I asked him if he could give me his perspective on the fruit from the partnership that First Baptist Church of Glenarden has had with the Dubrovitsa Church, located in a village in northwestern Ukraine.  His eyes and heart lit up! He shared with me how this partnership has helped in the planting of other new churches in nearby villages, as the First Baptist teams have helped them touch these communities through summer evangelism and camps. Michael talked about the spiritual growth in this church, revolving around learning about other cultures and ways of worship.  When I arrived back in the U.S., I spoke with one of the leaders from First Baptist and I learned about more of the results from this partnership. I was reminded that the church facility has been totally upgraded, including construction of restroom facilities, a complete kitchen, provisions for audiovisual equipment, lighting, a baptismal pool, air conditioning, new chairs in the sanctuary, computer equipment, and interior painting!  Of course, I knew about Tania Martin who now serves full time in Ukraine as a Converge missionary, because of this sistering partnership.  Praise God for what He has and is still doing!

Later, after returning home, I also spoke with one leader from our Berean Church in Mansfield, OH which has partnered with Grace Baptist Church in the city of Brovary, Ukraine.  Again, I was blown away!  Over 15 years of partnering together has seen Grace Baptist Church grow from a congregation of 30, mostly older women, to a thriving congregation of 150 with many young families with chirdren & youth. The church facility was a one room church building in '96 and today is a 3 floor, 18 room, and 10,000 square foot sanctuary. In '96 they had one unpaid pastor and now they have 3 pastors. Children’s Adventure Camps have grown from 98 children to 400 children, ages 4-13. In '96 the church did not have any Sunday School and now they have Sunday School for all ages. The church is making meaningful  connections with many older teens, university students, and young professionals outside of the church as a result of the ESL classes that Berean has offered.  In addition to all of this, sistering in Ukraine has greatly impacted the Berean’s view of mission ministry. The church has seen interest and funding grow considerably over these years into other fields for short-term mission work. It has opened people’s eyes to the world and to their own community!  What a thrill to hear of this significant spiritual fruit!

Over the past 12 years, my wife, Sandi, and others, have spearheaded ministry and support for a number of the orphanages in western Ukraine.  We have partnered with one key church (Grace Church of Rivne) in its involvement in trying to disciple kids from some of the orphanages.  Through our Mercy Ministries fund, we have also helped support several “Christian foster homes” for orphans that are booted out of the orphanages when they are 18 years old.  Recently, we heard some of the stories of some of the kids we worked with in these early years.  Several have gone to Bible College and Seminary!  Some are now serving as Pastors in Ukrainian churches.  At least one is a missionary in another country.  What a thrill to see and hear of the fruit from our involvement with these forgotten people!

This trip to Ukraine in April was my 23rd trip to Ukraine!  At times, I have wondered if the time and energy and money were really worth it.  This trip was one of those special confirmations from God.  Yes, significant spiritual transformation is happening through our partnership and involvement in Ukraine!

Plans are in place to continue the Love Lift Ukraine ministry with a Vision Trip planned for the summer of 2013, and another trip planned for the summer of 2014.  If you are interested in exploring involvement in this ministry, contact our Converge MidAtlantic office anytime!

With gratitude,

Dan Peterson
Converge MidAtlantic

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