Building bridges with Ukrainian Brethren

Published on Oct 2nd, 2015 by wpd-office | 0

“So he [Jesus Christ] came and proclaimed peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near…” (Ephesians 2: 17  NRSV)

For over a decade I have been in conversation with a brother in Christ who leads a small congregation in Chernigov, Ukraine. Brother Alexandr Zazhytko (Brother Alex) and I have grown a relationship over the years with the desire that one day we should meet face-to-face. That meeting will become a reality later this month as I, along with my brother, John Snyder, pastor of the Holmesville congregation, will be traveling to the Ukraine to meet with Brother Alex, his family, and the congregation pastored by Brother Alex.

The congregation calls itself, The Chernigov Church of the Brethren.  They seek a sister relationship with the Church of the Brethren here in the United States.  Through the visit John and I are making to our brothers and sisters in the Ukraine, we are hoping to further build our mutual relationship, to affirm their life and formation as a congregation, and to seek formal recognition as a sister congregation with the Church of the Brethren here in the U.S.

John and I are traveling to the Ukraine representing the Western Plains District and The Transformation Vision Team.  We are doing so as members of The New Church Development Vision Fulfillment Team.  I am also traveling as a representative of the Quinter congregation.  Previously, Brother George Hinton, pastor of the Salem congregation and former chair of New Church Development,  traveled to the Ukraine on a missions trip and had opportunity to meet with Brother Alex. Brother Alex has also had a relationship with Brethren from Pennsylvania.  Brother Alex and the congregation of 30-35 he leads have a love of Brethren life and practice, as they feel called to be a Brethren presence in the area of the world where they live.

John and I will depart from the Denver airport on Thursday, October 8, and are planning to return to the U.S on Monday, October 19.  Excluding travel time, this will give us a week to spend with Brother Alex, his wife Tonia, and their three children: Sasha, Veronica and David.  As we have been conversing with Brother Alex, by e-mail, conference call and Skype, his yearning for a relationship with his sisters and brothers from the U.S. is deeply evident.  John and I will be welcomed into Brother Alex’s home and we will have opportunity to worship with our Ukrainian brothers and sisters.  We will also be visiting members of the congregation with Brother Alex, and there is a hope that we can share a Love Feast with them.  (The logistics for this are still being worked out.)

This trip is being jointly sponsored by the Quinter Congregation and the Western Plains District.  This trip is a result of many prayers from both sides of the Atlantic being answered by God.  John and I covet your prayers that we might be ambassadors of peace and unity as we travel to meet with our brothers and sisters.  Furthermore, I believe we come to them with the blessing of the respective congregations we pastor, and with that of the larger Western Plains District.

Finally, may this be more evidence of the Spirit’s work here in Western Plains?  I believe it is.  So many stories are are playing out among us.  We are a large district in terms of geography; many of our congregations are small and we are spread out.  Yet there is life, vitality and vital ministry taking place all around and about our district.  I believe this Ukraine connection is but one more reason to rejoice and celebrate in the life God is giving to us to live and share.  In all there is no lack for abundance here in Western Plains.  John and I go to the Ukraine with this abundance to share with our Ukrainian sisters and brothers.  I am certain we will receive a wonderful abundance from them.  Such is our joint life lived together in the Spirit.

In Christ,
Keith Funk, pastor, Quinter (Kan.) Church of the Brethren
Chair, New Church Development Team

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