Dear brothers and sisters: Greetings in the name of Christ! This ministry update comes to you from Pastor Valery Hryhoryk, your global worker in Belarus. This is my spring 2019 ministry update. You may remember I am issuing a ministry update quarterly. This helps our friends and ministry supporters to pray, be aware of the needs and to give thanks together with us for God’s blessings.
I shall start with a political update from Ukraine, a country neighboring Belarus. All Slavic countries are connected in this part of the world economically and politically, and influence one another in many ways. The Ukrainian people just elected a new president, Vladimir Zelensky. He is no politician. He is a comedian! This situation reminds me of Arnold Schwarzenegger in California. Vladimir Zelensky has united 73 percent of the voices in Ukraine. People are tired of the old system and corruption that Pyotr Poroshenko (the former president of Ukraine) had to offer. So, Ukraine is going to have a new president soon, and hopefully it will experience some democratic development. Time will tell.
The president of Belarus, however, is the oldest president in all of the Commonwealth of Independent States and is well known for his hard authoritarian rule. He has been in power for 25 years now. So, Belarus continues to be a nondemocratic state with the last dictator in Europe.
Please pray for a good neighboring relationship between Ukraine and Belarus! There is a war going on in Ukraine, and Belarus plays an important role in the peacemaking process. Please pray for justice and freedom of worship in Belarus.
A theological seminar took place in Vitebsk in March. Having theological seminars twice a year (spring and fall) has become a good tradition. It is not always easy for our teacher, Valery Volodin from St. Petersburg, Russia, to travel to Belarus. However, the Lord is good to us as we understand the importance of theological education, fellowship and time spent together — as we always have people gathered from different Lutheran congregations in Belarus. We even had representatives from the Reformed Church of Belarus this time. Please give thanks to God for the seminars and ask the Lord to help us to continue this into the future!
We are grateful for the opportunity to support the rehabilitation center for handicapped children in Vitebsk.
We had a second visit to the center and had a meeting with the director, Elena, and some parents of the handicapped children. We were able to discuss and make plans for how to help the center and the children. The first steps have been taken. Praise the Lord! We are working on filming a short video that speaks about everyday life in this place. We brought the children presents and they were very happy!
For the children with mental illness, it is very important to experience love and care. In many cases, they interact with this world through physical experiences and sound. We were discussing the possibility of having acoustic concerts in the center. Please thank the Lord for the possibility to minister to the staff of the center, the handicapped children and their parents, showing God’s love and care.
I was privileged to attend a pastors’ conference in Odessa, Ukraine. The Rev. John Bradosky, bishop of the North American Lutheran Church, and his assistant for missions, the Rev. Dr. Gemechis Buba, came to Ukraine to share their knowledge on discipleship. Disciple-making is a great theme that many churches miss. However, this is the only way the Church of Christ can grow and develop. The conference was a blessing.
Bishop Bradosky met representatives and bishops of all the Ukrainian Lutheran churches and gave a talk on the future of the Church. This was the first time that all Lutheran church bodies in Ukraine met together. A historic event indeed!
Disciple-making is also our priority here in Belarus. However, we have our own peculiarities, as we do not have church buildings — the church meets in homes. “Handshake relationships” remain the key in such conditions. One of the ways to achieve this is to hold youth meetings, which we continue to host in my garage. Young people come to have fellowship together, discuss various topics, watch movies and have spiritual talks. Please ask God for the opportunity to continue these meetings!
In Odessa, a meeting was held with Bishop Bradosky and Pastor Buba, where I was able to present our plan for future development of the ministry in Belarus. Having discipleship in mind, the idea is to build a permanent center for the children and youth ministry in Dolsha, which is 25 kilometers (15 miles) away from Vitebsk, so that we can have opportunities to have Bible camps and different educational events all year round.
The plan was approved and now I have to begin the paperwork process and fundraising. The next stage is to bring the papers to the United States during my visit to the NALC Convocation in August. Please pray for this project as it is vital for the future of the Lutheran Church in Belarus. Pray that the Lord could send all the necessary funds. We are praying for about $70,000 to $100,000 (U.S.) for this project.
Youth and children ministries remain our priority.
We visited the unregistered congregation in Balbasovo, Orsha district, 100 kilometers (62 miles) from Vitebsk. This time we came with presents and the children were very happy. It is always great to give the presents! Sofia is our team leader there. She is a dance teacher and loves God very much. We were able to discuss the upcoming summer Bible camp in July. Please pray for Sophia and her ministry. Please ask God to give her the necessary strength to serve to the glory of God!
Please pray for the upcoming summer Bible camp— for protection, as it may be interrupted at any time. It could be viewed as illegal. Belarus has strict religious laws and everything to do with large gatherings is followed very closely by the government. We praise God for the opportunity to obtain big tents, that will serve as protection from bad weather conditions. Please give thanks to God as the number of attendees of the Bible camp is increasing every year!
Book ministry: Good Book Publishers’ books were delivered to Ukraine. Pastors from the Independent Lutheran Church in Ukraine received our books and were very thankful for them as there is very little Lutheran literature available in Ukraine. However, the border between Ukraine and Belarus remains a major problem. Please thank God for the literature ministry that is conducted from Belarus to other countries in the world. Currently, we are looking at the possibility of working with Christians in Ethiopia to print materials in their two main languages. Our new books were also delivered to Grodno, the only functioning Lutheran church building in Belarus. Pastor Vladimir Tatarnikov was very pleased with the books.
Cooperation with the the Center for Mission and Evangelism of the Evangelical Church of the Augsburg Confession in Poland. This year we have started a cooperative effort with the evangelistic center in Poland. We have received 100 shoe boxes for Christmas with presents for needy children in the Vitebsk district of Belarus. It is such a great opportunity to witness about the love of God! Please give thanks and pray for this cooperation to continue to the glory of God!
Christian music ministry – We have a new bass guitar player in our music group. His name is Vitaly, and he is not a Christian yet. He is a very kind man with a great sense of humor. Please pray for Vitaly to get to know the true and personal God! We participated in two concerts in Vitebsk recently and our Christian song “100 Stones,” which was based on John Banyan’s “Pilgrim’s Progress,” was chosen to take part in a song competition on the Belarus national radio station, “Stolitsa” (“Capital”). This radio station is number one in Belarus! I am pleased to say, that this is a great achievement for our music ministry. The song, recorded in my home studio, has perfectly fit into a radio ready format. It took me six years to study the sound engineering craft. All this was done to make music ministry possible!
Ecumenical contacts: I took part in the ecumenical event organized by the local Catholic church. We had a common prayer for the unity of all Christians. The Rev. Oleg Butkevich is the newly-appointed Catholic bishop for the Vitebsk district. Please pray for such events and dialog to continue.
Dear brothers and sisters, Please accept our gratitude for your faithful and ongoing support of the Lord’s work in this part of the world. Please know that the Lord is glorified here and it is a great privilege of ours to be a blessing to our brothers and sisters outside Belarus! Praise be to God! May the Lord keep you and bless you as you bless others! Amen!
Pastor Valery Hryhoryk is an NALC Global Worker, serving with EEMN in Belarus. For additional information or to partner in ministry, please visit: The Great Commission Society.