Teens and adults from Grace, Oskaloosa, Iowa, and Faith, Sharpsburg, Ga., taught—and learned—some valuable lessons this summer when they traveled to Ukraine to help a local congregation with its vacation Bible school.
Three youth and three adults planned and taught Bible stories, crafts, music, and English lessons to around one hundred children at Church of the Holy Cross in Kremenets, one of 18 congregations in the Ukrainian Lutheran Church. In exchange they learned about Ukrainian culture and what it’s like sharing the Word in a different country.
Renee DeMarce, a member at Grace and junior at Wisconsin Lutheran College, Milwaukee, especially appreciated learning about the hardships the Ukrainians had to go through for their faith. “My favorite part was hearing the story that was told to us by Deacon Stepan about when he was younger and put in a prison for teaching God’s Word when Christianity was new in Ukraine,” she says. “They gave him chances to change his ways, and he stayed true to his Christian beliefs. When he went to sleep one night he was surprised when he woke and noticed that all of his hair had gone white overnight. This was a sign to him that God was with him still and his hair changing overnight lead him to stay strong in his faith and continue teaching the Christian faith and being part of it to this day. This story will stick with me my whole life and reassure me in times of trouble that God does not leave us.”
Although in many ways this was just like teaching vacation Bible school in the United States, there were some notable differences.
“The biggest difference was the language barrier—every word we said had to go through an interpreter,” says Sarah Kvidt, a member at Faith. “This took TIME! Pentecost was a huge gift from God!”
One of the interpreters even “translated” the Ukrainian songs phonetically so the volunteers could learn them. “After the Sunday afternoon performance, I was approached by the mayor of Kremenets and congratulated on having learned the right words to their songs,” says Brenda DeMarce.
Although having translators was a necessity for sharing the stories, Renee says they weren’t necessary to make connections. “The children knew that what we were teaching them was important even before they knew what we were saying.”
Tenth-grader Noah Kvidt also saw that Christian love trumps language barriers: “The language barrier was tough, but the love from and for the kids was not hindered,” he says. “One boy, Max (age 10), was sitting by me during music. He looked up to me, hugged me, and said in his best possible English, ‘Noah, I love you.’ I will always cherish that moment forever.”
This isn’t the first time WELS members have helped with conducting vacation Bible school in Ukraine. Past programs were coordinated through the Evangelical Lutheran Synod and Thoughts of Faith. This time, Roger Neumann, World Missions’ liaison to the Ukrainian Lutheran Church, led a local effort to coordinate volunteers from his congregation in Iowa and from Sharpsburg, Ga. “They hadn’t had a VBS for three years, so we decided we needed to revive this,” says Neumann. “Our volunteers were great witnesses and well received by the church and townspeople of Kremenets.”
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Volume 103, Number 10
Issue: October 2016
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