Tag Archive for: Ukraine

Ukrainian music ensemble performs in Germany

In October, Baroque Plus, a Ukrainian musical group that includes members of the Ukrainian Lutheran Church (ULC), traveled to Germany to present concerts at several Evangelical Lutheran Free Church (ELFK) congregations. These concerts were a thank you for the German church’s support to Ukrainian refugees who fled the country to escape the war with Russia. These concerts not only showed the ULC’s gratitude for that aid but also offered an opportunity to assimilate the refugees more fully into the German Lutheran churches.

Three sister church bodies—the Ukrainian Lutheran Church, the Evangelical Lutheran Free Church in Germany, and WELS—worked together to plan the trip. Three ELFK congregations hosted the special worship services that included music from Baroque Plus, other German and Ukrainian hymns, gospel readings, devotions, and prayer.

“The services were edifying and beautiful,” says Rev. Roger Neumann, WELS’ liaison to the Ukrainian Lutheran Church. “Translators made it possible that three languages were used during the service: Ukrainian, German, and English. Although, for the Lord’s Prayer, all three languages were spoken at the same time, which was quite impressive.”

Fellowship times before, during, and after the services provided opportunities for members from the Ukrainian Church and German church to interact. “There was truly a unique bond of fellowship at each church, which flowed from a sense of empathy, Christian love and concern, and the powerful bond of unity that believers have in Christ. Strangers quickly became friends,” says Neumann. “We pray that those who attended the service, Ukrainian and German visitors who have no church home, will come again to learn more about Jesus and what he has done for them and for all people.”

Hanna Bulu, the leader of Baroque Plus and a member at Resurrection, Kiev, Ukraine, appreciated the opportunity to come to Germany. “After traveling thousands of kilometers from our native home, we met good friends in Germany—and also a long-forgotten feeling of peace and quiet. Such concerts are like bridges between churches, between hearts, between children of God, who are one in Christ.”

WELS, the ULC, and the ELFK are all part of the Confessional Evangelical Lutheran Conference (CELC), a group of 34 Lutheran church bodies from around the world committed to the teachings of the Lutheran Church found in the Book of Concord. This fellowship of believers offers support in faith and doctrine. “This was a blessing, given to us by our Lord, that flows from the unity of believers from around the world who form the CELC,” says Neumann. “The people from Ukraine who were there that week, as well as people from the various church bodies that form the CELC, can better understand that they are never alone.”

Read more thoughts about this trip from ELFK President Rev. Michael Herbst at wels.net/familyofbelievers.

 

 

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Supporting the family of believers

Give thanks to the LORD, call on his name; make known among the nations what he has done. Sing to him, sing praise to him; tell of all his wonderful acts. Glory in his holy name; let the hearts of those who seek the LORD rejoice.

Psalm 105:1-3

We have many reasons to thank our gracious Lord. Precisely in difficult times, we recognize his merciful love particularly clearly. The Ukrainian Lutheran Church (ULC) has been part of the worldwide Confessional Evangelical Lutheran Conference (CELC) from the beginning. Since then, there have been sometimes more, sometimes less close ties between the Evangelical Lutheran Free Church (ELFK) in Germany and the ULC. With the outbreak of the Russian war against Ukraine, the blessings God bestows on people from different cultures through spiritual fellowship became evident. Our history differs, but the unified faith in the common Savior, Jesus Christ unites us.

For members of the ELFK, it was not a question at all whether we will help people who had to leave their homeland because of the war. We were only moved by the question: How can we help? As Christians, we want to thank God for the grace and love he has shown us. Through the Apostle Paul, he let us know how we can show this gratitude in a special way: “Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers.” (Galations 6:10) And so we were moved by the question: What possibilities will God open up for us, especially to help brothers and sisters in faith from the war zone in Ukraine? Since then, some refugees have also found refuge in the vicinity of our congregations. God has blessed us richly and prepared hearts to help those who often arrived here with only a suitcase or a few bags. They were warmly welcomed. Bishop Horpynchuk (ULC) and I were in communication to help brothers and sisters in faith and to find lodgings near congregations. God helped us to help. Glory be to him forever and ever!

An idea to say thank you to the helpers and at the same time to support ELFK in proclaiming the Good News among Ukrainian refugees was allowed to become a reality in October 2022 when the Baroque Plus ensemble from Kiev visited Germany. Let me take a little personal look back:

The Baroque Plus ensemble

I look back with gratitude and joyful emotion on a week in which we were able to get to know and love new friends. As president of the ELFK, I am grateful to God. I had the opportunity to experience fellowship with brothers and sisters in faith during these days. Already on the evening of the arrival of the ensemble, there was a joyful reunion for my wife and I. At the end of April this year, we had offered a guest room in our parsonage to an ill parishioner of the Resurrection Church in Kiev. When he went back home on May 11, tears flowed. We knew we would meet him again in our heavenly home, but the war was still a reality in Kiev and so we worried about him and his family. No one had told us that Petro would be one of the drivers who would take the ensemble from Kiev to Saxony. And so on October 11, exactly five months after his departure, we were happy and grateful to see and hug him once again.

Although we did not know the other members of the team beforehand, we became familiar with each other very quickly. Wherever Christians come together, they are united by the same faith. God brings them together and lets them enjoy the fellowship. We were able to experience this clearly. It was also good for us to see the smiling faces. We knew that one day after their departure from Kiev, the attacks with drones and missiles on the Ukrainian capital flared up again. Our guests also knew that. Whenever there was even the slightest thought of home, smiles changed to tears. As the group was on route to Germany, a rocket struck in close proximity to the house where the families of the bishop and a member of the ensemble live. Windows were broken, but God helped and preserved loved ones.

I would like to tell you another short incident. After the ensemble had rehearsed once again in Nerchau, there was an opportunity for a walk. We all enjoyed walking along the narrow river Mulde under the sunshine, blue sky, and colorful trees. Again and again, the conversation partners changed. During one of these conversations, a member of the ensemble told me, “It’s so nice and quiet here.” There was again, the thought of the situation at home: sirens wailing for air alerts, bullets whistling, and explosions thundering. At the same time, by God’s grace, we may live in peace, enjoy tranquility, and go about our work as usual.

Since February 24, 2022, it has been our daily prayer that God will soon give peace to Ukraine. The threatening gestures from Moscow have expanded those prayers. For a few weeks now we have been increasingly asking God to keep peace in our country and give it again in Europe. We know that God is in the regiment. He directs and guides everything. And he is also almighty in this. We can trust in him. As the Apostle Paul says, “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” (Romans 8:28) It is perhaps not easy for us to see how a war with all its hardship should serve any human being for the best. But let me say this at the end of this unfortunately much too long article: If only one lost person has come to faith in the Savior through the journey of the Baroque Plus ensemble, through the fellowship in the church services, through the proclamation of the gospel and the love connected with it, then it was the best for this new sheep in the flock of our Lord Christ. And then there will also be joy about this sheep in heaven (Luke 15:7).

I would like to close with another thank you. Thanks to God, who made possible and blessed the journey of Baroque Plus. Thanks to the brothers and sisters in Ukraine, who had the idea and the willingness to travel almost 2,000 km by car to faraway Saxony, a part of Germany. But thanks also to all the brothers and sisters in faith in the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod (WELS) for all their support in praying, preparing, and carrying out this wonderful opportunity. We look forward to a healthy reunion – if not here on earth, then certainly in our eternal homeland.

Shared by Rev. Michael Herbst, president of the Evangelical Lutheran Free Church (ELFK) in Germany




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Update from Ukraine: Sept. 16, 2022

Rev. Roger Neumann serves as the WELS liaison to Ukraine. He has been able to maintain regular contact with the leadership from the Ukrainian Lutheran Church (ULC) and is providing regular updates about how our brothers and sisters in the ULC are doing. WELS has decided to share Neumann’s updates. Please keep the people of Ukraine in your prayers.


September. 15:

There has been a vacancy at St. John Lutheran in Lazarivka.  Lazarivka is located southwest of Ternopil.  Though in a safer area of Ukraine the economy has hit the people hard there as well.  Refugees from Kyiv, Kharkiv and Avdiyivka currently live in Lazarivka.  Pastor Serhiy Somin was able to visit this congregation, he held a worship service, and delivered food aid to them. Plans are being made to have services there once or twice a month.  Thank you, Pastor Somin for your love for these fellow believers, and your efforts to serve them with the Word and sacrament.

Izium was recently liberated from Russian control. We have heard from some of the members of the church, who thankfully are alive, but have not heard from everyone.  We pray for these believers and trust that they are in Jesus’ loving care. Izium is served by Pastor Victor Khaustov.  May God continue to bless his ministry to the people there.

September 14:

While there are reports of Ukrainian forces reclaiming territory, which is true, yet there is now increased rocket and missile strikes against key infrastructure targets.  There are now reports of water shortages, and even a complete cut off of water in a few locations.  In preparation for the cold of winter, and possible heating fuel shortages, many small stoves are being made and sold so that people can burn wood, coal, or peat for the heating of their homes and churches.  It suspected that Russia will continue to try to cut off utilities from the people with winter coming soon.

From gifts that our church gave to the ULC to buy more Bibles, over a year ago, they have now come and some were delivered to Kharkiv.

More Bibles and Catechisms will be needed in the future.  Many of these are being given out to refugees, who receive them with great joy.  Amazing how the Word of God can spread in times of adversity and war.  God’s ways are certainly not our ways.  We simply cast out the seed, God will give the growth.

September 6:

An example of another door that our Lord has opened to his Pastors in the ULC happened recently.  Pastor Yuri Tytski, who serves Holy Trinity Lutheran Church in Bereznehuvate, but has moved his family to Kremenets until it’s safe to go back, encountered some people who came to the church in Kremenets for food and aid.  He found out that they were from Snihurivka, not far from Bereznehuvate.  He, along with Pastor Roman Anduntsiv, welcomed them to worship and they have now begun Catechism classes with them.

September 1:

Earlier this week, Pastor Khaustov who serves in Kharkiv was able to travel to some of his members who have moved to Poltava.  Poltava is located about 85 miles southwest of Kharkiv.  He held a worship service with them and delivered some People’s Bible Commentaries.  Many of the ULC Pastors are now serving smaller numbers of worshipers, due to the fact that so many people have moved to safer areas.  Yet, they continue to serve their members who have stayed.  We thank them for their faithful service.  Other pastors who have taken refuge in other areas help serve in those places.  The ministries continue, by God’s grace.


WELS World Missions provided this map to show where major Ukrainian cities are located and, more specifically, where the Ukrainian Lutheran Church has congregations.

 


 

WELS is supporting the Ukrainian Lutheran Church with emergency needs as their country is torn apart by war.

 

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Aid distribution in Ukraine

As Russia continues to wage war against Ukraine, the effort to support WELS’ brothers and sisters in Ukraine has been blessed by our Lord Jesus. WELS has received more than $1.4 million from individuals and groups to support the Ukrainian Lutheran Church (ULC), WELS’ sister church body in the Ukraine, and its efforts to help members and others affected by the conflict.

WELS has sent more than $300,000 in aid to Ukraine. Approximately $200,000 has been sent to the ULC (as it has requested it) for clothing, food, medicine, and other supplies. About $100,000 has been sent to Direct Relief, an organization equipped to provide emergency medical supplies to those remaining in Ukraine or who are refugees in Poland. As the conflict continues, and as needs arise, additional funding will be sent. WELS also is anticipating significant rebuilding costs when, Lord willing, the war ends.

Rev. Roger Neumann serves the Board for World Missions as the WELS liaison to Ukraine. He maintains regular contact with ULC leaders and provides updates about how the aid is being used and how doors are opening to share the gospel, even in trying circumstances. These are just a few examples of the many ways people are hearing about the love of Jesus through your gifts.

  • ULC Pastor Taras Kokovsky and his wife were asked to visit Latvia by Latvian Lutheran pastors to reach out to Ukrainian refugees who settled there. The goal of the trip is to determine how to best serve them and their spiritual needs, invite them to worship, and tell them about the ULC, so when they return they might find a church to attend.
  • A member of Resurrection Lutheran in Kiev was able to get an additional package of food for a 72-year-old neighbor who is struggling to buy food.
  • Liudmyla, a retired member of the ULC church in Kyiv, was having a difficult time getting her medications, and the church was able to supply them for her.
  • Food and medical supplies are regularly being distributed to people in need in the communities around ULC congregations.
  • After an outpatient hospital in the small town of Bereznehuvate was destroyed, a ULC church member who is a dentist there was provided with funds to purchase tools and medicine so that she can help those who need it.
  • Bishop Horpynchuk, the head of the ULC, delivered soap, shampoo, toothpaste, detergents, etc., to members and visitors in Kyiv.
  • Iryna from Bachmut and Valentyna from Brianka heard about the ULC church and attended worship. They told their stories of how they left home with only a few things and found shelter in Kyiv. Horpynchuk and his congregation shared with them food and drink, detergents and soap, and Christian love.

We thank our heavenly Father for the generous gifts that we’ve received, for Rev. Neumann’s faithful contacts, and for WELS World Missions’ partnership with the ULC.

To learn more or to support the relief efforts in Ukraine, visit wels.net/ukraine.

 

 

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Your gifts are making a difference in Ukraine

“Fight the good fight of faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called when you made your good confession in the presence of many witnesses.”

1 Timothy 6:12

The effort to support our brothers and sisters in Ukraine has been blessed by our Lord Jesus. As of this writing, WELS has received over $1,400,000 from many individuals and groups for the support of the Ukrainian Lutheran Church (ULC) and those affected by this conflict. We thank God for these gifts and continue to pray for peace.

After months of conflict, the war in Ukraine shows no signs of letting up. What a comfort to know that the Lord of the Church will always care for his people. Trusting his infinite care even in these perilous times, WELS members and friends have given generously to support those affected by the war, especially the members of the Ukrainian Lutheran Church. During this time WELS provided well over $300,000 in aid to Ukraine (as they have requested it), which has been distributed as follows:

  • Approximately $200,000 for the Ukrainian Lutheran Church (ULC) for clothing, food, and medicine
  • Approximately $100,000 to Direct Relief to provide medicine and supplies through the Ukraine Ministry of Health and financial assistance for Ukrainians remaining in the country or who are refugees in Poland

Up to this day we have still been able to send gifts to Ukraine to support the ULC’s efforts to feed and house refugees and others in need, the travel of pastors to care for their flocks, and ongoing subsidy for the work of the church in Ukraine. More funds will be given as the ULC is able to buy the supplies that are a help to those around them and as the Lord allows them to rebuild churches and homes.

Today we are reminded of the many confessional Lutheran church bodies that are united with us in gospel proclamation around the world. WELS’ Board for World Missions has the high honor of connecting with these brothers and sisters in good times and in bad. We carry each other’s burdens and sorrows. We rejoice when our brothers and sisters rejoice and mourn when they mourn. Your tangible gifts in this time of need are another expression of God’s love through us to a world in desperate need. These times remind us of our high calling. We don’t know how the Lord has knit together the plans of nations and men to further his kingdom until he comes. We do know that he will continue to govern all things for the good of those who trust in him. May God grant us the continued opportunity to bring his love to a world that is lost without it.

Thank you for your generous support as we show the love of Jesus to people whose lives are torn apart by war.


 

WELS is supporting the Ukrainian Lutheran Church with emergency needs as their country is torn apart by war.

 

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Update from Ukraine: May 19, 2022

Rev. Roger Neumann serves as the WELS liaison to Ukraine. He has been able to maintain regular contact with the leadership from the Ukrainian Lutheran Church (ULC) and is providing regular updates about how our brothers and sisters in the ULC are doing. WELS has decided to share Neumann’s updates. Please keep the people of Ukraine in your prayers.


May 15, 2022

Pastor Yuri Tytski(Holy Trinity, Bereznehuvate) is now in Ternopil with his family and he is helping Pastor Taras Kokovski at St. John/St. James in Ternopil.  There has been some recent news about possible opportunities for mission work among Ukrainian refugees in Latvia.  That would certainly be wonderful.  God is good.  In a way this news reminded me of the hymn, “Onward Christian Soldiers.”  The war in Ukraine has disrupted worship services in many places, but it hasn’t stopped the Lord’s work.  The church, empowered by God, marches on.  Our greatest joy and times of peace are found during those times that we are serving our Lord.  Thank you for these opportunities dear Lord.

An update, Hanna and Maryna from Mariupol, have been picked up by our German brothers and taken back to Zwickau.  They are safe where they are now. Thanks be to God!   The German brothers brought along with them, a large amount of aid for the people which is very much appreciated.  We thank the many, many people, and countries who provide help in Ukraine’s time of need.

Thank you Lord for the blessed fellowship of believers, who give of themselves to help others in their time of need.  Lord, continue to bless and keep the people of Ukraine.

May 16, 2022

Yesterday was a day of rejoicing in Kharkiv, not because the war is over, but because for the first time since the war began, back in February, they were able to meet for worship in the place they rent for services.  Pastor Khaustov commented, “there was no electricity, and it was a cloudy day, so it was nearly impossible to read from the books.”  They did however have battery operated equipment for filming the service.

Prior to the war, we were helping All Saints Lutheran, in Kharkiv, to purchase a building that would be their own.  They would have renovated the building to be used for worship and there were additional rooms for Sunday school classes.  If that building is still standing, it’s our prayer that it can still be purchased.

Services were also held in Kiev yesterday, Bishop commented that some people came back for the first time since the beginning of the war.

May 17, 2022

I mentioned a couple days ago that people from the German Church were coming to pick up the two ladies from Mariupol, Hanna and Maryna.  Pastor Somin drove them to the meeting place and the brothers from Germany met them and brought with them many donations of food, baby supplies, and medicine.

Bishop Horpynchuk wrote this letter of thanks to Pres. Michael Herbst of the ELFK:

“Dear Brother, thank you for the help we received from the ELFK that was brought by Petro Rudzik from Zwickau and by Pastor Serhiy Somin from Volodymyr. The help from Zwickau was delivered to the hospital in the eastern Ukraine. The help delivered by Pastor Somin was divided into three parts: canned food – for the military, children items for our sisters in pro-life as they deal with many refugees with babies, and the third part with food will go to the southern Ukraine, including German congregations. Thank you very much! Special thank you for the Varta power bank!”

He also added,  “We thank the Lord for such caring brothers. We also thank the Lord for brothers from Finland and Sweden. We also thank the Lord for all our American brothers and sisters.”

It’s so encouraging to see and hear about the love and concern, by so many, for the people of Ukraine and the Ukrainian Lutheran Church.  Christian love only speaks one language, and it is shown in one’s actions.  The love of Jesus does compel us.  And other people’s lives are touched and blessed by this.

May 18, 2022

Because people fled their towns and cities when it was winter, they have no spring and summer clothing.  Clothes are purchased for people.  Clothes are purchased at thrift stores or second hand stores, because many people fled with few personal items, or nothing more than what they were wearing or could fit into a small box.   There are many who are in need of clothing and shoes, etc.

In case you are wondering, or desiring to send them care packages, it’s not easy to send packages.  The cost for postage is high, and the delivery isn’t always convenient.  Giving money to purchase things there, in Ukraine, is much more practical.


WELS World Missions provided this map to show where major Ukrainian cities are located and, more specifically, where the Ukrainian Lutheran Church has congregations.

 


 

WELS is supporting the Ukrainian Lutheran Church with emergency needs as their country is torn apart by war.

 

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Update from Ukraine: May 11, 2022

Rev. Roger Neumann serves as the WELS liaison to Ukraine. He has been able to maintain regular contact with the leadership from the Ukrainian Lutheran Church (ULC) and is providing regular updates about how our brothers and sisters in the ULC are doing. WELS has decided to share Neumann’s updates. Please keep the people of Ukraine in your prayers.


WELS World Missions provided this map to show where major Ukrainian cities are located and, more specifically, where the Ukrainian Lutheran Church has congregations. Read below for some updates from the last week.

 

 

 

May 10, 2022

Please keep Pastor Somin, as well as Odesa in your prayers.  Recent missile strikes have increased in that area.  Pastor Somin is hoping to leave there tomorrow.

More good news from Kharkiv as the suburb that Pastor Khaustov lives in has been totally cleared of the Russians.  The bad news is that mines and explosives have been placed in the streets and even in some homes.  It’s still not safe to go back.

May 9, 2022

Though the fighting and missile strikes are still occurring each day, there is, nevertheless, a growing sense of optimism in Ukraine.  The support that they are receiving from many nations helps them to appreciate that others do care about them and their current situation.

As more people return to public worship, others rejoice that they are still alive and back again in God’s house to hear his Word and receive the sacrament.  It certainly proves how true it is that Christians are happiest when they can gather together for worship.  Cherish every opportunity that you have to do just that.

Pastors who returned briefly, to their congregations, speak of the sadness they feel driving through areas that are devastated from the bombings.

May 5, 2022

One of the ULC Pastors, Yuri Tytski, has determined it is not safe to return to Bereznehuvate and will rent an apartment for his family, in a western city.  The apartment is unfurnished so I urged Bishop to use some of the gifts that have been given by WELS’ members and friends, to buy some furnishings for the apartment.

Pastor Somin’s van needed repair so that he could continue to take supplies, as well as lead worship services, in southern Ukraine.  The repair cost was about $1,000.00, because the cost of parts have also increased in price.  Your gifts have helped get the repair work done and he is now able to be on the road again, serving.

May 4, 2022

Today we say, “Happy Birthday” to Pastor Feschenko.  Pastor Feschenko serves congregations in Tokmak and Zaporizhia.  He will not be able to celebrate his birthday in his home this year, but thankfully will be with his family.  Such is the nature of the war in eastern Ukraine and the every day disruptions and changes that it has caused in people’s lives.  We are thankful that he, and his family, are alive and we wish him many more birthday celebrations in the future.

The Pastors of the ULC, for a number of years now, meet via Zoom for a weekly Bible study that they call their Concordia Conference.  Today they shared stories of what they have heard from their members, and people they know, of the atrocities in some of the cities where their congregations are.  Some of these cities include: Kiev, Kharkiv, Izium, Tokmak, Bereznehuvate, Kherson, and Malyn.  The stories are eerily the same, of brutal assaults and violence to civilians.  It makes their hearts sad to hear these reports, and even more so when it involves people who they know.


 

WELS is supporting the Ukrainian Lutheran Church with emergency needs as their country is torn apart by war.

 

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Aid continues to Ukraine

We are in constant contact with the bishop (president) of the Ukrainian Lutheran Church (ULC). He reports that thus far no members of the Ukrainian Lutheran Church have lost their lives or been injured. Some of their homes have been damaged or destroyed. None of the ULC churches have been destroyed in the conflict, although three parsonages have been damaged.

The bishop (whose congregation is in the capital city of Kyiv) has been staying outside of Kyiv for safety reasons. Last Sunday he was able to return to Kyiv temporarily to lead worship and to deliver much needed supplies of food and medicine. Yesterday he provided this report: “People were very happy to see each other again especially after recent missile attacks, although we did not have as many people at the worship service as on Easter. Shut-ins also rejoiced to be visited and communed and are grateful for the food aid received. Thank you very much! Many thanks to all brothers and sisters in WELS, to the U.S., and praise to the Lord!”

Generous WELS donors have provided significant funds to enable the ULC to purchase supplies of clothing, food, and medicine. Those supplies are provided to refugees from different places around the country and for the people of the communities in which ULC congregations are located. Our synod has forwarded funds to the ULC upon its request. It’s important to note that these requests are coming to us in amounts that enable the ULC to purchase what is needed and what it can distribute. To date, $66,000 has been requested and sent directly to the ULC. We are ready to send more as soon as the ULC requests it. Another $100,000 has been sent to a reputable agency (Direct Relief) that is assisting Ukrainian refugees in Poland and other countries. We are also making plans to provide funds to our sister church in Bulgaria, which is caring for Ukrainian refugees arriving there.

The synod is also ready to provide help to Ukrainian refugees who are able to come to the United States. Ukrainians who come to the U.S. as refugees need to work with the U.S. State Department, and we are looking for ways to assist in that process.

We are also looking forward to the day when the war is over and resettlement and rebuilding can begin. Because of the generosity of WELS members, we believe that some of the funds already given will be able to be used for those efforts.

Serving with you in Christ,
WELS President Mark Schroeder

 

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Update from Ukraine: April 20, 2022

Rev. Roger Neumann serves as the WELS liaison to Ukraine. He has been able to maintain regular contact with the leadership from the Ukrainian Lutheran Church (ULC) and is providing regular updates about how our brothers and sisters in the ULC are doing. WELS has decided to share Neumann’s updates. Please keep the people of Ukraine in your prayers.


April 17:
Bishop Horpynchuk traveled back to Kiev to lead Palm Sunday worship service today. He assured me that he was safe and where they spent the night was in a safe location. Bishop said that the congregation was very happy to see him, and to be with one another. And they were happy to see each other alive. He also told me that the congregation expressed great thanks to the WELS and many others who are supporting them with their prayers and gifts.

Pastor Serhiy Somin traveled back to Mykolayiv to lead Easter worship with the German congregation he serves. Pastor Somin led the service today in the basement. I suspect they worshiped in the basement, being cautious because of the constant threat of bombings. After their service they had a good German pot luck meal.

April 18:
Today I asked Bishop to tell me about his trip back to Kiev to lead the Palm Sunday worship at his congregation, this past weekend. He said that the trip took twice as long to drive due to the many checkpoints, and detours that were necessary because of road and bridge damage. One bridge he had to use was damaged, but usable, though it was at a fairly steep angle. He made the comment, “I almost slipped into the river.” Most of the major bridges in Kiev are damaged or completely destroyed. He did arrive safely in Kiev and has returned safely. God be praised. Depending upon the intensity of the bombing, he will determine later this week whether or not he will return for Easter worship next Sunday.

April 19:
From Bishop Horpynchuk this morning: “Today I participated in the Ukrainian Church Council with the UN General Secretary Deputy, Mr. Martin Griffith and UN representative in Ukraine, Mr. Esteban Sacco on the request of the UN General Secretary. They asked to support an idea about Easter truce in Ukraine. We certainly supported the idea. Whether Russians agree is a question.”

April 20:
Please keep Pastor Serhiy Somin in your prayers. He went back to have Easter service with his congregation in Mykolayiv. Bombing has intensified there in the days since and some of his people have asked if he would drive them to a safer location in the west. He will be going back into a dangerous area, picking them up and driving them out, We pray that all goes well and that the Lord keeps them safe.

 

 

 


 

WELS is supporting the Ukrainian Lutheran Church with emergency needs as their country is torn apart by war.

 

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Support for Ukraine continues

Members of the Ukrainian Lutheran Church (ULC), WELS’ sister church body in Ukraine, along with all the people of Ukraine, have been under attack for nearly two months. Many people have fled their homes seeking safety. ULC members have remained unharmed, though they too are facing the hardships of this war. Despite the danger and hardships, the ULC is finding ways to help its fellow countrymen.

WELS members have demonstrated generous hearts to help fellow Christians in Ukraine. WELS World Missions has been able to send funds so that the ULC can buy food and other supplies not only for its members but also to help the many people fleeing their homes. In addition, WELS Christian Aid and Relief has made three donations to Direct Relief, with another gift planned this week. Direct Relief is an organization equipped to provide immediate medical supplies to places experiencing crises; CAR has worked with this organization in the past.

“ULC members are using the funds in their communities mainly to buy supplies (medical, food, clothing, blankets, etc.). They can get supplies from certain areas and bring them into other areas,” says Rev. Dan Sims, director of WELS Christian Aid and Relief. “They’re providing these supplies not just to our Lutheran brothers and sisters, but to anybody who has need. While they’re doing it, they’re having all kinds of opportunities to talk to people about their Savior. They said it’s really been quite a thing to see how people have been open to that right now.”

There have been questions and interest in helping Ukrainian refugees who come to the United States. CAR has created a WELS Ukraine Refugee Volunteer Assistance form for WELS members who may be interested in hosting a Ukrainian refugee.

Sims says the form is being made available to be ready if there is opportunity to host refugees. Sims iterates, however, that CAR is not a refugee placement organization but can help volunteers connect to the proper authorities to work through the complicated process.

While the hearts of WELS members are ready and eager to help, Sims gives three reasons why these opportunities are likely to be very limited. “One is that the U.S. is only accepting 100,000 refugees, which is a tiny amount. Two, most Ukrainians who have become refugees and fled to other countries don’t want to get too far away, because they’re hoping they will be able to return soon to their homes. The third thing is that Ukrainians who want to come to the U.S. as  refugees likely already have contacts or family members in the U.S.,” he says. But, he says, CAR wants WELS to be ready if the opportunity arises.

“We’ve been blown away by the gifts God’s people have sent; they’ve been so generous” says Sims, “We anticipate the need for assistance is going to be high for years to come.”

Read more about the ULC and learn how to support this work.

 

Pictures of Ukraine, past and present

 

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Update from Ukraine: April 8, 2022

Rev. Roger Neumann serves as the WELS liaison to Ukraine. He has been able to maintain regular contact with the leadership from the Ukrainian Lutheran Church (ULC) and is providing regular updates about how our brothers and sisters in the ULC are doing. WELS has decided to share Neumann’s updates. Please keep the people of Ukraine in your prayers.


Prayers are asked today for Hanna and Maryna who have fled from the atrocities and bombings in Mariupol and have been able to leave the country. They are ULC members of a mission church. Bishop has contacted leaders in Germany and Sweden to help find a place for them to stay until they can, Lord willing, one day return. It’s been a difficult trip for them, taking many days. We also pray for them because they take with them the baggage of memories of what they have seen done to their city, and their people.

I mentioned that Bishop was going to deliver some medical supplies today. He has done this and I also copied and included in this update a message that Bishop received from them, which he has allowed me to share.

They wrote, “Today we thank the Ukrainian Lutheran Church and its head V’yacheslav Horpynchuk for caring about our community. It is thanks to Mr. Vyacheslav, our utility company “Center of Primary Medical – Sanitary Aid” Goshanskoy Seli Council in the person of the general director Tatiana Polí щуuk received the medicine. A list of medical drugs has been formed by company doctors, so they are essential for patients today. The head of the Ukrainian Lutheran Church emphasized that the church together with American Lutherans with WELS, Pastor Roger Neumann and Bishop Mark Schroeder are still ready to help the Ukrainian people in its fight for the restoration of Ukrainian of the state. And our organization is still ready to cooperate with the Ukrainian Lutheran Church in all matters for the benefit of the community and Ukraine.”

 

 


 

WELS is supporting the Ukrainian Lutheran Church with emergency needs as their country is torn apart by war.

 

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Update from Ukraine: April 7, 2022

Rev. Roger Neumann serves as the WELS liaison to Ukraine. He has been able to maintain regular contact with the leadership from the Ukrainian Lutheran Church (ULC) and is providing regular updates about how our brothers and sisters in the ULC are doing. WELS has decided to share Neumann’s updates. Please keep the people of Ukraine in your prayers.


Today Bishop Horpynchuk shared with me what they are doing to help hospitals get supplies that are in critically short supply. This is a brief example of what they are doing and how they are doing it. Because of the increase in the number of people, hospitals need many different basic supplies. They make available lists of those things that are needed. Things like bandages, disinfectants, iodine, medicine for fevers, sterilizers, just to name a few items. Helpers then travel to various pharmacies, sometimes traveling in a radius of up to 50 miles to collect these supplies. This is what Bishop, and some of those with him, have been doing the past couple of days. Tomorrow they will deliver what they were able to purchase. Then they will start on another project to help get food supplies to the hospitals or places that house refugees. Similar examples like this are taking place in many other places that have an overflow of refugees.

I then asked how he and the other ULC Pastors are holding up under the daily stress and anxieties that accompany this war. How best to explain his answer is to say that, having themselves heard the many reports of brutality, and down right evil behavior by the enemy in a number of cities, has stunned and saddened them by the sheer magnitude of this brutality. But their faith in the Lord compels them to carry on in their ministry to the people. Believing that, in the Lord there is hope and certainty. They continue to offer words of comfort, from the Scriptures, and take time to pray with the people.

We ask a special prayer for one of their Pastors who said that renewed bombing was under way and that bombs were now falling within a half mile of his location. We pray that God will keep him and his family safe. Another Pastor commented that much of his recent days have been spent in long lines, registering for services that are needed for one of his children.

A Ukrainian newspaper reported the Bishop’s recent visit, by invitation, to the local Administration Building on the front page. The article covered his visit, and it also mentioned that, “American Lutherans are filled with compassion to Ukrainians and are willing to help with all means possible.” I certainly concur with that.

We continue to pray for the people of Ukraine. May God, who is rich in love and mercy, protect his people there.

 

 


 

WELS is supporting the Ukrainian Lutheran Church with emergency needs as their country is torn apart by war.

 

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Update from Ukraine: March 31, 2022

Rev. Roger Neumann serves as the WELS liaison to Ukraine. He has been able to maintain regular contact with the leadership from the Ukrainian Lutheran Church (ULC) and is providing regular updates about how our brothers and sisters in the ULC are doing. WELS has decided to share Neumann’s updates. Please keep the people of Ukraine in your prayers.


Praise God from whom all blessings flow. One of the pastors, and his family, who were in a dangerous situation have gotten out of area. It wasn’t without a great deal of tension though, as their bus was stopped and detained for an extended period of time. A one hour and 15 minute drive turned into 6-8 hours. But news came earlier this afternoon, late evening for them, that they have reached their destination safely. Wonderful news, thank you Lord.

Today I asked about the work of distribution of goods to refugees. This will give you an idea of what they are doing on a daily basis. Refugees can get food and help at certain designated locations, or things can be delivered to homes where refugees are staying. Both methods and locations of delivery are being made. Two days a week people will go to purchase supplies. This would include flour, pasta, buck wheat, preserves, fish, pork or chicken, and chocolates for the children. Treats for the children bring smiles to their faces and reminds them of happier days. Then the goods are sorted and taken to places where they are needed. Sometimes prayers are spoken in the homes; people ask for them. Medicine and food is also taken to hospitals. No one anticipated so many people, so there is a massive effort by churches and local organizations to meet all the demands. This seems to be going quite well and efficiently.

Something that they are becoming more and more aware of, is that there are refugee families who are too shy, or scared, to ask for help, thinking no one cares about them. Bishop is going to encourage pastors to actively search for these people so that goods can be taken to them.

There are many people who come with little or no possessions. They only have the clothes that they are wearing. To help them, trips are being made to used clothing stores to purchase more clothing. Something one wouldn’t think of is that some of the homes, who take in refugees, don’t have enough cooking utensils to make meals. They ask for extra pots and pans, plates, table settings, etc. It makes me realize how many things in our lives we simply take for granted.

I hope that this gives you a little better idea of how the people are managing, and how they help one another. And how there is always work to do, and opportunity to do it, to help someone in need.

Tomorrow, the mayor of a nearby city has invited Bishop Horpynchuk to come and give a devotion and pray with the people. More and more, people are asking for spiritual support. Once again, what a wonderful opportunity to speak of the gospel message of salvation in Jesus Christ. May God bless Bishop’s devotion and prayers, and that by hearing the Word, people’s hearts can be filled with peace and hope.

We continue to pray for the people of Ukraine and ask God to guard and protect them.

 


 

WELS is supporting the Ukrainian Lutheran Church with emergency needs as their country is torn apart by war.

 

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Update from Ukraine: March 27, 2022

Rev. Roger Neumann serves as the WELS liaison to Ukraine. He has been able to maintain regular contact with the leadership from the Ukrainian Lutheran Church (ULC) and is providing regular updates about how our brothers and sisters in the ULC are doing. WELS has decided to share Neumann’s updates. Please keep the people of Ukraine in your prayers.


I had mentioned that Bishop Horpynchuk was asked to have a brief devotion, to be taped and aired on National Radio. This recording will be heard throughout the country and replayed multiple times over the next few days and weeks.

These are some of the thoughts that he shared with the nation. Beginning with Psalm 45, he said that God is our refuge and strength. God is on our side. During these difficult times of need God is sending them help thru their Western friends, and many are praying for them. He read John 3:16, and spoke of the forgiveness of sins that is freely given thru Jesus Christ our Lord. He emphasized that Jesus Christ is the most precious gift that we possess. He prayed that God would provide victory so that there could once again be peace in the land. Finally he encouraged the listener to put their trust in God, because he will not forsake us.

“Come, let us sing for joy to the LORD; let us shout aloud to the Rock of our salvation. Let us come before him with thanksgiving and extol him with music and song.” Ps 95:1,2 Today was another day of worship for the Lutheran Churches in Ukraine. I will keep the names of the pastors, and their locations, hidden for the present time.

Bishop Horpynchuk wanted to make a few calls on people today so we will wait until tomorrow to talk again. He did comment that people are starting to come out again for worship in bigger numbers. Understanding that many have left these areas, who may not be back for some time.

He did want me to express to all of you his profound thanks for all of your support and prayers. This thanks is extended to you from their pastors and congregations as well. They appreciate your prayers and support.

I, too, thank you for reminding me, by your expressions of support and prayer, of David’s words in his Psalm; “How good and pleasant it is when God’s people live together in unity!” Ps 133:1. The Christian family is strong because of our love for one another, in Christ. May God be with you, may he bless and keep you today and always. And may God bless the people of Ukraine and grant them peace.

 

 

 

 


 

WELS is supporting the Ukrainian Lutheran Church with emergency needs as their country is torn apart by war.

 

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Update from Ukraine: March 25, 2022

Rev. Roger Neumann serves as the WELS liaison to Ukraine. He has been able to maintain regular contact with the leadership from the Ukrainian Lutheran Church (ULC) and is providing regular updates about how our brothers and sisters in the ULC are doing. WELS has decided to share Neumann’s updates. Please keep the people of Ukraine in your prayers.


Today Bishop Horpynchuk was able to give a devotion that was recorded on their National Radio. What a blessing to be able to reach out with the gospel message of Jesus Christ crucified, for the forgiveness of sins, to what should have been a very large audience in Ukraine. The gospel message will not be silenced, nor will God have his witnesses be silenced. If one takes the time to look, we can see clearly how God’s hand is at work, especially in times of deep and dark distress. What immediately came to mind, when I heard of this opportunity, were the words of Isaiah, “so is my word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.” Is 55:11

Bishop was able to contact the Pastors in areas of danger, pray with them, and encourage them. We still wait for their evacuation and pray that God keeps them safe. But for now they are alive and we thank the Lord for this.

Many prayers are needed and many prayers are being heard. Thank you for taking time to read these updates. It means a great deal to the people in Ukraine that you are thinking of them and keeping them in your prayers.

Lord, you have been our dwelling place throughout all generations. Before the mountains were born or you brought forth the whole world, from everlasting to everlasting you are God. Ps 90:1,2 AMEN

 

 

 


 

WELS is supporting the Ukrainian Lutheran Church with emergency needs as their country is torn apart by war.

 

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Update from Ukraine: March 23, 2022

Rev. Roger Neumann serves as the WELS liaison to Ukraine. He has been able to maintain regular contact with the leadership from the Ukrainian Lutheran Church (ULC) and is providing regular updates about how our brothers and sisters in the ULC are doing. WELS has decided to share Neumann’s updates. Please keep the people of Ukraine in your prayers.


Just a short while ago, one of the pastors and his family, who I asked you to pray for yesterday, has reached their destination safely. Their journey was a long one. The first day they traveled approximately 200 miles which took them 12 hours. Checkpoints congest traffic. At each checkpoint they need to show identification and have their vehicle searched. Saboteurs sometimes steal vehicles and infiltrate cities. Today their trip was equally as long, but they are safe. Praise God from whom all blessings flow!

The other pastor, I asked you to pray for yesterday, is still in a dangerous area as plans to leave yesterday did not happen. They will try again, and Lord willing get to safety.

Right now there are three Pastors in areas of great danger. I’ve been asked to be vague about who and where these are. Prayers are asked for them, our Lord knows for whom you are praying.

 

 


 

WELS is supporting the Ukrainian Lutheran Church with emergency needs as their country is torn apart by war.

 

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Update from Ukraine: March 22, 2022

Rev. Roger Neumann serves as the WELS liaison to Ukraine. He has been able to maintain regular contact with the leadership from the Ukrainian Lutheran Church (ULC) and is providing regular updates about how our brothers and sisters in the ULC are doing. WELS has decided to share Neumann’s updates. Please keep the people of Ukraine in your prayers.


Today I ask for special prayers, for two of the Pastors in the Ukrainian Lutheran Church. These pastors, along with their families, are now no longer safe where they are at. In one situation bombing has come very close to their home and the family is very fearful. They have chosen, for their safety, to leave. They are driving and have found, what for now, seems to be a safe route out of the area. I pray that continues to be the case. They will encounter a number of checkpoints on their journey. It may take days to get where they are going. They are keeping in contact with Bishop. When they reach their destination, there are people who will take them in.

The other situation is one in which FSB operatives are now arresting political leaders and deputies in that city. As they are in other cities too. There is grave concern that religious leaders would be the next to be arrested. In this situation the family is leaving by bus. Driving a private vehicle may be too dangerous. Those on the bus are allowed to bring only two packages with them. All the rest of their possessions will remain at their home.

I know that you will be praying for these families; thank you very much! Pray that God will keep them safe and that he will bring them to their destinations without incident. As Bishop keeps me informed of their welfare, I will relay that on to you was well. On a personal note, these pastors are friends I’ve worked with over the past few years. They, and their families are faithful leaders in their communities. I, as I know you do too, entrust them into God’s care and keeping.

Germany is now welcoming more refugees and our sister synod there is offering to house more families. Bishop Horpynchuk wished for me to once again extend his thanks for their care. Other church bodies in the CELC are offering the same; thank you as well!

May God continue to look with mercy and love upon his precious souls who are enduring this dreadful ordeal.

 

 


 

WELS is supporting the Ukrainian Lutheran Church with emergency needs as their country is torn apart by war.

 

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Update from Ukraine: March 18, 2022

Rev. Roger Neumann serves as the WELS liaison to Ukraine. He has been able to maintain regular contact with the leadership from the Ukrainian Lutheran Church (ULC) and is providing regular updates about how our brothers and sisters in the ULC are doing. WELS has decided to share Neumann’s updates. Please keep the people of Ukraine in your prayers.


It was good to have a conversation again today with Bishop Horpynchuk. Thanks be to God!

News today comes from Malyn that the Russians are attempting to seize the city. Why Malyn? What threat is there in this city? Pastor Didkivski has been actively helping with refugees. When life returns to some sort of normal, I truly believe these pastors and their congregations will be remembered by the people, in their towns and cities, as people who lived their faith, who truly cared for and helped others in their times of need. May God continue to bless their faithful labors of love and compassion.

Perhaps I need to write a few words about what it means to be helping with the refugees. Most of these refugees have left behind practically everything they own in their homes and have fled with little more than the clothes they are wearing and some meager possessions. Also, they left in haste with little time to separate needed things from desired things. I can’t imagine leaving everything in my home and fleeing with the real possibility that nothing will be left if, or when, I ever return. So when they come after days of traveling on the crowded roads they have run out of food, are in need of clothing, shoes, jackets, soap, medicine, and money to purchase fuel. Our pastors and churches try to help these people. I’m told that each day the churches deal with, on average, 15-30 families. Some are just stopping to sleep, get some food, clean up, and then go on. Others wish to stay longer and shelters or homes are found. But some places are already overflowing, still they try to find some room.

I hope these few sentences give you a glimpse of what our brothers and sisters in Christ are doing to help people in Ukraine.

The atrocities continue each day as more and more reports of evil and senseless acts of violence are perpetrated upon innocent people. It will be difficult to erase from people’s memories what they see, and what they have lost. It will take generations to heal, but we trust that our Lord not only can but will heal the brokenhearted.

Through this all, God has been with them and he continues to sustain them. As the Apostle Paul wrote to the Corinthians, “Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day.” 2 Cor 4:16

May God bless and keep them in his loving care.

 

 


 

WELS is supporting the Ukrainian Lutheran Church with emergency needs as their country is torn apart by war.

 

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Update from Ukraine: March 16, 2022

Rev. Roger Neumann serves as the WELS liaison to Ukraine. He has been able to maintain regular contact with the leadership from the Ukrainian Lutheran Church (ULC) and is providing regular updates about how our brothers and sisters in the ULC are doing. WELS has decided to share Neumann’s updates. Please keep the people of Ukraine in your prayers.


All the Ukranian Lutheran Church (ULC) pastors are alive and as far as can be told all the members of the ULC are alive. But more and more stories are coming out of friends and neighbors of our fellow Christians who have been killed and homes that are damaged or totally destroyed. There is active shooting near Tokmak and Bereznehuvate, and daily bombing and shooting in Kharkiv. Food and water in these areas, which are located in eastern Ukraine, are still available but prices are rising rapidly. Please keep Pastors Khaustov, Feschenko, and Tytski, along with their families and their members in your prayers. Along with all of Ukraine.

In Western Ukraine our churches continue to help the increasing numbers of refugees who are coming there. More sets of blankets, pillows and primitive mattresses are being purchased so that children and families can have something soft to sleep on.

There are many stories of personal suffering, and situations that people are forced to deal with. Medicines, doctors, and nurses are needed, it seems, almost everywhere. These stories are repeated over and over again, by many different people.

But there are also heart warming stories as well. Bishop’s music director and organist has arrived in Germany. She has been taken in by a family from the German Lutheran Church(ELFK). I’m told they have a piano and some of the family play violins. What wonderful music must now adorn that home. I know this because I’ve heard her play a number of times for services. Thank you to Pres. Michael Herbst and people in the Evangelical Lutheran Free Church in Germany for your help with people fleeing to your country.

With so many refugees in western Ukraine, our churches there are beginning to hold classes for the children. Most schools are closed right now due to the sirens going off numerous times each day. Efforts, such as this, are an attempt to re-establish a sense of normal for the children in such frightening times. Thank you to Pastors Serhiy Somin, Roman Anduntsiv, Taras Kokovsky, also to Nina and Vasul Andreychuk, and to the workers involved with The Gift of Life. Your efforts are being noticed and are appreciated. May God continue to bless your labors.

Thank you again for reading this and thank you for keeping Ukraine in your prayers.

 


 

WELS is supporting the Ukrainian Lutheran Church with emergency needs as their country is torn apart by war.

 

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Pray for Ukraine

Lord God, in this world of darkness and evil, the light of your saving gospel continues to shine. Through that good news you have brought people around the world from the darkness of sin and death into your marvelous light. But evil exists and Satan’s work in this fallen world continues. As many in Ukraine are experiencing unimaginable hardships and suffering, we ask that you would be with them. Protect them; provide for them; and, above all, strengthen their faith and trust in you and your promises. We commend them to your gracious care, knowing that you have promised to be with them always. Even though they are now walking through the shadow of death, enable them to fear no evil. We ask you, in your love and wisdom, to restore peace and safety to those now enduring the horrors of war and bloodshed and to continue to let your gospel message be the comfort and hope that so many desperately need. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.

The situation for our brothers and sisters in the Ukrainian Lutheran Church (ULC) remains dire. We thank God that none of the pastors or members have lost their lives, but at least some members report that their homes have been destroyed. Some of the pastors and members have relocated to places that are relatively safe and removed from the heavy fighting, but others remain in areas where military activity is taking place every day. We continue to pray for their safety.

Last weekend, several ULC congregations—even some in areas controlled by foreign forces—were able to hold worship services either in person or virtually. God’s Word continues to be proclaimed even in the middle of a terrible war.

Rev. V’yacheslav Horpynchuk, the bishop of the Ukrainian Lutheran Church, has been in regular contact via Zoom with Rev. Roger Neumann, the WELS liaison to the ULC. I am also able to communicate with the bishop. Pastor Neumann has been providing daily updates on the situation as reported by Bishop Horpynchuk.

WELS members have already been very generous with gifts intended to support relief and humanitarian efforts both for members of the ULC and for the refugees and local citizens in need of help. We thank all those who have given gifts for Ukraine relief. Those gifts are being channeled through WELS World Missions, which remains in contact with the ULC and is still able to transfer funds. To date, $125,000 has been sent by World Missions. You can give a gift by going to wels.net/give-ukraine.

Currently, collecting physical relief items (blankets, water, canned goods, diapers, etc.) to send to Ukraine is not the best option for assisting those impacted by this war. The expense and logistical complexity of getting such items to those who need them make such an effort impractical. WELS is assisting with humanitarian aid for refugees in Poland through an agency called Direct Relief. To date, WELS Christian Aid and Relief has sent $50,000 to Direct Relief. This highly rated disaster relief organization specializes in providing medical assistance and supplies where they are needed most. It has both the inventory and infrastructure to bring medical aid to an area quickly. We have worked with this organization for many years and trust its work. Other sister churches in Europe are also looking for ways to provide assistance.

Missionary Luke Wolfgramm and his wife, Jennifer, who were living in Novosibirsk, Russia, have safely exited the country. They are currently staying in Durres, Albania, where Luke is providing continuing education to leaders of the Confessional Evangelical Lutheran Church of Albania, WELS’ sister church. From there they maintain regular contact with the three national pastors in Russia, encourage the Russian Lutheran Church’s leadership and 270 members, and continue online seminary training. The Wolfgramms will be returning to the United States this summer for regularly scheduled meetings and family time. Depending on how events unfold, they will most likely relocate to another location in Europe to partner with sister church bodies in their theological education and outreach efforts.

This entire tragic drama is another stark reminder of the wickedness and depravity that infects the human soul. And yet, even in these darkest of days, we remain confident that the Lord of lords is still ruling with his grace and power. We pray for an end to the war. We pray that God would preserve the lives of his believers in Ukraine, as well as the lives of all the citizens of Ukraine. With confidence in his promises, we commend them all to his gracious care and protection.

Serving with you in Christ,
WELS President Mark Schroeder

 

 

 

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Update from Ukraine: March 13, 2022

Rev. Roger Neumann serves as the WELS liaison to Ukraine. He has been able to maintain regular contact with the leadership from the Ukrainian Lutheran Church (ULC) and is providing regular updates about how our brothers and sisters in the ULC are doing. WELS has decided to share Neumann’s updates. Please keep the people of Ukraine in your prayers.


Bishop and I were not able to talk today. There is a lot of activity, near and in the city of Kiev. The fighting is intensifying. I know he’s very concerned about many of his members who haven’t yet been able to leave the city. He tries to work with them, in making arrangements for them to find ways to get out of the city. Bishop told me that one train with refugees, coming out of Kiev, was bombed today by Russians. It has to be emotionally draining, and time consuming for him. We pray for their safety. We pray for this to stop.

I was happy to hear that there was a public worship service in Tokmak today and that the service went very well. This despite the fact that Russia now occupies Tokmak. It’s so encouraging to hear that Word and sacrament are still being administered. Especially in such conditions and times.

I also saw that Rev. Taras Kokovsky posted, that toward the end of their service at St. John/St. James in Ternopil the siren went off causing people to leave and seek shelter. May God guard and keep them in his care.

I know that today, in many of our churches here in America, prayers were raised to God for the people of Ukraine. I know this because you have told me this through the many people who have communicated with me. Thank you and please continue to pray for the people of Ukraine.

I hope and pray that the Lord blessed your worship today. May God be with you all. The Lord strengthens us through each other’s prayers and support.

 

 


 

WELS is supporting the Ukrainian Lutheran Church with emergency needs as their country is torn apart by war.

 

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Update from Ukraine: March 11, 2022

Rev. Roger Neumann serves as the WELS liaison to Ukraine. He has been able to maintain regular contact with the leadership from the Ukrainian Lutheran Church (ULC) and is providing regular updates about how our brothers and sisters in the ULC are doing. WELS has decided to share Neumann’s updates. Please keep the people of Ukraine in your prayers.


Today’s conversation was earlier than most days. A number of western cities have been bombed today. Where there was no fighting yesterday changed dramatically today. There is a growing sense of desperation among the people in Ukraine that other countries aren’t doing enough to help. They plead, help is needed now.

Another fear, that people have had, is that Russians will capture and arrest political leaders. This has become a reality in certain cities. Bishop [Horpynchuk, head of the ULC) fears that after the political leaders they will then come for the religious leaders. Bishop is particularly concerned for Oleksandr Feschenko in Tokmak. He asks our prayers for him and his family.

A comment that sticks with me is when Bishop said that it’s as though he is living in the times of Jeremiah, the Old Testament prophet. Lamenting over what is happening to his people and his country. Which presented a good opportunity for both of us to be reminded that God is still in control. That in this world there will be suffering, but we have a greater hope, made certain for us by our Savior, Jesus Christ. Man can disappoint us, hurt us, and even kill us, but man cannot take our Savior from us, nor remove the hope that we have in Christ.

Our conversation today was a mixture of sadness, disappointment, frustration, and even anger. But when our discussion turned to Christ, it was as though there was a sense of peace and calm, and even a joy that interrupted and took over our conversation. The good news of salvation in Jesus Christ our Savior can and does calm troubled hearts and does give to us a peace that goes beyond all understanding. In the midst of everything that is wrong in this world, Jesus is the One that is always right. His words can do what armies and powers can’t, they bring comfort to hurting hearts.

 

 


 

WELS is supporting the Ukrainian Lutheran Church with emergency needs as their country is torn apart by war.

 

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Update on WELS relief efforts for Ukraine

Please feel free to share this latest update with you congregation.

  • The situation for our brothers and sisters in the Ukrainian Lutheran Church (ULC) remains very dire. Thankfully, we have learned that none of the pastors or members have lost their lives, but at least some members report that their homes have been destroyed. Some of the pastors and members have relocated to places that are relatively safe and removed from the heavy fighting, but others remain in areas where military activity is taking place every day. We continue to pray for their safety.
  • WELS members have already been very generous with gifts intended to support relief and humanitarian efforts both for members of the ULC and for the refugees and local citizens in need of help. We thank you to all those who have given gifts for Ukraine relief. Those gifts are being channeled through WELS World Missions, which remains in contact with the ULC and is still able to transfer funds to where they are most needed. To date, $25,000 has been sent, with additional funds to be sent in the coming days and weeks as long as the banking system remains intact. Individuals can give a gift by going to wels.net/give-ukraine or by sending a check payable to WELS and designating “Ukraine” in the memo line to WELS Attn: Gift Processing, N16W23377 Stone Ridge Drive, Waukesha, WI 53188. (Organizations may donate via check but not online.)
  • Currently, collecting physical relief items (blankets, water, canned goods, diapers, etc.) to send to Ukraine is not the best option for assisting those impacted by this war. The expense and logistical complexity of getting such items to those who need it make such an effort impractical. We will let you know when and if such efforts become possible.
  • In addition to gifts through the Ukrainian Lutheran Church, some have made gifts to WELS Christian Aid and Relief (CAR). With those funds, CAR has made grants to Direct Relief (directrelief.org) to get aid to those who need assistance, especially for Ukrainian refugees in Poland. To date, WELS Christian Aid and Relief has sent $50,000 to Direct Relief. This highly rated disaster relief organization specializes in providing medical assistance and supplies where they are needed most. They have both the inventory and infrastructure to bring medical aid to an area quickly. We have worked with this organization for many years and trust their work.
  • Pastor Roger Neumann is the WELS liaison to the ULC; he is in almost daily contact with Bishop Horpynchuk, head of the ULC, and keeps us informed of the latest news and challenges. There are periodic Ukraine updates on the WELS website at wels.net.

Lord God, in this world of darkness and evil, the light of your saving gospel continues to shine. Through that good news you have brought people around the world from the darkness of sin and death into your marvelous light. But evil exists, and Satan’s work in this fallen world continues. As many in Ukraine are experiencing unimaginable hardships and suffering, we ask that you would be with them. Protect them, provide for them, and, above all, strengthen their faith and trust in you and your promises. We commend them to your gracious care, knowing that you have promised to be with them always. Even though they are now walking through the shadow of death, enable them to fear no evil. We ask you, in your love and wisdom, to restore peace and safety to those now enduring the horrors of war and bloodshed and to continue to let your gospel message be the comfort and hope that so many desperately need. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.

Serving you in Christ,
Rev. Mark Schroeder
WELS President

 

 

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Update from Ukraine: March 10, 2022

Rev. Roger Neumann serves as the WELS liaison to Ukraine. He has been able to maintain regular contact with the leadership from the Ukrainian Lutheran Church (ULC) and is providing regular updates about how our brothers and sisters in the ULC are doing. WELS has decided to share Neumann’s updates. Please keep the people of Ukraine in your prayers.


Today I’ll begin with some quick updates on pastors and congregations in the Ukrainian Lutheran Church (ULC), our sister synod. All are alive and well at this time. Thanks be to God.

Bishop talked with Pastor Victor Khaustov who moved with his family to a safer location in Kharkiv. Moving about in that city is dangerous now because one could easily find themselves in a crossfire situation between Russian and Ukrainian troops. So they make very limited trips out of their homes, only to get needed food or medical supplies.

Pastor Oleksandr Feschenko reports that the internet has been cut off in Tokmak. Each day, people bravely protest in the city, the occupation by the Russians. These actions let the Russians know they are not welcome there.

Pastor Dmytro Didkivski says that the city of Malyn continues to be bombed. The areas where this is taking place are mostly residential areas. The Russian actions show an undisciplined, almost degenerate mindset, harming and killing innocent, defenseless people, and needlessly destroying homes and buildings.

In Kyiv, it’s reported that their church building is unharmed from bombings. Praise be to God. Plans are being made to use the church to store some food in the event the city comes under siege. Members of the church are helping an elderly member who needs assistance getting food and water. Just one example of so many that happen every day.

Other pastors who aren’t in the immediate conflict areas continue to help with refugees. They assist people, who left everything behind to flee, to purchase shoes and clothing if needed, in addition to food and water. In Riven, sets made up of a primitive mattress, pillow, and blanket sell for about $40.00. These are being purchased so people have something more comfortable to sleep on as they stop for rest on their long, slow journey to the border.

The efforts of the pastors, and leaders in the church, are wonderful to hear about. People are naturally most interested, each day, in how go things on the battlefield. Yet when one starts a prayer, or begins reading some Bible passages, people pause to listen and are comforted and encouraged. It reminds them that in the midst of death, there is life in Christ. Sometimes pastors are torn by the desire to be helping in the conflict but they also know how important it is for people to hear the word. They preach, have short Bible studies, pray, and encourage daily readings. For a few brief moments, it takes people’s minds off what is going on around them and they find peace in Christ. This teaches us both the value and the need for those who preach and teach God’s Word. We thank them for their efforts, and want them to know that their efforts are not in vain.

 

 


 

WELS is supporting the Ukrainian Lutheran Church with emergency needs as their country is torn apart by war.

 

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WELS President’s Comments on the situation in Ukraine

The world has watched in horror as the country of Ukraine has been invaded by neighboring Russia. Entire cities have been decimated. Civilians have become the target of relentless strikes by bombs and missiles. Over a million Ukrainians have been forced to flee to neighboring countries, leaving behind loved ones, homes, and all they possess.

While our attention has been on the conditions throughout Ukraine and the human suffering the war has caused, we also have special concern for the members of our sister church body, the Ukrainian Lutheran Church (ULC). Congregations of the ULC are located in many of the places that you have heard about in the news. Many of their members have been forced to take shelter from shelling or to flee from their homes; some have had their homes destroyed.

The head of the ULC, Bishop Vyacheslav Horpynchuk, has been in regular contact with WELS liaison to the ULC Pastor Roger Neuman. Pastor Neumann has been providing daily updates on the situation in Ukraine, especially relating to how our fellow believers are being affected. I’ve also been in contact with the bishop to hear first-hand about the challenges he and his congregations are facing and to assure him of our synod’s continuing support through prayers and offerings.

WELS members have generously sent gifts to WELS World Missions in support of relief efforts. Last week, WELS sent $25,000 to the ULC, with the assumption that this is only the first installment of assistance that WELS members will provide. The funds are intended to provide needed help to refugees and others affected by the war. WELS Christian Aid and Relief also authorized a $25,000 grant to Direct Relief, an organization that is providing medical supplies and support necessary during a time of war. We realize that the ability to send funds to Ukraine may be lost at any time.

Some of the ULC congregations were able to hold worship services last week (most of them virtually). We praise God that his Word continues to provide them with comfort, strength, and renewed faith in God’s gracious promises.

We will continue to look for ways to provide assistance to the ULC and, if possible, to ULC families who have made their way to other countries and need assistance. Our sister church in Germany is also looking for ways to help.

This entire tragic drama is another stark reminder of the wickedness and depravity that infects the human soul. And yet, even in these darkest of days, we remain confident that the Lord of lords is still ruling with his grace and power. We trust that the gates of hell itself cannot withstand the power of the gospel. We pray for a quick end to the war. We ask God for his forgiveness for taking his blessings for granted. And we commit our ULC brothers and sisters—and all Ukrainians—to God’s care and protection.

In Christ,
WELS President Mark Schroeder

 

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Ukrainian bishop with sons on front lines shares realities of war

On March 2, FOX19 Now from Cincinnati, Ohio, featured a story on Ukrainian Lutheran Church (ULC) Bishop V’yacheslav Horpynchuk and his two sons who are defending their home country. His one son, Vlad, previously served as a vicar at Beautiful Savior Lutheran Church in Cincinnati. The ULC is WELS’ sister church in Ukraine.

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An update from Ukraine

WELS Ukraine liaison Rev. Roger Neumann has been able to maintain regular contact with leaders from the Ukrainian Lutheran Church (ULC), WELS’ sister church body. As of Tuesday morning, Neumann is reporting that so far the members there remain physically unharmed. However, all but 2 of the 17 congregations, comprising approximately 600 members, are in the direct line of the Russian advance. Two of the pastors have been cut off from communication. Many were able to hold online or in-person worship during the invasion on Sunday morning.

Neumann reports, “There’s a lot of fear, mixed with anger and bewilderment, as to why this is happening. They are very encouraged by the international support; very encouraged by the prayers of WELS people that are going out.”

According to Neumann, some members have been able to flee the country. However, at this time, all Ukrainian men between ages 18 and 60 are required to remain to defend their country as needed. The people who have stayed are taking shelter at night in the underground subway stations and come out during the day to find food and supplies. So far, limited supplies are still available, but the shelves are getting emptier.

WELS is financially assisting two ULC churches in western Ukraine that are setting up refugee centers to welcome Ukrainians who are fleeing from war-torn areas in the east, but space and resources are limited. Hundreds of thousands of people are currently on the move. Money is also being sent to help buy supplies for these refugees. At the time of this writing, banks and supermarkets are still open. The situation is being closely monitored regarding how funds can be safely and effectively sent and used.

“When this is all said and done—and Lord willing, it’s going to be soon and Lord willing, it’s going to be where they will keep their sovereignty—there is going to be a tremendous need for humanitarian aid,” Neumann predicts. “Pray for Ukraine; pray for the people. That’s the number one thing, and the rest God will take care of in his way.”

If you’d like to give a gift to support these relief efforts, visit wels.net/wmgift and select “Ukraine” from the dropdown menu.

 

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My Mission Journey: Gail

Grace Lutheran Church in Falls Church, Virginia, sent a Mission Journeys team to Ukraine this summer to assist with four separate Vacation Bible School (VBS) programs hosted by WELS’ sister synod, the Ukrainian Lutheran Church (ULC). Gail Kelley was a member of the team and shares her experience: 

Our trip to Ukraine started with a conversation on possible evangelism or mission trips our congregation could participate in, somewhere with a culture different than our own. We were looking for an opportunity for our members to visit and serve with fellow believers in another culture, as well as to learn new evangelism ideas for our own community in the Washington D.C. metropolitan area. Within a year, God opened the door to an incredible opportunity–the chance to visit and assist the Ukrainian Lutheran Church (ULC) with four separate Vacation Bible School’s at several local congregations.

We gathered up a team from our congregation and were blessed with many prayers, financial gifts, and words of encouragement from members who could not travel with the group. Four of us headed to Ukraine in June with a few other WELS members from other congregations and began the trip of a lifetime!

Our group split into smaller teams and headed out to the four different VBS’s over the course of two weeks. Each volunteer taught English lessons, Bible lessons in Ukrainian (with the help of local translators), a craft lesson, and music. Each town and congregation we visited was very different, but it was quickly evident that we were all united in the most important way–through our shared faith and love for God’s Word and his people!

The first Sunday in Kiev we attended church with the Bishop of the ULC. The Bishop pointed out several photos on the wall of the church’s lobby. These photos were taken during the early 20th century and reflected one of many vibrant, growing congregations hosting many festivals and worship services. The Bishop explained to our visiting group the history of the church in the past century, and the terrible trials they endured throughout the second World War and Soviet era. The Bishop also pointed out a large wooden cross hung on the wall, covered in a beautiful, traditional Ukrainian embroidered cloth. This cross was hidden in a congregation member’s home during a time when religion was strictly forbidden throughout the country. The Bishop explained that corruption and bribery are current trials the country is facing; asking our group directly what they would do when presented with a bribe and fighting persecution. Recognizing and understanding the depths of the trials the ULC has endured for the sake of the cross was incredibly humbling and filled me with a new sense of awe regarding God’s enduring promise to “never leave us or forsake us” (Deuteronomy 31:6).

Meeting various members of the ULC and experiencing their hospitality and deep faith was humbling and inspiring in so many ways. And then of course there were the children and translators we were working with–all so very special and many eager to learn about Christ and his message (both in Ukrainian and English!). Most translators were not ULC members and spent the week translating lessons, Bible stories, and prayers for our group. I pray that the conversations we had and Bible verses we reviewed planted a seed in many hearts!

One of the many miracles from trips such as this one is the personal growth and impact on the volunteers–our entire group agreed we came back to our homes learning much more and growing in our faiths in more ways than we could have imagined.

Lord, give us the strength to stay courageous through trials and fix our eyes on your cross (Hebrews 12:2)!

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Proclaiming the Good News in Ukraine

The Ukrainian Lutheran Church (ULC) is experiencing renewed focus and enthusiasm for evangelism. The ULC pastors brainstormed ideas for doing outreach in their respective communities.

Church in Kremenets

The program they developed is a three evening program that involves music (both instrumental and vocal), Bible study, prayers, a worship service at the conclusion, and time for mingling and fellowship. The first three of these programs have already taken place at congregations in Kiev, Krements, and Ternopil. Many visitors attended! Local church members and pastors are excited about the results and rejoice that new people are hearing the Good News of Jesus. The next step? Friendship evangelism workshops are being scheduled to help the churches become more welcoming, and for training the pastors and church leaders to carry on programs of evangelism. We pray for God’s continuing blessing on their outreach efforts.

Church in Kyiv

This June, WELS members will once again help five congregations conduct Vacation Bible Schools. The WELS Mission Journeys program is becoming more involved with planning and scheduling these mission trips. Both the Ukrainian churches and our volunteers have been blessed with this cooperative effort.

Please pray for the ULC pastors. They are faithful to their calling, preaching God’s Word and administering the sacraments. Pray for the members of the ULC churches as they support the mission of preaching and teaching Jesus Christ crucified for the forgiveness of sins. Pray that the Lord will bring many more people in the Ukraine to know and follow the Good Shepherd, Jesus Christ!

Written by Pastor Roger Neumann, Europe Administrative Committee Liaison to the Ukrainian Lutheran Church

To learn more about world mission work in Ukraine, visit wels.net/ukraine.

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25 Years of Grace Renewal

The public history of the Ukrainian Evangelical Church of the Augsburg Confession was interrupted in 1939 when World War II had begun and the Red Army occupied western Ukrainian lands. Some pastors, like Rev. Theodor Yarchuk, became martyrs at the hands of communists. Other faithful men, like Deacon Stepan Chermkhivka, were persecuted and finished in GULAG concentration camps in Siberia. The sheep were scattered among the fields stained by the red blood of Ukrainian Christians, pastors, deacons, and teachers. Some Ukrainian Lutherans were able to escape to the west. The pure gospel voice of the Lutheran church has been silenced in Ukraine for almost 50 years and two generations of people. Other Protestant churches like Baptists and Pentecostals were allowed in the Soviet Ukraine. The Lutheran church, on the other hand, was under the strictest ban.

But “the Lord is gracious and compassionate” (Psalm 145:8). On Easter of 1993, two public Lutheran worship services took place in the Ukrainian cities of Kyiv and Ternopil. Pastors from WELS  (Melvin Schwark, Roger Kovaciny) and ELS (John Shep, Jay Webber) were first preachers and teachers of theology of the newly organized Lutheran congregations in Ukraine. The Lord has promised, “As the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not returns to it without watering the earth and making it bud and flourish, so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater, so is My Word that goes out of My mouth: it will not return to Me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it” (Isaiah 55:10, 11).

The Word of the Lord accomplished what the Lord has desired. The Lutheran Church in Ukraine has been raised by the gospel of Christ back to life. In two years the Lord has blessed his church with faithful seminary students and deacons who also became missionaries to other parts of Ukraine. Soon Lutheran congregations were founded in Kremenets, Sevastopol, Simferopol, Lviv, Zaporizhia, Radomyshl, and Kharkiv. Old Ukrainian Lutheran churches in Ivano-Frankivsk and Lazarivka in western Ukraine, as well as an old German Lutheran church in Ivanivka (former Johannestahl) in southern Ukraine were reborn.

The Ukrainian Lutheran Church has been blessed to be reborn as a confessional Lutheran church body. Fellowship with WELS and ELS has been very fruitful in establishing good, solid, pure Lutheran doctrine in Ukraine. Not all churches have this blessing. Even among those who call themselves Lutherans we find very little Lutheran doctrine and practice. Often we can find none! We are so privileged to be in fellowship with those Lutherans who are Lutherans not only by name, but also by their teaching, their confession, and their practice. We have still a lot to learn. And we are willing to share our knowledge of the Lutheran doctrine with others.

Luther’s Small Catechism has proven to be a true gem that has brought to light of the gospel a former Baptist congregation in Tokmak, a city in southeastern Ukraine. When a young deacon of the congregation had read Luther’s Small Catechism and then shared it members of the congregation, they realized the teaching was Biblical and they wanted to know more about Lutheran doctrine. Now the Grace of the Christ Church is a member of the Ukrainian Lutheran Church and shares the precious Gospel with people in that area of the country.

2018 marks the 25 anniversary of the renewal of the Ukrainian Lutheran Church.

The ULC has decided to give this year a special title – 25 Years of Grace Renewal. “Because of His great love for us, God, Who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions – it is by grace you have been saved… By grace you have been saved, through faith – and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God – not by works, so that no one can boast”, writes St. Paul in his letter to Ephesians (2:4, 5, 8). With joy we proclaim this message to Ukrainians. It’s true – the history of Ukrainian Christianity is long and reaches back to the 10th century. But as in times prior to the Lutheran Reformation, the pure gospel doctrine of justification by grace through faith is darkened by many different false teachings. But now the light of grace is shining more brightly in the country of Ukraine.

It is a joy to see children and adults baptized. It is a joy to see both children and adults in our Catechism classes. It is a joy to hear the pure gospel preached at our congregations and see how Ukrainian Lutherans share the message about Christ crucified. It is so refreshing to commune with other brothers and sisters the true body and blood of our Savior in his Holy Supper. The ULC Vacation Bible School, in partnership with WELS pastors and members, attracts several hundred Ukrainian kids. Our annual Youth Forums unites our teenagers, young Christians around the word of God and the mission of the Ukrainian Lutheran Church, to reach out to as many people with the gospel as possible.

We do have challenges. We are a small church body, and we live in a country engaged in war. Some of our churches were left in the occupied territories. Our economy is weak. So often it is difficult to make ends meet. We have only five church buildings throughout Ukraine. The majority of our congregations have to rent their worship facilities… and because of this they are limited in many of their activities. Yet we are optimistic because we have the Lord’s promise that he will always will be with us and he will take care of his church. He does take care of us through his means of grace. We are optimistic because we have faithful and supportive brothers and sisters from WELS. Most of all, we are optimistic because we have God of all grace, who called us to his eternal glory in Christ. He himself will restore us and make us strong, firm, and steadfast. To him be the power forever and ever. Amen (1 Peter 5:10, 11).

Written by: Bishop Slavik Horpynchuk, Ukrainian Lutheran Church (ULC) 

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