At the meeting of Synod in May 2002, the small group meeting in Odessa, Ukraine, was received as a congregation of the Free Presbyterian Church of Scotland. Afterwards a Kirk Session was established to oversee their spiritual welfare. This was the result of much prayer on their part. A communion season after the practice of our Church in Scotland was held in this former Communist city earlier this year. At the request of the Interim Moderator of the Kirk Session, I visited Odessa from 8 to 21 October this year. In God’s kind providence I had a safe passage by air to Kiev and back, and also during the two bus journeys between Kiev and Odessa. Odessa is eight hours south of Kiev and on the Black Sea coast. I was shown every kindness by our friends and am very grateful for that.
During my stay I was able to preach on two Sabbaths and at two prayer meetings with the help of Mr Dmitryy Levytskyy as interpreter. I also gave two lectures with a view to further establishing our people in the faith. It was pleasant to be around the gospel in a land so different from our own and the sameness in the gracious effects of the gospel is wonderful. Wherever sinners are saved by grace, whether in the Ukraine or Scotland, the work of the Holy Spirit in their sanctification brings forth the same “like precious faith”. Our fellowship around the gospel impressed on us this unity of the Church and we can truly say, “Behold, how good a thing it is”.
Together with preaching duties (the primary concern of the Church, which has been given the glorious gospel to proclaim) I was involved in aspects of the work in Odessa which are handmaids to the gospel. This included a short visit to the children’s hospital, where aid from Scotland is brought on an almost yearly basis. We could see that they are making good use of this aid and there were evident signs of appreciation from staff and patients. The poverty of this and no doubt many other similar hospitals in that country gave us a very real sense of how grateful we ought to be to have such ample provision for our temporal needs in a developed and relatively wealthy nation. How striking to consider that it is often those who have most who complain most!
There is great need for the cause in Odessa to be registered as a Church in the Ukraine. This would give us more freedom to engage in preaching the everlasting gospel to the many perishing sinners in this needy land. It needs to be strongly emphasised that this should be the burden of our prayers for our friends, who remain faithful to the truth in a climate of Arminianism and gross idolatry. With registration in view we were able to pay a visit to the lawyer whom we hope to employ in furthering our application. Although there are still small difficulties to overcome, the prospect of registration appears not too far distant, if the Lord will.
In the Ukraine, evidences of a thirst for the truth and for Reformed literature are seen in the many requests which continue to come in to our friends in Odessa for the Bible and the Westminster Confession. Letters of appreciation and steadfast adherence to the Reformed faith should encourage us to believe that the Lord has a work to perform among this poor and needy people. In the meantime our friends continue as before. Mr Igor Zadorozhniy sends out many hundreds of parcels all over the country; Mr Dmitryy Levitskyy continues to pursue his studies in English and his wife Inna is steadily translating the Psalms into metre for singing in public worship. They and we ought to seek a strengthening of the bond which has been formed between Scotland and the Ukraine. We can yet look forward to the day when the Ukraine and all other nations still in great darkness will see the great light of the Sun of Righteousness arising with healing in His wings.