On our last visit to Odessa in April, Mr Edward Ross and I had problems with the Polish customs authorities. It was our first experience of bringing humanitarian aid by this more direct route through Poland. No doubt the hard lessons learned will be valuable should we go this way again.
Once into Ukraine, the aid was successfully transported to the Children’s Hospital in Odessa. The staff were very glad to receive it and customs officials locked it in a strongroom at the hospital. Since we returned to Scotland, the hospital authorities have experienced difficulties in having the aid released by the customs, but we know that at least the medicines have been released; they formed the most important part of the load. The large amount of medicine was bought in Britain at a cost of more than £800. The Head of the Pathology Department expresses her gratitude thus: “Dear friends from the Free Presbyterian Church of Scotland, the Regional Children’s Hospital in Odessa is very grateful that for several years you have not forgotten our needs. Our special thanks for the medicines. Also for the clothing for the staff, which is never sufficient. The doctors in Ukraine receive a very small salary. We wish you a lot of health and blessing from God. On behalf of the medical staff of Odessa Region Children’s Hospital, Dr Torbinskaya.”
We are indebted to Highland Care, Raigmore Hospital, for giving a large quantity of second-hand uniforms, footwear, medical equipment, furniture and other items to take to Odessa. We always inform the Odessa Hospital about this source of help and Dr Torbinskaya has stated her heartfelt thanks to Raigmore Hospital.
We keep in view that our great objective in visiting Odessa is to further the work of the gospel among our little flock there, and as far beyond as possible. Through our men there, we have many contacts with people throughout the Ukraine, as well as in Russia and other former USSR countries. We are deeply conscious of the fact that, while all our labour is in vain in itself, it is not so in the Lord. To Him alone we look for the blessing upon the good seed sown, by sending out both the Scriptures, and literature which is based on them. The Saviour reminds us, “Without Me ye can do nothing” (John 15:5).
Another task on this occasion was to make arrangements for the journey of Igor Zadorsohney and Dmitryy Levetsky to Scotland to present to the Synod the petition of the Odessa congregation. They were requesting to be accepted into the Free Presbyterian Church of Scotland, and thus to have all the gospel ordinances established among them. They were therefore humbly thankful to the Most High that they were received as a congregation of the Church with the status of a preaching station under the jurisdiction of the Western Presbytery. The Kirk Session of the congregation hopes that a communion season will be held there early next year, God willing. For more information about the congregation, see the article by Igor Zadorshney and Dmitriyy Levetsky, “The Free Presbyterian Church Group in Odessa”, in the next issue.
We had planned that, in early October, Mr George MacAskill and Mr Alasdair Ross would take a load of aid to Karolyi Gasper Mission of Beregovo, in the Hungarian-speaking part of the Ukraine. Part of the load was to consist of Hungarian Bibles and 15 000 Hungarian and Romanian Words of Life Calendars, generously granted by the Trinitarian Bible Society. They were also to proceed to our congregation in Odessa. However, some days ago, Ukraine officials announced suddenly and most unexpectedly that it would take six months for them to process the invitation to us. This of course made it impossible for our men to enter Ukraine at this time.
We then tried to re-route the aid for Ukraine through the Karolyi Institute of Theology and Missions, Miskolc, Hungary. The Administrator of the Institute was very willing to do this but was doubtful about having documentation completed in time for the men’s departure and suggested that we try Mr Szasz Attila of Gherla, Romania, to whom we brought aid last year. At the moment Mr Attila is working at great speed to have an invitation processed in time for the planned departure, which is tied in with the men’s holiday period. We can only pray that everything will fall into place in the good providence of the Lord.
We ask that you continue to remember this work at the throne of grace. We should pray especially that the Most High would be pleased to bless His Word to the many people who receive it, that their understanding would be opened to receive the teaching of the Scriptures, and that they would find Christ and become His faithful followers. The Odessa people are not affluent by any means and therefore need our support. But the work itself, including the printing of Christian literature in Russian, needs a constant input of money. The cost of the last visit was in excess of £5000. This included the cost of travel, humanitarian aid, maintenance, office equipment and medicines, and is about £1000 more than usual because of the added cost of the fares for the Odessa men to attend the Synod. We hope therefore that all who desire the extension of our Church’s work and witness in Eastern Europe will continue to support it. “Let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not” (Gal 6:9).