When the Hendys first started visiting Ukraine in 1993, Zolotonosha Baptist was the only church serving a large area of the Cherkasy region. “People used to walk for hours to get to the service,” John explains. “They used to walk from villages all around; at 6 in the morning you'd have a family walking several miles to get to church because they were so keen to attend. It was then that we realised we had to do something about it: we saw it was an opportunity to plant churches out in the villages. So we went out to different places and held meetings in people’s cottages, and those meetings would grow and spill over to the next place, and so on. It was so wonderful, you just didn't know how the Lord was going to work next. There was so much happening.”
One such village was Chervonohirka (known at the time as Krasnogorka). Under communism, the believers there were not allowed to meet; Janet and John were shown the original letter from the authorities forbidding them to hold services. However they used to defy the ban in warmer weather by heading out to the fields to worship together. By the time the Hendys started visiting, they were meeting freely.
"We used to go with members from Zolotonosha Baptist church to the village, in the church bus,” Janet remembers, “Pastor Ivan, who was the minister, introduced us to the believers in this remote place.”
In the early days, Sunday services were held under a walnut tree in the garden of one of the members, and John was always invited to preach. Then the congregation would share a meal before the Hendys and their friends returned to Zolotonosha.
Janet continues, “We remember once when we visited, after the service under the walnut tree we were able to pass on a monetary gift from UCM to the church. A little later John saw that many people were weeping and so he asked if there was a problem. The answer came back that there was no problem; rather they had learnt of the gift and realised it would enable them to complete their church building. The opening and dedication of the building was in September 1996. Many people came, and it was a very moving occasion.”
The Hendys have many special memories of Chervonohirka. They always enjoyed connecting with the Sunday school children, and seeing them participating in the services. They made several Christmas visits, delivering gifts from UCM’s supporting churches and friends which had been transported in humanitarian aid lorries from the UK. One hot summer’s day they took a busload of campers from Zolotonosha to visit, and were able to buy everyone an ice cream to enjoy.
They also helped one of Pastor Ivan’s brothers when he and his wife unexpectedly had to assume full care of their three young grandsons. Dmitry and Valia took the boys into their home and a couple from UK supported them through the UCM child sponsorship scheme which was operating at the time.
The last time Janet and John visited Chervonohirka was in September 2014, when the church was celebrating 100 years of existence in the village, despite only having a physical building for a relatively short time. “That last service was so memorable,” Janet says. “Both Dmitry and Valia had passed away, but their three grandsons were there. At the close there was a call to repentance and a young man came forward and committed his life to Jesus; it was the youngest of the three grandsons, the last to become a Christian. Their grandparent’s and sponsors’ prayers were answered, and there was much rejoicing that afternoon.”
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