In June this year, the church in Blagodatne celebrated 20 years since the building was opened, but a committed group of believers has been meeting in the village for quite a bit longer.
In January 1997, UCM co-founder Janet Hendy travelled to Ukraine to help establish a women’s Bible study ministry, with donations from the ‘Know Your Bible’ organisation (then called Christian Women Communicating International). “I went to Kyiv,” she explains, “and from there it was decided that I could go down to Zolotonosha as well, to meet with UCM friends. On the way there, Pastor Victor announced they wanted to take me to another village first, one they hadn’t visited before.”
As they drove on and on through the pitch-dark, snow-covered countryside, Janet wondered where on earth they were taking her. “Finally, we ended up at a little cottage in Chepaivka [the former name for Blagodatne]. Someone opened the door, and there was a sea of faces, about 12 men and women. I was introduced to them and they wanted to know all about my life, how I became a Christian and so on. So as the Lord directed, I shared something with them that evening.”
As Janet got to know the group, who had been meeting since the previous October, they made such a significant impression on her that when she got back home, she could not stop talking about them, telling John that they should go again to Chepaivka the next time they went to Ukraine.
“So that’s what we did,” says John. “We started meeting with them regularly and soon the group began to grow. So we moved out of the original house and started meeting in a bigger house, but it still kept growing. So we hired a room in the Hall of Culture, which was bigger still, but it was a terrible old building. I was standing there preaching one day and bits of the ceiling fell down onto the Bible I was holding in my hand.”
That was enough to prompt the Hendys to encourage the group to try find a cottage with a big piece of land to buy, with long-term plans to build. Although cautious due to a lack of money, they nonetheless followed the Hendy’s advice and eventually found an old cottage which they were able to purchase and renovate. John explains, “One person made all the seats and things like that, and the others knocked walls down and put up props and other things, and made it into one room. We had a little pulpit and that was wonderful, but no sooner had it been built than it was full. So I told them we should ask the Lord to help us build a full-size church.”
Every time they were in England, John and Janet made the needs known and donations soon came in, which they then took back to Ukraine. “They started to build,” John continues, “and the Lord just provided. The ladies did all the plastering and all the hard work, and over two or three years you could see it was becoming a proper church, becoming what it is today.”
The congregation was then in need of a pastor, and the obvious choice was Sergiy Limar, one of the small group of believers Janet had met on her very first visit. A former drug addict, Sergiy came to know the Lord at Zolotonosha Baptist Church, and then led his brother and sister to faith as well. “The church saw him as their leader,” says Janet. “They recognized something within him that showed he was the man who should be their pastor; and so we inducted him in January 2001.” John also later had the privilege of baptising Sergiy’s mother, who told him she became a Christian after witnessing Sergiy’s recovery from addiction. “I saw what the Lord had done in my son's life, and I decided I wanted to know him too.”
22 years later, Pastor Sergiy is still faithfully serving as leader. At the celebration service, he led the congregation in thanking God for how the church has been a spiritual refuge for many people, a place where many have come to know God. “At the end of the service,” he shares, “all the pastors who were present prayed to God together that He would continue to use our church and all its people to accomplish His plans.”
Ukraine Christian Ministries Registered Charity No 1061221