Cover Story

Semi-liberated capitals

"Semi-liberated capitals" Continued...

Issue: "The new urban frontier," March 9, 2013

Kiev Theological Seminary teacher Mark McDonnel has also worked for years to help shift superficial commitments into life-transformers. In opposition to the Orthodox church’s divide of secular and spiritual, he tries to promote the idea of serving God in a secular environment—and in opposition to the tendency to see children with disabilities as burdens to be discarded, he’s helped to develop special-needs ministries. Some of his colleagues have given up, yet he retains hope. 

HOPE International in Ukraine literally banks on tomorrow: Profits from its micro-loan business go to “Tomorrow Clubs,” which are now Ukraine’s largest children’s ministry. Through 450 of these evangelical clubs, 1,800 volunteers teach nearly 13,000 children—three-fourths from unchurched families—about God’s grace.

I visited one Tomorrow Club that meets on Saturdays in a small church building with yellow walls and a gray tile floor. Seven volunteers in their 20s were leading two dozen children ages 5 to 14 in Bible games and crafts. The children in such clubs learn they are made in God’s image: Ukrainian governmental schools rarely acknowledge that image, but some school principals welcome Tomorrow Club after-school efforts. 

Orthodox priests are trying to stop the slow growth of evangelical churches by telling Ukrainian Protestants they won’t be welcome back for the only events that populate most old cathedrals: baptisms, marriages, and funerals. But the weekly community that new churches and their Tomorrow Clubs foster can trump the occasional Orthodox festivals, much as weekly Christian home fellowship groups in the Roman Empire beat out their big-event temple competitors.

Besides, Ukrainian evangelicals are survivors. One Tomorrow Club helper, Natasha Yedina, 16, made it to the outskirts of Kiev from Kazakhstan despite robbery, the shooting of her mom who turned down advice to have an abortion, family drunkenness, and a host of other problems: “much money, much sin,” she said. Vasily Kachan, pastor of the church hosting the Tomorrow Club, spoke of his father’s years in a prison camp, his pastorate near the Chernobyl nuclear explosion, and a subsequent church transplanting.   

Tomorrow Clubs in one sense don’t seem like a big deal—but in this long-suffering land where the big deals for centuries have turned bad, hope comes from the bottom up.

Marvin Olasky
Marvin Olasky

Marvin is editor in chief of WORLD News Group and the author of more than 20 books, including The Tragedy of American Compassion. Follow Marvin on Twitter @MarvinOlasky.


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