Tuesday, September 22, 2015

PLANTING THE KIEV CENTRAL CORPS Part Two


There was no shortage of ministry opportunities. Our Kiev activities were quickly made known for us to the Kiev population by the local media. And, Kathie and I were besieged with invitations to attend various public events and once there often became the focus of TV cameras and newspaper stories. And the Western Orthodox church was quick to embrace and welcome us into the ecumenical body. Our initial social work concentrated on children’s homes, prisons and invalids.

THE BLIND BEGGAR- 75-100 TEENS EVERY FRIDAY EVENING

A very welcome problem was the explosive growth in the numbers attending our worship services. Within weeks we had almost 400 people attending Sunday School and felt we had to establish programmes to keep the young people focused, involved and committed during the week.

Corps Cadet classes were begun along with a semblance of the Future Officers Fellowship programme. Some 90 plus teens met weekly for CC lessons, the majority coming in full uniform and in fact most wearing uniform to school or work on those days.

Kathie quickly established a fellowship evening on Fridays. She located a pub around the corner from our offices and met with the owner. She learned that their profits on a Friday night equaled about 20 USD by selling 15 or so bottles of poured vodka drinks and beer. She negotiated a verbal agreement whereby the owner would pour the same amount of vodka down the drain for which we would pay 20$.

We would then be allowed to bring in our own soda, (We chased Pepsi trucks each time we saw one and purchased cases directly from the roadside), popcorn machine and our keyboard and speakers. We had sole use of the restaurant from 6.00 – 10.00pm. It was renamed- you guessed it! THE BLIND BEGGAR… dozens of new teens were drawn to the Corps through this fellowship.

Many of the new recruits came with suggestions of where the Army could best serve and expand our ministry; two officers and no soldiers at this point. One of the ministries that blossomed immediately but came as a total surprise to Kathie and me, however, not to God, was one focusing entirely on the Kiev deaf population. Irina, one of the recruits asked me to join her for a special theatre performance as she felt there was a possible ministry to a unique audience. She hadn’t told me who they were.

As was the case so often I was running late and we rushed to the theatre arriving well after the curtain had been raised and the performance begun. Ordinarily I would have waited for the intermission before entering but the recruit/translator grabbed my arm and said ‘it’s ok, we’ll just walk right in’. So we tip toed in, making every effort to move quietly in the strangely silent theatre. I was surprised that there was no sound coming from the theatre as we entered the doors and even more so when I looked up at the brightly lit stage and saw some 20 or more costumed actors all using sign language. At the end of the first act all in the theatre raised their hands and waved them enthusiastically, the deaf audiences’ way of applauding and showing their appreciation.

During the intermission I was introduced to several dignitaries including a couple that God had earmarked and directed to head up a new ministry for the deaf population in Kiev’s newest church, the Kiev Central Corps. This large number of God’s children had been hidden from public view and contact in group homes located far from the country’s major cities during the Soviet era. All persons with a disability were hidden from public view - the perfect race!

The following day invitations were printed and distributed to the deaf school and to groups working with this population. The following Sunday some 20 deaf persons were in attendance, joining several hundred others in the Holiness Meeting. The meeting was translated for the deaf by Irina,  (Ирина Сколотоваstanding to the far left of the platform. Four years later Irina and her husband became officers and served for 12 years before resigning,

The deaf were seated at the front right of the rented hall. Kathie immediately saw them as her ministry and endeared herself to them by counseling them and in turn learning some basic sign language.

The Singing Company learned to 'sign' many of their songs, and at least one song was signed by them each Sunday.

If a Sunday School programme item was deemed worthy of applause, hundreds of raised hands flapped their approval in our hall. In due time the deaf soldiers formed their own ‘songsters’ and drama team. Each Sunday as the scripture was read the hearing impaired drama team acted out the Bible story.

Both in our preaching and teaching we used an inductive approach starting with examples of Christian living and life style and asking recruits to find rules in the Bible and Ukrainian philosophy. The deductive approach began with the Bible, SA doctrines, then holiness teaching, then examples, and then practice. The latter could be found in many areas of the salvationist’s private and corporate service. Key in building people up was in commending them on their spiritual growth at every turn. They were insatiable readers and all carried a New Testament at all times, along with whatever evangelical text they could find; most of the Russian texts produced by the Baptists or books in English borrowed from my private library. Few were ever returned, and that’s fine!

Sven Ljungholm

Liverpool, UKT

No comments: