The word “Ukraine” translates from Old Eastern Slavonic as “borderland,” or “edge of the state,” and that description could not be truer. Ukraine is the cornerstone for the ‘west’s’ expansion, and the increased ‘western leanings’ by Ukraine was clearly evident, except by the church, and a small percentage of the population, including the country’s leaders.
Although more than 90 percent of the country is Orthodox, Ukrainians were much more open to the arrival of Protestant than the Russians were. Bordering principally Catholic and Lutheran countries Ukraine had been exposed to other theological traditions, although none quite as radical and militaristic as the the Salvation Army.
Orthodoxy in Ukraine is actually two entities: the Ukrainian Orthodox Church under the Kiev Patriarchate (UOC-KP) and the autonomous Church of Eastern Orthodoxy in Ukraine (UOC), which is under the Moscow Patriarchate. The former is unrecognized by any other canonical Eastern Orthodox Church but accounts for 21 percent of Ukraine’s population. And in a private audience with the Patriarch I was given a warm welcome and assured of any necessary assistance. (Their funding comes primarily from the USA and they no doubt saw us as the potential provider of aid that we eventually became, thanks to The SA in the UK (BOSCOME CORPS AND WINTON CORPS & USA EAST)
---------------------------------------------------------The terms “borderland,” or “edge of the state,” also described the dynamics as they concerned faith and values in Ukraine. At the first sign of a crack in the Soviet control of entertainment and the media the onslaught of western decadence let loose. There was a constant battle for people's attention and spare time. The devil had enjoyed 50 years of mostly uncontested riotous living by most, subsequent to invasions of sovereign lands and endless strife and killings. Hope had vanished...But the devil's victories are always temporary.
Our first Sunday worship meeting with barely more than 125 in attendance resulted in some 50 seekers! In addition to the Kiev visitors to our first public meeting, there was a contingent of 35 uniformed Salvationists who’d made their way down from Moscow and back on the overnight 2nd class trains, unbeknownst to us!
As there was no penitent form, the altar where those wishing to pray may kneel, the seekers came forward as the invitation was extended and stood along the perimeter at the front of the hall and shared in a recited prayer. Each seeker was given an invitation to attend a recruit class and they began the very next evening with almost 100 potential recruits present, most having attended the Sunday service and others simply being invited by friends.
A youth choir was formed along with a Sunday School “work” committee made up of 10 or so teens (Kiev University students) who had come to the first meeting and were ‘hanging out’ in the newly established offices every afternoon following classes. They were very proficient in using computers and immediately set to work printing 300 weekly Young Soldiers newspapers for distribution and use in the Sunday School.
Two of them became translators and all became uniformed soldiers, some three months later. Some decided to create a puppet ministry and others in time became Sunday School teachers, songsters and bandsmen. The Singing Company Leader, Olga Afanasieva arranged and printed the first Russian version of the popular Happiness and Harmony chorus book.
Recruit classes lasted 12 weeks and we used Colonel Milton Agnew’s Manual of Salvationism, which we had translated and published in Russia during our Moscow tenure. Junior Soldier classes and singing Company practice were held on Wednesday evenings and on Saturday afternoon.