In Ukraine, ‘Christianity is the greatest treasure we have’
Blogging live from Ivano-Frankivsk, Ukraine
Watch out for Viktoriya Kalynyuk.
She’s one of those kids that’s going to set the world on fire. You can hear it when she speaks — fluttering between English and Ukrainian.
The 16-year-old is a standout in academic competitions and an accomplished dancer. After university, she hopes to work with the Red Cross and help the suffering in Africa — particularly South Sudan.
And she’s using the Bible as her guide.
“The morals of the stories (in Scripture) help us choose the right way in our lives,” she said. “These stories protect us from bad decisions.”
I met Kalynyuk at Public School No. 11 here in Ivano-Frankivsk, a city of about 300,000 people in western Ukraine. It’s the third leg of my Ukraine reporting trip. Kalynyuk is the only girl on seven-member academic team. (“One girl is worth six boys,” said her very sly teammate, Aksentiy Volodymyr.)
The team recently won a national competition for students based on their knowledge of the Bible and ability to use it to discuss character and morality.
Did I mention this is a public school?
Christianity is taught as an academic subject in Ukraine. Schools here also use Bibles as textbooks. In the Ivano-Frankivsk region — and in other parts of Ukraine — many of those Bibles come from Eastern European Mission, the 50-year-old, church-supported ministry that used to smuggle Scriptures under the Iron Curtain.
Now EEM gives hardback Bibles and Bible-based character-building literature to schools here. EEM also was a sponsor of Ukraine’s character competition and provided prizes for the winners.
I accompanied EEM workers as they made unannounced visits to three public schools. We found the ministry’s illustrated children’s Bibles in libraries and classrooms. We asked elementary school kids to tell us what they were learning, and they related stories about the fall of man, the birth of Moses and the crucifixion of Christ.
The highlight of the day was talking with the seven-member academic team. Their knowledge of the Bible and desire to base their lives on its teachings was impressive.
The students — all ages 16 and 17 — never lived under communism. Their parents and grandparents did, but throughout the Soviet years they nurtured a love of church and the Bible.
After Ukraine gained independence on Aug. 24, 1991 (all the students knew the exact date), an entire generation grew up hearing Bible stories.
“We know that Christianity is the greatest treasure we have,” said Ihor Kozak, one of the team members. “Our country was part of the Soviet Union. Now the people of Ukraine can believe in the God they want. After 70 years, people want to believe in the Master who loves us.”
The students said they see even more desire to learn Scripture among their younger classmates. That’s exciting for Ukrainian Christians to hear, said EEM staffer Nickoli Plaksin.
“That’s the future of my country,” Plaksin said.
FeedbackGod Bless True Christians in Ukraine who boldly hold on to their Faith.It’s the same faith that we all share.How a Wonderful God we have who created us and placed us in different countries.I pray for the believers in Ukraine to be stronger in their faith and face life’s challenges and be victorious in Jesus’s Name.
Fellow Believer in Christ.
Bhilai,Chhattisgarh,India.jacob mathewJanuary, 4 2013