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Elder Jason Ganer leads a prayer for Ukraine at the Memorial Road Church of Christ in Oklahoma City.
Voices Only
Photo by Erik Tryggestad

Voices Only: ‘While on the Sea,’ a Ukrainian hymn


OKLAHOMA CITY — While on the sea hear the terrible roaring. See how the boat of my life rolls with me. In fear of death and in deepest of anguish. Lord, hear my prayer; watch my soul on the sea.

A few days ago, while I was preparing to teach a Wednesday night Bible class on the Ukrainian conflict and its impact on Churches of Christ, I ran across “While on the Sea” by Epi Stephan Bilak and Jack Boyd.

Bilak’s name is one I’ve heard a lot over the years. A native of Ukraine, he moved to Switzerland and broadcast Gospel messages across the Iron Curtain into his homeland and other parts of the Soviet Union. After the fall of communism, he returned home and planted a congregation in the western Ukrainian town of Ternopil.

Epifanius “Epi” Stephan Bilak

Epifanius “Epi” Stephan Bilak

The Minter Lane Church of Christ in Abilene, Texas, supported his work.

(You’ll find a lot more about him here.)

In the mid-1970s Bilak translated the words of Ukrainian poem for the hymn and Boyd, professor and director of choral activities at Abilene Christian College (now University) did the arrangement.

I forwarded the song to Scott Young, worship minister for my congregation, the Memorial Road Church of Christ. I wasn’t the first to do so. In fact, Scott already had the song on the schedule for Sunday.

On Sunday morning I watched videos of our brothers and sisters in Ukraine worshiping and singing in the midst of the “terrible roaring” of ongoing conflict:

Then I sang “While on the Sea” along with my brothers and sisters in Oklahoma. It’s a beautiful, haunting song.

I made sure to get a video. On the stage a buckets filled with relief supplies that will soon be sent to Europe to help those displaced by the conflict.

After the song, one of our elders, Jason Garner, led a prayer for Ukraine.

Filed under: Christianity in Ukraine Churches of Christ in Ukraine Conflict in Ukraine Crisis in Ukraine Ukraine conflict Voices Only Voices Only

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