observing Odessa

22 09 2009

I’ve just spent two days here in Odessa, getting an overview of what the Presbyterian missionaries are doing here.  The Evangelical Presbyterian Reformed Church of Odessa has a beautiful building near the city center.  The present congregation, which grew out of missions work in mid 1990s, was able to obtain the historic building in which they worship by proving to the court that they are the theological heirs of the reformed and presbyterian congregations which worshiped in this building prior to the Soviet Union and communism.  They have ties with a counseling center and a pregnancy resource center, and have a healthy youth ministry being led by a number of younger Ukrainian believers.

Odessa is architecturally rich, though many (if not most) of the buildings are crumbling–literally.  My host told me that Odessans often will walk closer to the street than the buildings in case a window or balcony falls while they’re passing.  However, the remnants of beauty are striking, and could have compared with central L’viv in West Ukraine.  The Opera and Theatre is gorgeous.  We had lunch today with a Campus Crusade staff worker at a cafe, Mogol Gogol, on Gogolya str. where the author Nicholai Gogol lived for a year or so.  Reflecting on the faded glory of many of the buildings I saw today, I’m reminded that John Calvin said that people are ruined statues, with remnants of former glory.  Thankfully, Jesus came to restore us to his image, in true knowledge, righteousness, and holiness.  Please pray that as his church is built in the lives of the people of Odessa, they will joyfully follow him in sacrificially seeking the welfare (or shalom) of their city.

I’m taking the overnight train back to Kiev, and have three more days there before returning home.  Wednesday I will participate in the MTW Kiev team meeting, and have a couple other meetings with missionaries on that team.  I will also meet the Ukrainian pastor of the church plant where I worshiped this past Sunday either Wednesday or Thursday morning.  Then I will be visiting my relatives Oleg and Audra Thursday and Friday, and leaving very early Saturday morning to fly all the way back to Chattanooga.  Please continue to pray for safe travels, and for wisdom as I hope to continue supporting and encouraging the missionaries in Kiev.