On August 12, 2019, forty-two missionaries of The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod (LCMS) along with their families gathered for five days in Odessa, Ukraine for the Annual Eurasia Regional Meeting of Missionaries. The meetings were held at the Cathedral of St. Paul of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Ukraine (ELCU).
The theme for the work week was “Resolute Discipleship: Lessons in Following in Christ from the First Centuries for the Twenty-First Century.” Rev. James Krikava, regional director for LCMS Eurasia, kicked off the week’s meetings by welcoming the Eurasia missionaries.
The team gathered in a loving community to encourage each other in the work the church sent them to do.
Throughout the week, the team participated in classes taught by Rev. Dr. John Bombaro. The classes focused on discipleship in Christ—lessons from the first few centuries for application in the twenty-first century.
Bombaro demonstrated that idolatry over the centuries has been the biggest enemy of God. He showed how modern day “humanitarianism,” which has no reference to any higher authority, has become the prevailing idol of our time. It has become the highest good in the secular world and places the human will as the highest power—with human choice claiming the highest value.
According to Dr. Bombaro, humanitarianism is “Christianity liberalized” and has become “the new religion of the masses.” He discussed how this affects our daily lives and informs the Church’s preaching and teaching about who Jesus really is—the King and Lord of heaven and earth.
Two representatives from St. Louis also attended at Rev. Krikava’s invitation. Rev. Daniel McMiller, executive director of International Mission, greeted the missionaries and offered closing remarks. Mr. Mark Hofman, executive director of LCMS Mission Advancement discussed Saint Louis financial mechanisms and mission preparedness. Mr. Hofman serves as the Mission Advancement liaison to the Eurasia region.
Herman Strozier (Prague), regional business manager for Eurasia, talked about the accounting system updates as well as new software systems put into place throughout the region and LCMS Office of International Mission (OIM). These systems will aid in the collaboration, coordination and communication of missionaries in the region and provide timely information on teams, projects, contributions, expenses and policies on the field.
Ben Helge (Germany) provided technology training over three days in the use of the complete Microsoft Office 365 suite which the LCMS Office of International Mission has recently deployed.
Encouraging One Another
The meetings also provided a time for encouragement. Since pastors and members in the region live and work in many different countries, the workgroup reconnected the missionaries.
These reconnects included opportunity for fellowship and prayer, but also time for dining together. Every evening, missionaries ate together at restaurants around Odessa, including one meal on the Black Sea. During these meals, old friendships were renewed, and new friendships created.
Excursions were offered over three consecutive days. Missionaries had the choice of joining any or all excursions, which included a walking tour of Odessa Courtyards, an excursion to the Museum of Western and Eastern Art and Opera House, and finally a boat cruise along the Odessa coast.
This time together provided opportunity to support each other during the often lonely work of international missions.
Gathered in Worship
The meetings began and ended in worship. Twice a day the team gathered in worship. Deaconess Kim Bueltmann played the organ and led the hymns and liturgical music.
Missionary pastors from the region led the services and preached. Rev. Dr. Charles Cortright, Rev. Kip Hoech, Rev. Joe Asher, Rev. Dale Kaster, Rev. Gary Schuschke and Rev. David Baker each led a Morning Prayer, Matins, Evening Prayer, or Vespers service.
The Rev. Serge Maschewski, bishop of the ELCU, led the last Evening prayer service and brought words of encouragement and support to the missionaries.
After the final worship service—Divine Service III—missionaries returned to their respective homes in the field. As the Divine Service sends God’s people in the comfort and peace of Christ, so the missionary team of the Eurasia region left Ukraine with the peace of Christ, encouraged in the Word of God.
Even though they have now spread to the four corners of Eurasia, these missionaries remain united in Christ, in His mission and by His Word.