Central Missouri helps support L’viv, Ukraine

By Pastor Chris Cook Parkade Church , Columbia
Posted 4/6/22

VIENNA — As I went to the gym this past Saturday morning and began my workout, I was hit by the breaking news on the many TVs lining the gym wall of a missile strike in L’viv, Ukraine. …

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Central Missouri helps support L’viv, Ukraine

Posted

VIENNA — As I went to the gym this past Saturday morning and began my workout, I was hit by the breaking news on the many TVs lining the gym wall of a missile strike in L’viv, Ukraine. Since I was supposed to video chat with my friend Slavik Pyzh who lives in L’viv later that morning at 11 am, I was obviously concerned. Being on the far western side of Ukraine, L’viv has largely been spared the atrocities of the war up to this point.

Rushing through my workout, I quickly returned home and tried to established contact. It took me two tries before I was able to get through and talk with Slavik. When I finally connected with him, I learned that he and his family were ok. When I mentioned I had seen on TV that L’viv had been attacked by a missile, he quickly informed me that L’viv had been hit by two. In the time it took to finish my workout and return home, Lviv had experienced a second missile strike.

My friendship with Slavik Pyzh goes back to 2013 when I was invited by the Future Leadership Foundation to travel to the Ukraine Baptist Theological Seminary (UBTS) in L’viv where Slavik serves as President. UBTS was a small school with an enrollment of 125 students and I was there to investigate the possibility of Parkade Baptist Church, the church I pastor in Columbia, MO, supporting UBTS. Of course, my church did become a partner with UBTS but I came away from that first visit with more than a partnership. I came away with a long-lasting friendship that resulted in my family hosting Slavik’s son Bogdan as he finished High School in the United States.

As time went by, our partnership with UBTS expanded to include pastors and churches in Maries, Osage and Gasconade Counties. Philip Rector, former Director of Missions for the Gasconade Valley Baptist Association in Bland, MO invited faculty from UBTS to speak in several area churches. Soon Gasconade Valley Baptist Association became a partner with UBTS and several pastors within the area were recruited to teach at UBTS in L’viv. These pastors include Kevin Sullivan, Pastor of Owensville First Baptist Church; David Krueger, Pastor of Linn First Baptist; and Jason Gentry, former pastor of Hermann First Baptist.

UBTS has seen significant growth in their enrollment since 2013. They have expanded from one building to two buildings. On Saturday when I spoke with Slavik, I wanted to inquire how well UBTS was holding up during the war. Slavik informed me that on February 23, a day before the invasion, the total enrollment of students was1240. This increase in enrollment has been largely facilitated by the many partnerships like the partners they have had here in Missouri and across the United States.

Furthermore, Slavik said that all academic activities have ceased and UBTS has become one of the major humanitarian relief centers in L’viv. They provide housing, food, clothes, medicine and hygiene supplies as well as assist refugees in relocating to areas in western Ukraine unaffected by the war and other countries. In addition, they are also transporting humanitarian aid to some of the hardest hit areas in Ukraine like Kyiv, Kherson, and Sumy. Since the invasion started on February 24, UBTS has served 4720 refugees and assisted 3500 refugees relocate to other countries, mostly to Poland.

Here in central Missouri, it is easy to feel disconnected as we hear the daily reports of the war in Ukraine. However, there is a humanitarian relief center in Lviv—a city that we hear so much about in the news—that is in place today largely because of the support they have received from churches like those in our area. So, the next time you hear L’viv in the news, please know there are those in the area who are responsible for the remarkable growth of UBTS which has allowed UBTS to become a place of hope and refuge in a country being torn apart by war.

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