Our congregation financially supports Mary Raber’s work in the Ukraine. She is there with Mennonite Mission Network. Below is her recent letter. Read it to learn about her work and find out how to support her with our prayers as well.
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Odessa Theological Seminary
Odessa 65066 Ukraine
5 October 2009
Everywhere in the countries of the former Soviet Union school
starts on 1 September. Odessa is no exception. I had forgotten that my
apartment is within walking distance of two or three elementary
schools and a month ago as I went to the bus stop I was overwhelmed by
wave upon wave of kids in their school uniforms, many of the smaller
girls wearing the bunchy white nylon hair bows that signify “dressed
up.” They were trailed by parents and grandparents carrying huge
bouquets. All were bound for first-morning festivities.
Four weeks later the weather is mostly warm, but by now it is
definitely fall. Watermelons are still heaped up for sale on the
street corners, but the sidewalks are littered with buckeyes. Red and
yellow peppers, grapes of all kinds, apples, tomatoes, and sweet
purple plums dominate the markets. The flower sellers have switched
from daisies to chrysanthemums.
I’ve been reading about foreign entrepreneurs investing in
Ukrainian farmland, which is some of the most fertile on the planet.
Apparently people have realized that it makes good sense to cultivate
a Ukrainian vegetable patch as insurance against forecasts of world
food shortages. Naturally, local people have mixed feelings about land
ownership going abroad, but you can’t deny the abundance and quality
of what this soil can produce.
Many thanks for your prayers for the Master’s program. August
was a suspenseful month as our students traveled back and forth to
Kiev to apply for visas that would enable them to attend their
orientation at International Baptist Theological Seminary in Prague in
September. Among other things, we learned that the Czechs are very
strict with visa applicants! In the end eight of our ten applicants
joined the class—two of them a week late!—but we are grateful to God
for that many. We were also worried about having enough money, but God
wonderfully provided that as well.
Alexander Abramov (Sasha), who is directing the Odessa side of
the program, accompanied the students and spent a lot of time
discussing details with the administrators and professors on the
Prague side. He says it wasn’t easy, but in the end it was a good
experience for everyone. All the Odessa-based students left with at
least one detailed outline of the research work they plan to
accomplish this winter. Now we’re looking forward to our second
session here in Odessa in March when the Prague professors come to us.
In September I taught the first half of a church history survey
course at Donetsk Christian University; the second half will pick up
in November. Here in Odessa I taught an intensive course on Baptist
history for some part-time students. In October I plan to return to
Donetsk for a week of Christian education and then teach a week-long
seminar on social service ministries back here in Odessa. That means
I’m not only jumping from subject to subject, but also spending a lot
of time on the train, which I’m not exactly crazy about, but it’s
better than taking the bus. One wonderful discovery, however, is that
most of the eastbound trains stop at a suburban station very close to
my apartment. How I love the convenience!
Getting to know the students is by far the best part of
teaching. There are four students from Kirghizstan in my history class
in Donetsk. We had an interesting time together watching a documentary
film I was given in Wichita this summer about the Mennonites’ Great
Trek to Central Asia in the nineteenth century.
My two-room apartment is slowly getting organized. I still need
something for guests to sit on before I can invite anyone over, but at
least I’m not sleeping on the floor anymore! It’s quiet, reasonably
secure, and the neighbors are friendly, so that’s all to the good.
Almost every day I ride a bus with a rather imaginative schedule
that circles through my neighborhood and eventually makes a stop not
far from the seminary. The bus is the project of a popular local
deputy who got it organized last year. I enjoy it because almost all
of the riders know one another and noisily exchange local news and
compare purchases along the way.
I want God to be at the center of everything I do. Thank you for your
prayers for my teaching. It takes a lot of energy and concentration.
Most of all, I want my classes to contribute to the students’
spiritual growth. Please continue to pray for the Master’s program.
We’re grateful to God for a good start; now the students need to keep
going independently until March. Pray for diligence and for God’s help
in organizing some extra meetings in the meantime. I’ve had some
success in continuing my own writing assignments, but I need God’s
help in staying disciplined.
Enjoy the changing seasons, wherever you are and whatever you’re
doing. Please accept my sincere thanks for your help and loving