2nd May 2019
Over the years I have had the privilege of visiting many nations, but I have only visited eastern Europe once before, when I went on a six-day trip to Romania in November 1996. My lasting memory is of the cold – an eastern winter wind has a definite bite!
This last week, Deb and I have had the joy of visiting our friends Andrey and Natasha Bondarenko in Kiev, Ukraine. I am glad to say that this time, the sun shone! Kiev is the capital of Ukraine and in some ways reminded us of London, with its numerous shops and restaurants. The city centre is dominated by large historical buildings, churches and monuments, many dating back to Soviet days. During the evening at weekends, the main city centre road (their equivalent to Oxford Street) is closed to traffic and people gather to watch the many buskers who come to perform. It has a very youthful, vibrant feel. We visited a square in Kiev centre where more than 100 people were shot by sniper soldiers during the revolution of 2014. It was deeply moving to walk around the memorial to those who died, and remember the price many were prepared to pay for freedom.
On Sunday I was invited to preach at the local church which Andrey and his family have been attending since 2014, after being forced to leave their home in eastern Ukraine following the outbreak of conflict. At the end of the meeting, Deb and I prayed with a number of families who had left eastern Ukraine at the same time and were now seeking God’s guidance for the future. Their resilience in the face of very difficult circumstances was impressive.
We spent the rest of the week at a conference hosted by Andrey, which gathered church leaders from all over Ukraine. Over breakfast one morning, we spoke to a group from eastern Ukraine, who had spent 24 hours travelling to be there – longer than it had taken us to get there from the UK! I was invited to speak in one of the conference sessions and preached out of the story of Joseph about preparation tests for leaders. Many of the people there have gone through very testing times in the last few years, yet they remain full of faith for all that God has called them to, both in Ukraine and other nations.
Deb and I fly back to the UK on Friday, and we are looking forward to being in our home church this coming Sunday.
Posted by Steve Tibbert
Steve Tibbert leads King’s Church London, with sites in Catford, Downham and Lee. Over the past fifteen years the church has seen continued growth, both in size and diversity. Steve is also involved in Newfrontiers and regularly coaches other lead elders. His book, Good to Grow, was published in July 2011. He is married to Deb, and they have three sons.