Saturday, June 4, 2016


As we've been travelling through the country-side and former Mennonite villages this week, there have been photo opportunities around each bend of the road.  Fields of flax and mustard have sprung into bloom - blue and yellow - colours of the Ukrainian national flag.  Sunflowers are just beginning to develop.  As each crop matures the landscape transforms.  We remember our parents nostalgically recalling the beauties of
                                                                     their former homeland.

Anita Toews, new board member from USA
There have been other transformations.  When we were here 3 years ago, a former Mennonite church in the village of Schönsee was in the process of restoration (see blog July 16, 2013).  We were able to provide some assistance.  Today this is a thriving Greek Catholic sanctuary for several villages in the area.  We met Father Taras there, a young priest from western Ukraine.  He told us that he had studied 3 years at the university and another 6 at seminary.  He is married and has a young child.
With him was Baba Ustina, known regionally as their "Mother Theresa," a warm-hearted friendly woman who can neither read or write, however is gifted in establishing relationships and helping people in need.  She was the first to envision the possible restoration of the church and started hacking down trees that were growing through the roof.

Father Taras is also responsible for a new church plant in Tokmak.  This much smaller Greek Catholic cathedral has been constructed using old Mennonite red clay bricks recovered from ruins, and laying them according to the old Mennonite pattern, alternating long and short.

Both of these churches have been planted by Father Peter, a missionary from the Czech Republic.  He has planted 36 churches, 15 of these in Ukraine.  We met up with him in the city of Melitopol where he is currently headquartered.  In addition to daily church services, he provides meals for war refugees and runs a rehab program helping released prisoners integrate into society.  A recent example is a 31 year old who was into drugs, gambling and gang-related activities.  Worry was destroying his mother's health.  She decided to take a two day pilgrimage walk from Melitopol to Schönsee, along the way praying for her son.  Within a month he came to Father Peter asking for help and said, "I give you my word, I will become holy."  His relapses have become less frequent and he is now one of a team helping to build the church.  
Father Peter sharing the Bread of Life
Father Peter told us that each time he feels desperate, on his knees calling out to God, God points him to the Mennonites.  The Mennonite Centre has committed to providing some support for a year.  We asked him where next, what his vision is.  Without hesitation he said, "going to heaven."

Allegedly the Boldt mansion
But not so soon.  We know that he still has plans. This building is a former Mennonite house in Molochansk.  Only the walls are left standing.  His next project is restoring this building and planting another church. Buildings are transformed in order to bring transformation to lives of needy people.  We are pleased to be part of the process and grateful to all those who make this work possible.

For more information on the work of the Mennonite Centre, please go to  Also check out Mennonite Centre Ukraine Facebook page
(Click on pictures to enlarge)

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