The weekend of Friday April 24th – Sunday April 26th a student named Maria and I attended a United Methodist Women’s Conference in a small town outside of Kiev. We left Thursday night by taking a mini bus to the train station, an overnight train to Kiev, the subway in Kiev to their station, then another mini-bus an hour outside of town, and finally walking about half a mile to our final destination, a Baptist Conference Center, and it was worth it. When we arrived there was one other woman already there and she was from Russia, so there was no practicing my Ukrainian with her, but of course, Maria had no problem.
The conference started with a wonderful lunch, then an afternoon service. Not until we arrived did I realize that the conference was actually being hosted by the Norwegian United Methodist Women. Women from all around Norway had raised funds, supplies, put together the conference, and 11 women had come all the way to Ukraine. (Our superintendent is Bill Lovelace and he is married to Helen. Helen is Norwegian and that is the connection for those of you wondering.) All the meetings had a Norwegian speaker who was translated into English in order for it to be translated into Russian.
The women brought a beautiful screen with 8 pictures on it, each a story about a woman from the Bible. We were reminded of Mary and Elizabeth, Ruth, Mary Magdalene, Miriam, Shiphrah and Puah (Ex.1:15). The preaching was beautiful and being in the presence of so many women from so many different places, not only geographically but in age and background and direction. I felt a community developing between the United Methodist Women of Ukraine that was not there when we arrived.
On Saturday afternoon Helen called a meeting to establish the UMW of Ukraine. Since the Ukrainian UMC became its own conference, separate from Russia, in 2004, the Ukrainian UMW has stayed a part of the Russian UMW. Not until this conference was it felt that the Ukraine/Moldovan Conference was ready to support and organize themself. The by-laws were voted on and passed, a board was elected, ways to raise money were set as well as the next meeting including a conference (three years). It was great to see these women take some responsibility and leadership within the Church.
The weekend introduced some new things to the women…a prayer walk, which included prayer stations, some new Bible stories, some new songs and of course, Norwegian chocolate. The weekend ended with a church service on Sunday morning and then lunch. The weekend was wonderful and Maria and I were able to meet some other United Methodist Women in our area (that means western Ukraine – the closest church is about 6 hours by train).
I was reminded and she was introduced to fellowingshipping with women from all walks of life. She loved it! And I told her that is what is so amazing about the Church. It is a big family with so many different types of people who are able to love each other, lean on each other, listen to each other and learn from each other. I’m hoping she can remember this and encourage some of our other students while we are in the midst of our church plant. Right now it remains just students, but we are praying for more than that, we want a family.