At annual conference David and I ran into a friend, and fellow missionary, Patrick Whaley. Patrick lives in Tennessee and he works with the General Board of Global Mission’s (GBGM) Russian Initiative, which includes not only Russia, but Ukraine, Moldova and Georgia. He spends most of his time in Russia, but at the Ukrainian annual conference we learned that his visa to Russia had been denied (they do that to Americans sometimes) and he was stuck in Ukraine for almost two months.
Patrick and the bishop decided that Patrick could best serve the Church by making himself available to all the Ukrainian pastors for the next two months. He would go to the different churches in Ukraine and 1) preach to give pastors a rest, 2) help them to further develop their programs, 3) work on discipleship, 4) answer questions about Methodism, and 5) just be an outside support.
The Lviv United Methodist Church was lucky enough to have Patrick all last week. He arrived Monday morning on the 4:45am train from Uzghorod, and left on Thursday evening on the 9:30pm train to Chernivtsi. During the week he met with Lubomir, the pastor, Ira, a lay leader, David and me. Sometimes we met as a group, sometimes individually, and often he spent time just getting to know Lubomir and Ira.
They showed him around the city; they showed him their universities; they talked about their families; they shared where they are headed in life. He really was able to talk and relate to them, and they enjoyed being heard. Patrick was able to spend time getting to know Lubomir, Ira and their hearts before he sat down and talked about the ministry with them. It was amazing to see how much that helped him to see their strengths, passions, weaknesses and desires.
Patrick talked about the vision of the church. He talked about the big picture. Patrick also talked about a mission statement and goals. However, he didn’t forget about the small stuff and logistics also. What time should the service should be? What should it look like? He talked about the alumni from the student ministry, inviting new people, small groups, worship, who would light the candles on Sunday, who would greet people on Sundays, Sunday School, the youth group. We talked a lot.
And when I say Patrick talked, what I mean is that he lead a discussion, and really made Ira and Lubomir think about these questions and come up with answers that are relevant to the people in L’viv. He did not answer the questions for them, he introduced topics, gave examples and really pushed them to think. If the church in Lviv is going to grow and prosper, Ukrainians must be the ones to help accomplish this. They know their context best.
Patrick’s week with us came and went quickly but we were still able to accomplish a lot while he was here. It was a joy to be able to host another missionary for a week and learn from his experience, not only as a missionary, but as an experienced pastor. Thank you Patrick for all that you did for us.