Church Within a Church - Friends from Ukraine

Church Within a Church - Friends from Ukraine

June 7, 2024 by Gregg DeMey

It’s a bit of a mystery how the church managed to spread from a small group of frightened disciples huddled together in an upper room in Jerusalem in 33 A.D. all the way to the ends of the earth 2,000 years later. Jesus of Nazareth is the most famous person who has ever lived. His message is the most compelling and repeated set of truths ever shared. His followers make up the single greatest collection of people that has ever been amassed.

There is no easy explanation for the spread of the church and the success of Jesus’ message. I’m inclined to credit supernatural causes and point to the work of the Holy Spirit! However, the Holy Spirit has used all sorts of common human causes along the way. Some of the early causes were cultural: Roman roads, a common language (Greek) spoken across the Mediterranean world, etc. God has also consistently used more painful circumstances: persecution, drought, famine, war, or in the case of my own family, a cancer diagnosis in the early 1900’s that led to a trans-Atlantic journey seeking medical care and support in the USA.

Since February 2022, when Russia unjustly invaded Ukraine, more than 14 million people have been forced to flee their homes in that war-torn land. More than 6 million Ukrainians have fled across international borders, with hundreds of thousands coming to the United States. About or approximately 30,000 have sought asylum right here in Chicagoland, the second largest resettlement area in the USA after New York City. Though the human toll of the Ukraine war is vast and tragic, there is also the possibility of God using this moment to spread healing and a message of a better Kingdom.

Over the last few months, we’ve been exploring the possibility of sharing some hospitality and some of our space with an emerging church that is reaching out to the flood of recent immigrants from Eastern Europe called the Bible Church of Ukraine. The beginnings of this congregation were written up a year ago in Christianity Today magazine. Pastor Sergei Karpenko and a leadership team of Ukrainians have been visiting ECRC as we’ve been developing a relationship and investigating how we can collaborate together.

Starting in June, we’ll begin a three-month trial period, approved by our Elders and Senior Leadership Team, with the Bible Church of Ukraine meeting on Friday evenings at ECRC for Bible Study and on Sunday afternoons for worship. We want to support this emerging congregation to reach out to new immigrants, which our English-speaking congregation wouldn’t be able to successfully reach. Hopefully, our whole church will be introduced to Pastor Sergei and some of his key leaders in a worship service later this month. Stay tuned!

There are so many signs of life around our community these days: we welcomed dozens of new members in late May, we witnessed 27 Professions of Faith just this last Sunday, hundreds of kids will be on our campus for Spring Hill Camp in just a couple of weeks, we have a new congregation taking root out of our church, and there’s even more that’s brewing that isn’t quite ready to be made public quite yet. God is stirring up new things and I’m so grateful to have a front-row seat to see what great things are ahead.

Pastor Gregg

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