“Then Jesus said to Simon, ‘Don’t be afraid; from now on you will fish for people” (Lk5:10b).
Twelve years ago our Lincoln Park UBF adopted the Minsk ministry and we have been supporting them with prayer and practical support over the years. They informed us that at the end of April they were going to celebrate the 20th anniversary of their ministry. When others from our chapter were unable to get vacation days to go, I decided to go myself. At the end of February I had a chance to speak with Walter Nett, who attended our North American staff conference. Through that conversation I decided to stop by Germany on my way to visit Minsk. Shepherd Walter suggested that I visit the three large chapters and have Bible study. Since we just finished making Bible study materials on the book of Titus, I decided to study Titus chapter 2, through which I learned so much. This is a brief report of my visits in Germany and Minsk.
On Wednesday, April 25th I visited Heidelberg UBF. Msn. Kaleb Hong met me at the train station, and we spent personal time together that day. I was glad to reconnect with him, after not being in Germany for over ten years. In the evening the coworkers and students gathered and we studied Titus chapter 2. I met Regina, who had been in Chicago last year and is studying to be a teacher, as well as Sophia and Tony. Tony comes from an Assyrian Orthodox family, and it has been difficult for him to share his faith with them, but through this struggle he has grown a lot. I was so thankful to have fellowship with Reiner and Dr. Brigette, Birgit, Dr. Markus, Martin, Aidan, Joanna, and several women missionaries. I also met Reiner’s eldest son Johannes, who is now taller than his parents. I stayed at Msn. Kaleb’s home, and in the morning we all gathered at the center for breakfast and fellowship. Reiner and Brigette’s two younger sons, Joel (9) and Tim (6), are adorable. Joel is passionate about gymnastics, and Tim loves horses and riding his unicycle. I thank God for this beautiful community of God’s people. I pray that God may continue to use them to reach out to the students at the university, as well as to serve various missionaries throughout Germany. They are praying for their May Spring Conference, and that God will bless Aidan, who is going to YonHee UBF later this month to get married.
On Thursday, April 26th I visited Bonn UBF. On the train ride there I unexpectedly met Msn. Hanna Ryu from Mainz, and we shared joyful fellowship. At the center Dr. Peter and Sarah Chang graciously welcomed me, and we had lunch with other coworkers. Afterwards, Peter Ryu, Maria Park and Msn. Stephanus took me to the Museum of History, which recounts German history since World War II. It was a powerful story of the miraculous change of a nation. Through it I realized God’s goodness to the German people, who have been through so much. Then I had dinner with the new generation leaders. It was great to see them again and learn how they are doing. I was amazed that Dr. Maria already has two children. After dinner we went to the center to study Titus chapter 2. About 30 members joined. I was so happy to see Peter and Anja Schweitzer, Heidi and Xenofon Gregoriadis, Joachim and Elke Dietzel, Stefan Elsholz, Jochen Schweitzer, Christoph and Hanna Tornau, Petrus and Sarah Eunjie Chang, Johannes and Deborah, and a student named Sujan. In the morning we had breakfast at the Bonn UBF center. I learned that some of the leaders recently attended a meeting with evangelical leaders of Europe and had shared a German translation they had made of Pastor Ok’s book on discipleship. After breakfast we went to see their new center, which they will begin using in July. They’re praying that through the study of the Book of Nehemiah they may build a spiritual center to serve God’s purpose. They also want to learn the meaning of new life in Jesus at their May conference, and that two new students may come to Bible study each week. Friday morning we took a long walk in a Bonn nature preserve, then Dr. Peter Chang and Msn. Stephanus drove me to the Koln UBF center.
On Friday, April 27th I visited Koln UBF. Coming down the driveway to the center I saw two men in the distance and thought they were students. But when we got closer, I realized that they were Pastor Abraham and Shepherd Walter. They look so young. I stayed with Walter and Wynelle Nett’s family. She served delicious dumpling stew for lunch, and I met their lovely youngest daughter Rebecca, and later, their son Peter. They live in an apartment right in the middle of campus. In the late afternoon we went to the center to have Bible study on Titus 2 with various coworkers. I was so happy to see Dr. Ulrike Gross, Volker Keller, Abraham and Sarah Lee, Knut Rohrmoser, Elia Lee, Grace and Joy Lee, and a young man named Willhelm. We had a lively discussion on the Bible passage. After dinner with Koln UBF leaders, we had another group study on Titus 2 with other coworkers: Rainer Wieland, Michael Pohl, Stephanus Lee, Antonia Theis, Daniella Yoo, and, Samuel and Joy Kim who used to live in Virginia and co-work with Chris and Christine Kelly. Very early in the morning Walter and Wynelle drove me to the train station to leave for Minsk. Koln UBF will have their May conferences fellowship by fellowship. Coworkers each developed their own creative conference programs. They’re praying that new students may attend and open their hearts to the gospel.
From April 28-May 1 I visited Minsk UBF. Initially, my visa application was rejected; I found this out while I was in California. So I decided to just travel to Minsk and apply for a visa at the airport. The official was suspicious of why I had come. He said some of the cash I had brought to pay for my visa was counterfeit and made me go with a soldier to a bank to get different cash. In the end, they granted me a visa, which I believe was an answer to his servants’ prayers.
The previous week, Yaroslav and Larissa from Kiev UBF had come to attend their worship service and encourage them. During my visit Dr. Hannah Oh was in Korea recording the narration for a T.V. station documentary on Belarus. I met Paul Oh’s son Sam, who is 15. He was eager to speak with me in English. I was so surprised at how much he had grown up. When we arrived at Paul Oh’s apartment, students quickly gathered. We had Bible study on Luke 5 and ate pizza together. Lyra, Pamela, Sergei, Yeo Joon, Yeo Nyeong and Oon Sang joined. Despite the language barriers, we communicated well. They were all so sincere toward the word of God.
Oon Sang is Paul Oh’s nephew. His mother sent him to Belarus to study the Bible with his uncle, Paul Oh, and to study medicine. He liked it so much that he invited his friend from Korea, Yeo Joon, who also came to Belarus to study medicine. Yeo Joon then invited his younger sister Yeo Nyeong, who came as well and is also studying medicine. Now they all come to Minsk UBF. We spoke partly in English, partly in Russian and partly in Korean. Pamela is from Nigeria. Her dad worked at the Nigerian Embassy in Moscow, where she first studied Russian. Then she came to Belarus to study Economics. Lyra is a native Belarusian who first met Dr. Hannah Oh as one of her students studying the Korean language. Sergei is half Belarusian and half Japanese. I was so happy to see this precious ministry.
On Sunday at the worship service Msn. Paul Oh spoke on Mark 13, and I shared my life testimony. Afterwards, we ate lunch together and talked for several hours. Then a few of us took the subway to downtown Minsk, where we walked around and saw all the sights for about 3 hours. The whole country is getting ready for a big celebration on May 9, “Victory Day,” when they celebrate their national independence. I learned that this country suffered the worst casualties from World War II of any nation, when one third of their entire population died due to the Nazi invasion in 1939, and later, due to the Soviet invasion. Belarus is now a peaceful and quiet country. People really love their children. There are very few foreigners.
On Monday morning, Lydia Oh, who is 17, took me to a nearby park for another 2-hour walk. Msn. Paul Oh made breakfast and lunch, and I had a chance to speak with him. I learned that it is possible to live in Belarus permanently as an English teacher or American Embassy worker, or perhaps enter the university as a graduate student. In the evening I met another student, Yong Bum Shin, who is studying the Russian Language. We all gathered at a restaurant, where Yeo Jung and Yeo Nyeong invited us to dinner. We had joyful eating fellowship.
I thank God who has helped Msn. Paul and Dr. Hannah Oh’s family to remain on this mission field until now, who has helped their two children Lydia and Sam to grow so well, and who helps this family to continue to share the word of God. I pray that God may bless the young people there to grow as Jesus’ disciples and witnesses, and that God may raise faithful coworkers for Msn. Paul and Dr. Hannah Oh.
Through visiting UBF chapters in Germany and Minsk and studying God’s word with his people I realized that Jesus by his grace is still calling us. He wants us to refocus, from lives of working hard for our own survival to following him and learning how to fish for people. Many of our UBF chapters are facing challenges and problems, and we all have our own fears to overcome. But Jesus’ words still speak to us: “Don’t be afraid; from now on you will fish for people.” I pray that God may bless his precious people in all these places to keep following Jesus and learning from him, so that he may use them to fish new native young people from the campuses of Germany and Belarus for his kingdom.
Reported by P. Mark Vucekovich