Another Day in Vinogradov

Sunday, January 14, 2007
Khust, Ukraine
Every day is just FULL of interesting meetings and happenings. Today was no exception.

It's so much fun to see our host Ivan Yurishko with his newborn son. Ivan becomes a child himself as he communicates in baby talk to newborn Serhiy.

I am looking forward to going out to Vinogradov again today to see the street children and orphans. I have gotten to know most of the children by name, know many of their stories and feel a strong bond with them. We plan to meet at Polichko's at noon in the dining hall in the center of Vinogradov.

A Theological Discussion

But, first, I walked down three houses from Yurishko's to pastor Vasyl Mondich's home for some more discussion about the Holy Days. Transcarpathian Sabbatarians are increasingly accepting the Holy Days and keeping them in special combined services. People from various Transcarpathian congregations come to Khust for High Day services. It's an amazing development. When I first visited this area in November 1992, my first sermon was "Why WE keep the Holy Days." This was one of the biggest differences between our beliefs and theirs at that time. Sabbath-keepers had trouble with the Holy Days when a few negative experiences of Holy Day enthusiasts led people away from Christ into Judaism. Men began to wear beards, grow their sideburns and valued Judaism over Christ. For this reason strong resistance to the Holy Days of Leviticus 23 was developed..

In 1992 the Church translated the booklet about God's Holy Days into Ukrainian and Russian but it was largely ignored. However, other Sabbatarians in Kherson at the mouth of the Dnieper River accepted them, but virtually no one kept them in Transcarpathia. Transcarpathai is where we visited most and had humanitarian and an Ambassador College summer project to teach English as a Second Language.

In conversation with Vasyl Mondich we addressed a problem they have with the dating of Pentecost. They start the counting after the first High Sabbath. Of course, with this calculation the day of the week that Pentecost ends up on can vary. I asked them WHY they counted from the first Holy Day. Vasyl got out a Torah/Russian translation and we checked the word "Sabbath" in Leviticus 23:15. In that particular work, the word translated Sabbath is indeed "High Sabbath" into the Russian. That seemed odd to me. On my laptop I have the Brown-Driver-Briggs Hebrew lexicon as well as Vine's Expository Dictionary of the Old Testament. Carefully checking the meaning of the word Sabbath there is no indication that it is any more than the word "Sabbath" without any modifiers. This was a revelation to Vasyl as the Russian Bible was wrong and the commentary that went with it. The evening before I downloaded our Church's booklet on the Holy Days, but it did not address this question nor mention anything about when to count from.

Vasyl is the person that is asked more than anyone about the Holy Days in Transcarpathia. He is well-respected, had been the head of the Union of the Christians of the Seventh Day and pastor of the Khust Church. He told me that he really needed a correct answer as people are coming more and more to keeping the Holy Days and need to get it right from the get go and not have to be changing the date and adding to confusion. I told him that I'd make getting further information for him a priority after I returned home to the United States.

Our conversation turned to evangelism and starting churches in Ukraine. He said that interest is strong in the true teaching of the Bible and asked if we could work together to actually build congregations. This is a quantum leap in my thinking. It's also a very interesting concept. There are a number of barriers as their structure and governance is loose r than I am accustomed to. Issues of doctrine don't reach flash points as congregations usually don't split over doctrine. When there is a change as is currently happening with Holy Day observance, allowance is made to either keep or not keep the Holy Days. They do not want to see their churches split with people stomping off and splitting over doctrine. In one church in Kherson there are two co-pastors. One has observed the Holy Days for years since accepting them from our booklet in 1993. The other pastor is adamant that we should not keep them. For now, they have surprisingly been able to keep the Church unified. Breaking into two groups was not even a question and the the pastors are best friends. What I found is that people are eager to talk intensely about doctrine and discuss all nuances and do not seem to allow themselves to have hurt feelings over differences. When they talk, they open their Bibles and go through passages word for word. Then they come to some kind of agreement or decide to keep the issue open.

Doctrinal changes are decided at their annual conferences which are held in December/January when the issues are formally presented, discussed and voted on. The subject of the Holy Days has been coming up, but it does not yet have majority support. Some of the pastors who were adamant are more neutral. Yesterday, the pastor of the Rokosova Church who also happens to be the head of all the Churches in Transcarpathia and is opposed to keeping of the Holy Days was happy to have me give a sermon and warmly invited me to his home for the evening meal. He told me how much he appreciated seeing me again in Ukraine and to come again. I am very careful about being viewed as someone who is instigating change, but I am told by various people that when the time is right, change will come and it will not be of man's doing.

Speaking of involvement in theological discussion, I wanted to have the Sabbatarians help me with exact wording for the three radio commercial scripts advertising the Bible Study Course in Ukrainian. I'll be taping those commercials for broadcast on Pere Raadio in Tartu, Estonia next week in Tartu, Estonia. I sat at the kitchen table with Ivan and Nina Yurishko and read the scripts to them. While going through the text about the immortal soul, Nina had some immediate questions about the soul, body, spirit and asked what that meant. Even thought it was getting towards midnight (this actually happened at the end of this day) they really wanted to know and discuss in detail about the spirit and body and what we taught. We ended up talking about this point for about half an hour and turned to the scriptures in question about soul, body, heaven, hell and spirit.

One more thing about their priorities. They rejoice at every effort to evangelize and preach the gospel. From my first working with these people in 1991, I noted that this is their very first priority-to preach the Gospel and help people who are being brought to repentance. Yesterday at Sabbath services Vasyl Nemsh described his trip to Kazakhstan and seeing people come to conversion. His train trip from Moscow to Kazakhstan took an entire week one way.

An Afternoon with the Children of Vinogradov

Well, it's time to go to kids in Vinogradov. Ivan Yurishko picked me up at Vasyl's place (Ivan and Vasyl are brothers-in-law) We will also take Dr. Vladimir Rishko a pediatric orthopedic doctor with us so we can understand and further assess Katya Zedvi's kidney condition. Dr. Rishko had been attending Sabbath Services and is a board member of LifeNets Ukraine. He is good-natured, has a great sense of humor and a good companion.

We arrived at Vasyl and Irina Polichko's place where our summer foursome met with them twice. Each time I'm with the children, I feel more familiar with them and their names come to me right away. Slava (17) and his sister Edita (16) greeted me warmly. Edita was busy mopping the floor in the meeting hall getting ready for the children to come in, sing and have Bible class. She came up warmly to me and started talking and told me how much she missed not seeing Beverly. The chidren kept referring to one of the other girls whom that they called Ondika (who is actually Edita's aunt). I didn't know that that girl as Ondika but as Adriana. "Oh, yes, she's Adrian, but Ondika is her Hungarian name" Edita said. Slava, Edita and Ondika's mother and late grandmother were Hungarian. Vinogradov is only a five miles from the Hungarian border. They all speak Hungarian, as well as Ukrainian and Russian fluently. Before we left, Adriana came up to me and told me she loved me and to not wait too long before coming again. This just really does something to me. I value my experience with these children who have really been transformed by the Polichko's love; Their work is a real testament to what caring love can do to children who are neglected and come from dysfunctional families.

I was anxiously waiting to see ten-year-old Katya. She arrived but her mother went elsewhere. She was very open, friendly and expressive. As mentioned before, her mother is a gypsy. Even at her young age, Katya is quite a cook. Vasyl and Irina Polichko told me that they stopped by there one time and Katya made soup and was completely in control of the menu and serving of food on the table.

Dr. Rishko talked to her about her condition. Katya had been in the Vinogradov hospital for nearly a month and will be going on to the children's hospital in Mukachevo where she will be undergoing some medical procedures. Her condition, thankfully, will not require a kidney transplant, but one kidney is congenitally deformed and causes spinal and other pains. I spent time through the afternoon talking to her, too. She is very expressive, trusting and open. She wanted my camera to take pictures as she had in the summer time. She took lots of photos. I had two digital cameras along and had the kids take turns and take three photos apiece.

We held our usual singing session and afterwards they asked me to come and just talk to the children. I don't consider this my strong area and asked the children what they would like to know about where I come from. That led to an animated discussion about my family, the church, my work in the Church, children and what they do in the US. Then a discussion ensued about video games. Video games are becoming the rage with children in Ukraine and we discussed this phenomenon that they consider very troubling in the development of children..

Then we went to lunch. To save on heat, the Polichko's heat only two rooms in the building. They are the meeting hall and dining room. Otherwise all the rooms are the same temperature as the outside.

After lunch we hung around with the kids and worked our way back to Khust. When we arrived back at the Yurishko's home, it was time to go to Ivan's sister Svetlana and brother-in-law Yura Hetzko's home for chicken barbecue. They live in Lipitska Polyana where Ivan is from. It's about a half hour away up the mountain towards Kushnitsa. Yura has a construction company in St. Petersburg, Russia and does quite well. His home is huge. He has an indoor swimming pool, and many many rooms with the most modern things such as computers, large LCD TV screen, indoor gym and much more more. One of the businesses he owns is the the cement mixing business he shares with his brother-in-law Ivan..

Dinner is ultra tasty. We bbq'd chicken on the outside grill. They also put sliced potatoes on the grill then put raw onions in oil on them.

Ivan's other sister Halya who is also from Lipitska Polyna and her daughter Halya cmee by. Ivan Yurishko's mother lives with them. It was nice to see so much of Ivan's family.

On the way home we saw fireworks. What's this?? It's New Year's!. Again, it's the Julian Calendar and it's 13 days behind the Gregorian Calendar. The night before we heard firecrackers all through the night.

Back at the house we worked on the wording for the radio commercials that I will do for the United Church of God Bible Study Course.
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Thank you!
Thank you for this update, Victor, and thanks too for the message you sent through Bev. I just love reading along; your writing is so natural.


Thanks again Victor. It is so enjoyable to hear how the people there think and to hear the passion in your writing over the children and those you know there.

Hope the rest of your trip goes as well.
Best regards,
The Nettles Family


Victor, thank you thank you THANK YOU for all of the pictures. I was so happy to see the children (and proud of myself that I was able to match up names and faces without help!), but especially so to see Katya in some of them. You say you love the's easy to see that they love you, too.