On towards Kiev!

Trip Start Jun 07, 2006
Trip End Jun 25, 2006

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Flag of Ukraine  ,
Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Originally we had wanted to tour Lviv with the mayor and the architectural director of Khust, but Ivan is concerned that having a brand new SUV in Lviv will make us a target for Polish thieves who follow new vehicles in a large town. He thought it better not to add this risk to our trip and lose everything and just go straight to Kiev.

From the Goluba Shayan we left for our crossing the scenic Carpathian Mountains with its scenic beech trees. The finest stands of beech trees in the world is right here. We winded across the mountains in the VW SUV. On straight-aways Ivan's speed would top 160 km per hour to the gasps of our three ladies Beverly, Katherine and Kassy in the back seat. If Ivan was behind trucks he skillfully made his way around them on the two lane highway. In places the landscape rivals that of Switzerland with villages in the valleys overseen by majestic mountains covered by deciduous trees which are a ultra colorful in the fall.

We stopped for lunch and petrol just before the town of Strij. Ivan filled up. The cashier prominently displayed a VISA sign. Confidently I pulled out my Visa card, but was quickly told that you have to tell the cashier BEFORE the petrol is put into the car that you are using a credit card. And, now, there was NOTHING that she could do about the sale and we had to pay in cash. We stopped at the restaurant for lunch. We saw a Visa sign again and stated BEFORE we ate that we wanted to use our Visa card. We were sullenly told that they do not take Visa for food....only for gas. Arghh! Ivan Yurishko told us that cetain Western touches have not yet come to Ukraine. We noticed.

Now we had to put on the kilometers. I sadly passed Dubno and Hoscha where some of my family lives. I have cousins in both those towns. But, this trip was so tightly planned around our visit to Transcarpathia, Chernobyl and having a foursome and further detailed travel to Estonia, Finland and Sweden, I just couldn't make those stops. Furthermore, you cannot stop in for a few minutes or an hour. A visit is a lengthy exercise in hospitality and I just couldn't do it now. I hope to come again with my brother Oleh sometime and make only a family visit and keep the other activities I do in Ukraine separate.

We took the bypass around Lviv. We still had no definite plans for where to stay on this journey. Finding a safe place to keep the vehicle overnight is of paramount importance. Also, we don't want to find ourselves in Kiev where the hotels are very expensive.

All of sudden a thought strikes Ivan. He makes a few calls on his cell phone. He is talking to an acquaintance Arkady Margulis in the city of Zhitomer, about 100 miles east of Kiev. Ivan tells us that through his aunt he met a group of Messianic Jews in Zhitomer. Arkady was their pastor. Last year this group sent a number of their children to our LifeNets youth summer camp in the Carpathian mountains. Ivan met Arkady's wife who was also one of the camp counselors. Ivan put all this together and called to see if we could at least find a safe place for our vehicle in Zhitomer.

He called Arkady who immediately asked where we planned to stay. We said that we had nothing particular in mind, but were looking for a hotel. They told us not to worry....they would take care of us. We agreed to have Arkady meet us on the western outskirts of Zhitomer near a well-known roundabout.

Arkady appeared in a 30 year old car filled with other people. The car smoked, made funny noises -- but it did chug along. We stopped after a few kilometers, let some people out and headed to a slightly dilapidated neighborhood. At first we thought the car had a flat tire.

We came to a gated property (which most are) and Arkady opens a gate and Ivan backs in the VW. Behind an old house we see rising a beautifully-built church. There was something so different about this building compared to the usual construction of Ukrainian buildings as you looked at the detail of the bricks and mortar. The bricks were polished. The mortar was smooth and rounded. Great care was taken to make the building look right. We were led inside the building and saw a fellowship hall and then were led into the main meeting hall. The benches for people to sit on were well-maintained. Up front there was a low stage that had a sunken and covered-over baptismal. There were five arches representing the five books of Moses, 12 columns representing the 12 tribes of Israel and the sun's radiation representing the shining light of God's Word. Everything was built so well.

We then went out back where Arkady showed us a children's nursery care center run by the church as well as a warehouse and garages. The church here has about 150 members. They hold services on the Sabbath, but then go out to one of five outlying churches for an afternoon service.

We went in where church volunteer ladies served us a dinner of chicken, cucumbers, tomatoes, bread and sparkling water. Arkady's stories were fascinating about Jews in former Soviet Union and their work to teach Christ to them. 99% of all Jews in the former Soviet Union are atheists not reconciling the Holocaust with a caring God.

He started this group eight years ago in an apartment with some older ladies. The group grew quickly and they needed a bigger place in which to meet. A group of Swiss visitors came to visit memorabilia of the Holocaust and met Arkadij. They asked Arkadij about his needs and he told them of their growing group and the need to buy a bigger place in which to meet in. It cost $9000, but he could not afford it. The women held hands and prayer for 20 minutes. Afterwards, they came to the conclusion that they would buy they building for the growing church.

There was property behind the old building and in time they outgrew the building and that led to the building of the current impressive new church.

The Messianic group also operates 12 soup kitchens for the orphans, elderly and those unable to feed themselves in the region. They serve 520 meals a day. I asked if the government helped them in any way. They said that the biggest help they got from the government was that government didn't interfere with their work. Other than that, the government didn't help them at all.

Arkadij recounted story after story of Jewish genocide in World War II. He just returned from Poland the day before. He sometimes travels with German groups who come to places such as Auschwitz near Krakow where millions were gassed and burned by the Germans. These people come and pray and ask God forgiveness for the actions of their parents and grandparents. It was a touching story. Touching, too, were stories of Jews coming to repentance and accepting Jesus Christ who would let go in their minds of the atrocities committed by the Germans Here in Zhitomer 70,000 Jews died in World Wr II. The decimation of the Jewish population was complete in this town. It was an stimulating and educational evening.

We gave Arkadij several lessons of United Church of God's Bible Study Course. Ivan Yurishko had printed 3000 copies of the lesson and we had 200 copies with us. Arkadij was reading the lesson with interest and was looking forward to future lessons.

A note about our printing of United Church of God literature in Ukraine: I brought over the PDF's that will be used too print five lessons of the Study Course and one Swedish booklet. The lessons will each have a printing of 3000 copies and the Swedish "Road to Eternal Life" a run of 700 copies. We also discussed mailing out the lessons from Khust, Ukraine and St. Petersburg, Russia. I love working with Ivan because everything seems possible and we're able to make headway. The current printing project is a big step forward in the preaching the Gospel.

So, where did we sleep for the night? The church has a hotel-like setup on top of the meeting hall for travelers like us! We were given three rooms for our group that were of excellent quality and comfort. They made us feel special in every way. With all the Stars of David as part of the design of the hotel, they jokingly said that their hotel was a six star hotel! We howled with laughter.

Another day.....another adventure!!
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merrittsse on

Fascinating post!
Hi Mr Kubik, this is Scott Merritt, Dr. Merritt's 3rd son. This is the first time I've read of anyone having contact with Messianics in Ukraine. I assume these people had no real connection with Subotniki? That's a great story. It's amazing to me how many believers there are in pockets around the world, who came to their understanding from so many different angles! My wife's family is also from Dubno, so I was interested to hear that you had cousins there too! Small world. She's told me often about how beautiful the countryside is there and how she loves the people. Someday, when we have a little money in our pocket, we'll head that direction too. Maybe we'll find your Messianic friends on the way and spend a sabbath with them!
Keep up the good work, Shalom.
-Scott S E Merritt -Johnovich :)

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