Trip to Kiev, Ukraine

(Written primarily by Wes and edited with more details by Bernadine)

We arrived in Kiev, Ukraine a little after noon on Thursday. Leo and our host, Vasilly drove us to the private home where we would spend our next five nights. As we drove through Kiev, we were impressed with the size of the spread out city – the ‘oldness’ and the restoration taking place.

We were greeted by our hostess, Nadia and the comforting aroma of home cooked food. We were settled quickly into our room and shortly invited to ‘run to the market’ with Vasilly. What a supermarket! Just to tour through the different departments and see the vast variety was a nice adventure. And we were told that this particular store was smaller than many.

Everything about the trip and our stay was well organized by Leo Semenov. Serga who heads up the Ukranian Independent Baptist Association had arranged the agenda for the conference, and kept everything moving smoothly for the two days. There was excellent music to begin our day and to fill each break between sessions - a string orchestra, pianist and excellent vocalists. Even though we did not understand the words, we experienced our 'call to worship' each time they performed.

We saw many ladies walking on the streets toward the church as we drove in. Although we arrived quite early, ladies were already in the building and bustling about for registering and receiving their bags of supplies including the Russian translation of Her Husband is Known in the Gates book. The church building was exceptionally nice – seats about 500 to 600 people in the main auditorium. It was a welcome scene to see the continuing flow of attendees as they filled the seats.

Wearing a head dressing was something new for Bernadine and after many considerations, she secured her selected scarf and greeted the precious women of the Ukraine. Many of the ladies were weary from 8 hours driving or 10 hours on a train; yet they seemed patient and ready for sitting and absorbing. The church served meals and host homes were opened for those who had traveled to attend.

When Bernadine stood to speak, she was accompanied by Tanya a nice young lady who translated the talk into Russian. Bernadine was relaxed and put the ladies at ease immediately. She was warm, friendly and engaging and they immediately accepted her. She shared her background and they realized she was not from privilege - not another rich American coming in to correct their lives, but a woman who may have experienced early in life circumstances similar to their struggles.

It was obvious the translator was struggling. She soon became tired and had difficulty with many of the phrases. (Leo intervened in a kind manner to add to the clairity of the translation). After the first session, a young lady who was attending the conference wrote Leo a note about the translation. She requested that Leo do all the translation for better understanding. Leo learned that Lesya would help with translation, if wanted. She was confident that she could help.

There she stood with Bernadine on stage - bluejeans and no head dress in an auditorium of conservatively dressed women, totally comfortable and confident like a woman with a mission. As soon as Lesya began translating, it was obvious the Lord had sent her. She seemed to understand the intent of the message and was full of enthusiasm. She used the same motions and body language that Bernadine used. It was a great experience for me to see the Holy Spirit manifested through these two women. It reminded me of Pentecost!

Later we learned that Lesya [the translator] didn't want to attend the conference but a friend, Anna had insisted. They had a ten hour train ride to get to Kiev and Lesya's husband said, "Go and enjoy" although he was left with three young children to tend. Unknown to her, she was on a mission from the Lord. She had theological training in Ireland and understood and spoke English very well. It was fascinating to witness these two women working together.

The ladies in attendance obviously loved it. They had excellent questions and you could see that Bernadine really connected with them. There were many smiles and some tears. Lives were changed.

At the close of the conference on the second day, Bernadine learned that a lady had come into the church after seeing the book that the attendees had received. She wanted a book. Our Russian friends secured a book for her and she left. They were sharing this when the same lady wandered back into the auditorium and Bernadine walked quickly forward to greet her. She was an attractive 50 year old using a cane and happy to be able to walk again after medical care.

Lesya came alongside and Bernadine shared the Good News of salvation with the lady. She expressed an intense interest and seemed to latch onto every word. Toward the end of the conversation, she said that she wanted to return to her friends and pray privately. Bernadine suggested a prayer so that she would know how to receive Christ, along with the explanation that special words were not so important as the attitude of the heart. After speaking and translation of the suggested prayer, this beautiful young woman said, “that expresses exactly what is in my heart!” Lesya and Bernadine smiled and their eyes sent an understanding and rejoicing message.

Bernadine had been talking with Anna, the young lady who had insisted that she and Lesya attend this conference. Anna could speak some English and she seemed determined to have conversation with Bernadine. Shortly, we learned that Anna was a seeker and not saved. Deep conversation began when Lesya began to translate and in only a few minutes, dear Anna prayed the sinner’s prayer and her quiet tears and profession to others standing around displayed again the power of the work of the Holy Spirit. Yes, the Lord works in surprising ways.

The conference was a glorious success. Bernadine was unbelievable .... energy and love flowed from her. The evaluations were very positive. Serga shared that the ladies (in the office) who read the comments wept with joy.

The following day, Sunday, we both spoke to the whole congregation at a different church That night we returned and Bernadine spoke to their congregation. After the service, she spoke to their large youth group. This was surprising since these are very conservative churches who normally would not approve of women speaking in the church. She spoke each time with a head covering - a scarf or hat which is their custom.

Through the generous gifts from Pam Matthews and Steve Green (Hobby Lobby) we went bearing gifts of jewelry as door prizes. After quiet discussion with leadership, the decision was to withdraw from the original idea and to quietly gift those who were open to wearing some jewelry. Leo especially enjoyed this delightful task. And we are grateful for these two donors and those individuals who paid for books to gift to the ladies.

It was a great trip. We loved the host family where we stayed. They were very kind to us. The home cooked meals were delightful. We enjoyed their extended family as well. All of them worked together in the same host church, invited us to their homes for meals and we felt accepted, loved, and a part of the family. Just another blessing added to the marvelous work of the Holy Spirit as He touched hearts and lives. Tears wet Bernadine's cheeks as the car moved toward the airport at 4:00 A.M. on Tuesday. It was a wonderful mixture of sadness to leave new friends, closing out this wonderful experience which we pray will continue - the work of the Lord in lives, and quiet praises to the King of Kings for allowing us to be a part!!!

Dear Bernadine,
Thank you very much for Your coming to Ukraine and for the message You shared with all the women in Kiev!

It was a special unexpected blessing from the Lord to be part of His plan - to help with interpretation. Every time I remember how everything happened -I fall into silent awe before God - HE is indefinitely wise and high.

Dear Bernadine, if only I could translate to you all grateful words from all the ladies, whom I spoke to afterwards! Everyone was touched and moved by your simple open-hearted message, relevant for every woman, disregarding different nationalities or counties.

On behalf of all of them - THANK YOU! - dear sister in Christ for coming and sharing your experience of being a christian woman!

Also, I would like to thank you and everyone who made it happened - for the gift - YOUR BOOK IN RUSSIAN LANGUAGE! Honestly, this is FIRST (known to me) christian book for woman in Russian language that would be SO rooted in Christ and SO embracing famine. Somehow you managed to bring together in perfect balance - Christ centered roots of christian woman's life and acceptance of self's feminine beginning and destiny. THANK YOU!

Do you remember Anya, whom you led to Christ on Saturday's evening?

She is GROWING!!!! Next Sunday after conference we went to church, straight from the railway station, after an overnight train journey to Kharkov. And she confessed there in front of the church that she'd got saved and she is a Christian now. Our pastor met with her the following week. She reads her Bible and other christian books. She told me that on several occasions she felt that God was using your book to speak directly to the needs of her heart. She also was sharing with amazement that things that she had regarded as 'normal' in the past, for some reason became unattractive, meaningless or revolting for her. Last night she was present on our lady's small prayer group. She and my brother Roman have submitted necessary paperwork to register their marriage in December.

I am praying that God would grow her with His indefinite wisdom. As much as I can - I try to be there for her and to support her in her new life with Christ.

Please, pray for her new life in Christ and also, for me to be sensitive for her spiritual needs and to be ready to support her.

Dear Bernadine, on this Thanksgiving Day I Thank You and your Lord for Your example and your story! May God bless you abundantly in every part of you life!

Love in Christ,
Lesya Bondarenko