Early Christianity revisited in modern Ukraine

November 29, 2010

Dr. Threinen (third from left) and eight seminary students recently received copies of The Book of Concord in Russian.

by Norman Threinen

It never ceases to amaze me how personally relevant theology often is for students attending seminary classes in foreign mission areas! When I began teaching courses on Early Christianity and the Survey of the Bible at the seminary in Odessa, Ukraine, I expected that a study of the Bible would personally touch the student’s lives and professor alike; it always does in many ways. But the most memorable experience for me came as we looked at the growth of the church in the Early Christianity course. Quite naturally, the topic came up of the way people became members of the Christian church in the centuries following the period of the New Testament.

The topic prompted one student to tell his story. His wife came to faith after she accepted an invitation to attend worship from another young mother whom she met in a park. Merely tolerant at first, he came to faith when he saw how his wife changed following her conversion to Christianity and, as he waited for her after church. he observed how happy church people seemed in spite of really difficult times. Similar stories from other students told me this student’s story was not unique. Having come out from under Communism only twenty years ago, people are experiencing conditions much like those of the early Christians. It is simply amazing that despite having the Christian Gospel in this country for more than 1,000 years this should be the case.

Reflecting on the first weeks of classes, I am gratified to note that our student body of eight men are relating to one another well. Some have a better background of knowledge and some enter into the discussions more readily than others, but judging by the diligence with which they attend to their studies, all are serious about becoming pastors in the church. For some it means being apart from their families for periods of six weeks while they attend seminary. For all it will mean facing an uncertain economic future when they are finished seminary training since SELCU congregations have not yet learned to support their pastors.

I continue to appreciate the skill Pastor Oleg Schewtschenko brings to translating my lectures, and for the presence of my dear wife, Muriel.

Dr. Norman J. Threinen is rector of Concordia Seminary, Odessa, Ukraine

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Chilly news from Ukrainian seminary

November 4, 2010

by Norman Threinen
The nights are getting longer, the weather colder, coughs and colds more common, sweaters and warm jackets worn both inside and outside. And the little band of future preachers for the Synod of Evangelical Lutheran Churches in Ukraine is faced with a grim reality—the promised natural gas hook-up which was to provide heat for the new seminary building for the cold winter ahead will not materialize until spring 2011 at the earliest.

Since we rely on electrical heaters for some warmth we hope the occasional power outages are few and short-lived. And we pray for a mild winter!

Odessa seminary students face cool classes until a natural gas line is connected


In the midst of these difficulties, the eight students, translator and professor remain in good spirits. Our cook, Larisa, is providing a somewhat varied menu for meals. She has become a genuine house-mother, beaming as students come back for seconds of borsch and chiding a student on occasion for not finishing his plate of food.

In the academic area, more gifted students help other students who struggle to understand the problems associated with the current courses: New Testament Introduction and Lutheran Confessions. Tatania, our new interpreter from Lviv, is finding it necessary to expand both her Russian and English vocabulary with the help of textbooks we use and is meeting the challenge admirably.

As the instructor, I’ve have found it interesting to work with four different translations of the Book of Concord in my Lutheran Confessions course: my English Tappert translation; a Ukrainian translation; and two Russian translations, one translated from English and the other translated from the original German and Latin. Each student will receive personal copies of the Russian volumes when they arrive from Finland, but everything seems to take longer in Ukraine than back home.

My personal four-month tour of duty will extend until November 28, hopefully before the snow and the subzero weather come.

Rev. Dr. Norman Threinen is rector of Concordia Seminary in Odessa, Ukraine. He is a professor emeritus of Concordia Lutheran Seminary, Edmonton, Alberta.


Nicaraguan church celebrates Reformation

November 1, 2010

by Rev. Dr. Ralph Mayan

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They came from congregations as far away as Rivas and Granada, from Matagalpa and Jinotega. More than three hundred people gathered in Martin Luther Chapel to celebrate the 493rd Anniversary of the Lutheran Reformation this past Sunday. They joined in the liturgy of the church; sang hymns of faith including Luther’s “A Mighty Fortress is our God.” They understood why they had come together.

“We have not gathered to celebrate the life of Martin Luther as if he were some kind of Lutheran saint. We celebrate what he discovered through his study of Holy Scripture. We celebrate God’s grace and that central Bible teaching that we are saved by God’s grace through faith on account of the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.” 

Fed with the Word of God and nourished with the body and blood of Christ, participants departed strengthened and encouraged for the work Christ has given to His church in Nicaragua. 

This was the first time the Synod has held such a large event. It was a challenge for the Synod Committee.  It had to consider transportation arrangments from the 22 plus congregations, table and chair rentals, and providing a light lunch for everyone following the service. With the support of volunteers, they met the challenge and the church was blessed. 

Members from small congregations were amazed at the number of people who gathered. They had no idea the church was so large! And everyone had the opportunity to meet brothers and sisters in the faith from other congregations and communities in the social hour that followed.


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