President Bugbee’s marathon Maritimes tour

September 12, 2010

Dear friends,

It’s Sunday night and I am at Trudeau Airport in Montreal, winging my way back home to Winnipeg after a weekend preaching tour of our LCC stations in Atlantic Canada.

I flew Friday from Winnipeg (via Toronto and Montreal) to Charlottetown, capital of Prince Edward Island. Locals tell me it’s a shame it was overcast. I only caught sight of our tiniest province when the plane descended through the clouds on its final descent to the runway. Glad we weren’t late! I arrived about 5:15 p.m., and the first service was set to begin at 6:30 p.m.

Pastor David Milette of Moncton met me at the airport, and within minutes we were driving through this calm, picturesque little capital city to “All Souls Chapel,” the sacred site for our worship. All Souls stands beside the Anglican cathedral of Charlottetown (called St. Peter’s), and the host congregation has graciously offered this place for services free of charge. In recent years, a number of Lutheran people have moved to PEI, but there is no Lutheran congregation. Pastor Milette and the mission-minded church in Moncton have reached out with monthly services for a while now, aided in recent months by a seminary summer vicar who lived in Charlottetown.

A handful of worshipers arrived for the service. Pastor Milette presided, while I preached and tried my hand at the chapel organ. Afterward we lingered and talked with those who attend, most of whom are not native “Islanders,” but have come from far-flung places like Calgary, Winnipeg, Nova Scotia—and, in one case, a woman who returned to her native PEI after decades in western Canada.

Later we drove the “Confederation Bridge” and returned to Moncton, arriving just before 1 a.m. Pastor Milette’s wife, Doris (a former treasured church member of mine from St. Catharines, Ont.), opened their home and a guest room, where I quickly drifted off to sleep.

Moncton is called the “hub” of Atlantic Canada, and it became the hub of this weekend’s travels. On Saturday I drove with Pastors Milette and Paul Williams the three hours to Dartmouth, Nova Scotia. We stopped in Truro for wonderful seafood (at Murphy’s Fish-and-Chips downtown … try it when you’re in Truro). One of the proprietors seemed gladdened by having three pastors in the restaurant, and asked me to pray for her business as we left, which I gladly did. There is an extraordinary friendliness here among waiters in restaurants, I find.

By 4 p.m. we were ready to begin the service at Faith in Dartmouth. Members assembled in the small house/chapel as I preached again. Afterwards, we had an indoor picnic downstairs in the fellowship room. This congregation may be an outpost, and may be small, but the people obviously treasure each other’s company. Members stayed for a long time, chatting and telling the stories of how they came to live in this area and find their way to our church here. A graduate student from Ontario, a Nova Scotia native trying to get re-adjusted after years in Saskatchewan, and others with fascinating stories of their pilgrimages in life and in the faith fill our time. It was already dark when we got into the car for the three-hour return drive back to Moncton.

Sunday morning brought a service at Good Shepherd, Moncton, a place whose progress I’ve followed with interest since the 1980s, but which I had never visited. This was a big day for the congregation! In the morning I preached at the regular service, then enjoyed a wonderful fellowship dinner. Then, I took an after-lunch tour of Kingswood Academy, a day-care in a new building right next door to the church.

Upstairs in the same new structure Concordia Academy is launching its first academic year as a Lutheran school. Kingswood is a stunning success and is already hoping to expand the building, since many young families are streaming into Moncton. The hope is it will prove a source of students for Concordia, and the Lord may provide many mission prospects through these ministry efforts.

At 3 p.m. we marked the opening service for the new school year where I preached the last sermon of the weekend. I’m deeply impressed by the devotion of Pastor and Doris Milette and by the willingness of Concordia’s new developer/principal Deacon Shelaine Clasper, who recently accepted the call here after ten years in Prince George, B.C. (Not to mention her “grit” in driving alone all the way across Canada to get to Moncton!)

There’s much more to tell, and … I’m convinced … great prospects to expand the Lord’s work and ultimately to plant congregations in Atlantic Canada. As I rush off to my next airplane, I ask you to hold these preaching stations, their leaders and people, in your prayers.

Greetings in Christ, the Harvest’s great Lord,

Robert Bugbee, President

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Looking back and looking forward: God’s blessings in Ukraine

August 26, 2010

by Norman Threinen

What a difference twelve years has made in the work of theological education in Ukraine! 

In July 1998 when I arrived in Odessa to begin seminary education it was directed largely at lay pastors who were already serving congregations; Bishop Viktor Graefenstein was the only ordained pastor in an emerging church which would become the Synod of Evangelical Lutheran Churches in Ukraine (SELCU). At that time, there were only two city congregations and two village congregations involved. 

Dr. Threinen (centre) and members of the first seminary class in Kamenka

Although I was received warmly, the customs and immigration process was quite scary.  On forms which had no English, I had to make a precise accounting of money I was carrying; I could only guess what my answers should be! Officials searched all my luggage. And after I arrived, the first order of business was taking my passport to the police station to register my presence.

In 2010 all of this is changed.  Ukraine does not require a for Westerners staying less than six months. No accounting of funds under $1,000. No luggage checked. No registration with the police.

There is of course a significant change in the facilities for seminary training. In 1998 the church arranged a somewhat comfortable apartment for me in Odessa, but the seminary classes were held in the village of Kamenka, an hour away. The “classroom” space was an apartment used by the small congregation in the village. It was a three-room apartment plus a kitchen but one room was stacked to the ceiling with humanitarian aid from Germany, another with sacks of flour used by the bakery the church had acquired to provide funds for the mission. The remaining room was not only where we taught, but the congregation used it for worship so there was constant assembling and re-assembling. Students sat on backless stools with make-shift desks on their laps. 

Ukrainian summers can be very hot and with up to ten men seated side-by-side along the whole length of the room, the atmosphere was stifling. There was no air conditioning, of course, and no fan to move the air. In contrast, now we have a substantial building which includes a faculty suite and a large classroom.  

Twelve years ago, students who provided transportation for me slept in the church office in Odessa. Others slept crowded in a room in the apartment block where we held the seminary classes. The new seminary building has a dormitory on the second floor which will more than accommodate the current student body of eight. 

Whereas twelve years ago we ate our meals in the small kitchen where everyone was wedged in, the new seminary building has a kitchen and a separate dining room.

The first seminary graduates in 2001 included Oleg Schewtschenko, now pastor in Odessa (third from left); and Alexey Navrotskiy, now LCC's missionary in Ukraine (fifth from left). Also in the photograph are Dr. Leonard Harms and Dr. Norman Threinen (far left); Rev. Roland Syens (front row second from right) standing beside Bishop Victor Graefensten (front row, third from right).

As far as the students are concerned, most of them in 1998 were seasoned lay leaders, some more teachable than others. In 2010, none of the students is in that category. As to being teachable, that is still to be determined. 

      
The Kamenka facilities did not have sufficient heat to accommodate classes in winter. However, the new seminary building makes it possible to run the theological program throughout the school year rather just over the summer. During summer students were tempted to pressure the professors to adjust classes to enable them to go to the sea on occasion. 

We also hope students will not feel the need to go home every weekend and thereby focus more on their studies. 

I look forward to this phase in theological education in Ukraine. The Lord has blessed us under adverse conditions; from one pastor in 1998, the church now has fifteen.  I fully trust He will continue to be with us as He has promised, “Lo, I am with you always.”

Rev. Dr. Norman Threinen is rektor of Concordia Seminary, Odessa and professor emeritus of Concordia Lutheran Seminary, Edmonton.


A weekend full of blessing in Ukraine

August 24, 2010

Bishop Viktor Graefenstein, SELCU; Rev. Oleg Schewtschenko, pastor of SELCU's Odessa congregation and LCC president, Rev. Dr. Robert Bugbee

by Robert Bugbee

Treasured friends,

It is Tuesday morning as I write these lines from “my” dormitory room in the new Concordia Seminary at Usatovo, Ukraine, a suburb of the great city of Odessa on the Black Sea. International guests are gradually drifting away to Norway, Sweden, Kazakhstan, Germany and Canada after the dedication festivities this past weekend.

Saturday was the big day. There is no room in the new seminary building large enough to accomodate the number of worshipers expected, so the congregation of almost 175 met on the plaza facing the main portal of the building. The front steps served as chancel and preaching platform. A lengthy morning service (over 2 hours) began at 10 a.m., at which the building and its contents were dedicated to the service of the Triune God.

I had the honour of serving as the first preacher on the text from Genesis 28, “This is none other than the House of God, and this is the gate of heaven.” Later LCC missionary to Ukraine, Rev. Alexey Navrotskiy, preached a second sermon. A ceremonial key was delivered to Bishop Viktor Graefenstein, who conducted the Rite of Dedication. Greetings were brought by international guests in attendance.

In the early afternoon the many guests sat down at picnic tables on the grounds and ate dinner consisting of meat balls, potatoes, cold salads, Ukrainian bread, and sweets.

A second service commenced at 5 p.m., at which seminary president Dr. Norman Threinen was formally installed into office and also served as the primary preacher. Bishop Graefenstein followed this up again with an additional sermon. This service was the formal opening of the seminary session, where classes will start September 1. The young men who will constitute the incoming class presented themselves at the stage and were accepted into the school by Word and prayer. Among the congratulatory messages read in the evening service were letters from longtime LCC missionary to Ukraine, Rev. Roland Syens of Kitchener, Ontario, from Terry Goerz, president of the Concordia Lutheran Mission Society, and from LCC President Emeritus Edwin Lehman. Bishop Graefenstein concluded by telling the very strange and wondrous way in which President Lehman had established the first contacts between the Canadian and Ukrainian churches back in the mid- 1990s.

On Sunday at Noon, the local Odessa congregation began a communion service which included the installation of Rev. Oleg Schewtschenko, known to many LCC people from his three-year stay at Concordia Seminary in St. Catharines. Pastor Navrotskiy, Bishop Graefenstein and I all served as preachers for the occasion. After the installation rite, a very poised Pastor Schewtschenko presided over the communion service for the 90 worshippers. We did not leave the chapel until almost 3 p.m.

At long last, the building is done (well, except for a few “touches” here and there). It has been a long wait. Now the real building will begin. As the farm fields around Odessa are yielding mountains of tomatoes, cucumbers and watermelons right now, we trust the Lord to bring forth a rich harvest of faith and love from the Word seed which will be planted in the classrooms of this wonderful new facility. What a joy to be here!

Rev. Dr. Robert Bugbee, is president of Lutheran Church—Canada


Pastor Oleg Schewtschenko reflects on celebrations in Ukraine

August 21, 2010

Grace of our Lord and the Love of God be with you all!

It was long way, it took us long time, we had some difficulties and we had so much support!!! But the day of dedications has come! What a JOY! I hope you are part of this joy with us.

Rev. Oleg Schewtschenko

We are so thankful for everything what God is doing in our lives, we are thankful for you your prayers, concern and support! Yes there are still so much that has to be finished on the building, the big kitchen, some lights and some other small but important things… but very soon this all will be done and we will be able t use our new Mission Centre to the glory of God!

Even though it is very early in the morning… but when I am looking out of my window I can see more and more people coming to share my joy with me. People are staying outside and talking to each other, there is a smell of fresh coffee and bread, and some other wonderful things that we will enjoy for the breakfast. I see some people reading their Bibles and some other talking to the guests. David writes: “Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity!” I think today we can truly be all in unity and rejoice in our Lord and Saviour!

It would be so good if you would be able to be here and to share this Joy with me and my Ukrainians friends. But even thought you are not here you continuing to be in my prayers and my heart even today!

Only in bit more that 24 hours will come the day for me to be installed as the pastor in Odessa congregation. I thank the Lord every time I remember you about the time I could be with you and be part of your family. Tears comes to my eyes when I am thinking about all that time, I see your faces and smiles… So you will be with me even that moment!

I continue to treasure your friendship, love, encouragements and prayers…

In Him, who is Our Lord, Saviour and Brother

Pastor and friend Oleg


Last minute preparations for celebrations in Ukraine

August 17, 2010

by Norman Threinen

Having suffered through many hot Ukrainian summers in cramped quarters, I was looking forward to teaching in the spacious new seminary and mission centre as I left home August 2. The new facility is in Usatowa, a suburb of Odessa. 

Concordia Seminary, Odessa, Ukraine will be dedicated August 21, 2010

On my arrival, I noted that a great deal of work was still needed in preparation for the dedication. The three paid workers from Western Ukraine were busy painting walls and doing cement work.  About a dozen volunteers from various congregations of the church were installing door frames and generally readying the grounds. We expect about 200 guests and visitors from Canada, Germany and Ukraine will attend the building’s dedication and the opening of the seminary August 21.

Although classes will not begin until September 1, my early arrival give me the opportunity to become acclimated and to interview and orient prospective students, develop budgets and buy a few books for the library. A week after my arrival, I moved into the two-room suite for instructors which, thankfully, is air-conditioned.  I was happy to have my wife Muriel join me August 13 to give a woman’s touch to make the suite more hospitable for future instructors. 

It was helpful that Rev. Oleg Schewtschenko preceded me by a few days and occupied an unused student room in the building. He will be installed as a co-pastor with Bishop Graefenstein of the Odessa congregation on August 22.  He has also consented to serve as my interpreter for the first round of courses when classes begin. 

There is a strong indication that the long-expected gas hook-up for the building will become a reality in September. The neighbour from whom the gas connection needs to come is now anxious to proceed and the political barriers have also been overcome.  We still don’t know the cost since much of the work to bring the gas line to the building must be done manually. Since finances have been stretched to the limit to finish the interior of the building and to equip it to a basic level for use, completion of this aspect of the project will be a great relief. 

Rev. Dr. Norman Threinen, is rektor of Concordia Seminary, Odessa and professor emeritus of Concordia Lutheran Seminary, Edmonton.


Future churchworkers ready to go but waiting for the Lord’s timing

June 23, 2010

by Rev. Dr. Leonardo Neitzel

The Iglesia Luterana Sínodo de Nicaragua (ILSN) has developed an interesting method to help seminary candidates prepare for their theological studies. During one year or more before they start the program, the lectores (seminary candidates) are involved in congregational and mission outreach activities. They assist their pastors as readers, conduct lay-led worship services, visit homes, participate in missionary programs and other activities.

Seventeen lectores or candidates considering the pastoral ministry studied with Rev. Leonardo Neitzel.

Currently, there are seventeen lectores or candidates considering the pastoral ministry in the ILSN. They come from several congregations and backgrounds and gather for special seminars at the mission centre whenever arranged by the Synod. Recently they had two special seminars: basic introduction to the study of Scriptures, liturgy and preaching, presented by Rev. Dr. Ralph Mayan and basic introduction to the study of theology (propaedeutics), which I taught.

The previous source for funding the seminary program is not currently available due to economic conditions. So LCC and the ILSN are asking the Lord God to encourage His people to provide financial resources to start the third seminary program with these candidates in 2012.

The regular seminary program normally has four intensive courses taught yearly during two years, plus the practical activities of students and the continuing education which follows. We pray and trust that the Lord will provide the means for this to happen as He is growing His church in Nicaragua and other countries in Central America, and as the ILSN is beginning to see a shortage of church workers.

If you feel the Lord God speaking to your heart in regards to assisting His church in Nicaragua especially in supporting the theological education for the formation of more pastors and missionaries, you may contact the mission coordinator Rev. Ralph Mayan, ralph.mayan@lutheranchurch.ca  or Rev. Leonardo Neitzel, missions@lutheranchurch.ca

The Saviour Jesus Christ teaches us when He says, “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field” (Matthew 9:37-38). And He Himself as the true God has not left His church without His promises as He says, “I will give you shepherds after my own heart, who will lead you with knowledge and understanding” (Jeremiah 3:15).


Nicaraguan church worker families need support

June 22, 2010

by Rev. Dr. Leonardo Neitzel

Although it is ‘winter’ in Nicaragua, temperatures are around 30 degrees Celsius with lots of thunderstorms, lightening and heavy rain at the end of every day. And then there are mosquitoes, which are very annoying!

I am finishing my second week in Nicaragua teaching intensive courses in the Continuing Education Program for pastors and deaconesses of the Iglesia Luterana Sínodo de Nicaragua (ILSN). The courses are hermeneutics, (principles of Bible interpretation) and Preparing the Congregation in Mission. I have visited LCC mission fields in the area and met with the Synod’s leaders and Evangelism committee. The synod established its two-year mission strategies, and under God’s grace and with the help of the Holy Spirit they want to add 100 new members to each congregation during this period.

Dr. Neitzel (centre) meets with the Nicaraguan Lutheran Church's evangelism committee

The Apostle Peter recommends, “But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. To Him be glory both now and forever! Amen” (2 Peter 3:18). The church workers’ main focus here is studying and sharing the Word of God through their daily activities. It has been a blessing to see them applying the Word of God in very special situations, especially in the Children’s Education Program.

 My wife, Maria is with me. She is a social worker and family therapist. As a volunteer she is using her gifts and experiences especially with pastors’ wives and deaconesses who with her for a very special moment of sharing about their burdens, challenges, blessings and joys in the work of the Lord’s kingdom. The theme of the study was “A Christian woman by God’s grace”. This study continued the type of work Dr. Ralph and Linda Mayan have provided in this area. There is a great need for spiritual and emotional support to pastors, deaconesses and their families. We pray and trust that the Lord will continue to provide the financial means needed to carry on such a program.

 If you feel the Lord speaking to you and encouraging you to assist financially towards a church workers’ family retreat and more seminars in the ILSN in the near future, contact Dr. Mayan at ralph.mayan@lutheranchurch.ca or Rev. Leonardo Neitzel, missions@lutheranchurch.ca


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