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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