One of our privileges in serving as IM global servants is standing alongside and supporting the work of some amazing Christians in all kinds of places of service. As October turned into November we have had the joy of working with Veronika Voloshyna in the city of Dnipro in eastern Ukraine.
Dnipro is quite close to the war zone in the regions bordering Russia. Back in the days of the Soviet Union this major industrial city did not appear on any maps because it was the major producer of missiles and rockets used in the Cold War. It’s still off the tourist track, but it is the economic and educational center for the region.
Veronika is from Dnipro. Dan first met her in Kiev when she attended a class on conflict transformation at the Ukraine Evangelical Theological Seminary (UETS). Then in 2015 she attended our 10-day Training of Conflict Transformation Trainers held at the seminary. Dan traveled to Dnipro later in 2015 and again in 2017 to co-facilitate in trainings with Veronika on conflict and trauma healing. Many participants came from the war zone, and the experiences were powerful and profound for all involved (click here to see Dan’s journal of one of the earlier Dnipro workshops).
Veronika has become a force for transformation in her city. She is now a professional counselor and mediator as well as a translator. She has organized people in many professions including lawyers, psychologists and academics to explore mediation in many dimensions of life and society. She worked with a professor to establish as Simulation Club at a major university to practice mediation skills.
She has also served in various ministry capacities in church and community over the years. But her church and denomination didn’t recognize women as being capable or called to pastoral ministry, something true of almost all the evangelical (Protestant) churches in Ukraine. Veronika felt God’s call to be a pastor, especially to those who felt excluded from the church, such as women. So she began a house church. Two years ago Dan participated in her ordination along with the members of her small congregation and three male pastors who also affirmed her calling.
Which brings us to this trip. We have come to Ukraine to teach again at UETS, which we just did this past week. But first we flew to Dnipro to join Veronika in her work. The key event was a two-day training conference on mediation, the first of its kind ever held in the region. Veronika was a leader in the planning team and invited us to lead 3 major training sessions on getting to Win/Win solutions, dealing with trauma, and self-care for people dealing with the stresses of entering into the care of those with major traumas (many were working with war victims). The three of us worked as a facilitation team, but our presence was also a boost for Veronika’s efforts to highlight the importance of conflict transformation work. She had hoped for 15 or 20 people to come as paying registrants, but was delighted to see around 70 come to learn about this topic.
Before the conference we also went to the university to visit the Simulation Club. We ran the Red/Blue Game with a packed room of students and a few professors. The energy was incredible for this conflict simulation to help participants discover the complexities and possibilities of getting to win/win solutions.
As our time doing international peacemaking as IM missionaries winds down we love seeing how God is raising up new Christian peacemakers around the world such as Veronika. It is our privilege to stand alongside them, equip and empower them. Veronika has become a transformative witness for the peace of Christ in Dnipro, but her ministry is spreading to many other parts of Ukraine.
Thank you for your support and prayers. May we all plant the seeds of the reign of Christ wherever we are so that God’s healing, grace, justice and peace can spread in our fractured world.
Yours in Christ,
Dan & Sharon Buttry