A heart refreshed, a bond established and churches blessed
One of the many things I have learned in my Langham Scholar Care Coordinator role is that no one should consider post graduate studies without first “counting the cost”. While it is a wonderful privilege to be given the opportunity, it also takes sacrifice not just for the scholar but for those closest to them. This demands patience, commitment and fortitude. I honour each of the scholars and their families that I have come to know who are in this together, and have displayed these qualities in great measure.
For the Geychenko family from Ukraine, counting the cost meant taking the hard decision that Oleksandr would come to Scotland alone to study at the University of St Andrews in 2014. Meanwhile his wife Tanya and daughters Olesia and Taia would remain at home in Odessa so that high school education would not be disrupted. While they were sure this was a wise decision, it has meant periods of separation, some commuting back and forth, many phone calls and a few tears along the way.
Gratitude for the Global Church
But now, as Oleksandr finishes his research and leaves for home where he will complete his writing, he looks back with gratitude and a fresh understanding of what it means to be part of the global church. Even before he arrived in Scotland, local church Leven Baptist Church heard about his need for accommodation and reached out to him.
Just three weeks before he was due to travel, with still no accommodation in place, a local family from the Church offered to host Oleksandr for three years with room and board. In the midst of a difficult decision to move, Oleksandr was reassured that God was going ahead of him.
Meanwhile in the semi- rural town of Strathaven, south of Glasgow, another church reached out to Oleksandr and his family. Strathaven Evangelical Church prioritises Langham Scholars as a mission partner, and decided to ‘adopt’ Oleksandr. A very special bond of fellowship developed, which has been a “no strings attached” relationship. Oleksandr was regularly invited to spend weekends in Strathaven, and the congregation learned about Ukraine, spurring them to pray. There was no pressure to preach – the priority is in prayerfully and practically supporting Oleksandr through his PhD studies. Tanya and the girls are included in this growing bond of friendship too.
A two-way blessing
A well-supported Gift Day in the Church last year raised funds allowing the Geychencko family to enjoy a trip to Scotland following the Langham family holiday at the Hookses (John Stott’s coastal hideaway in Wales).
On this trip they stayed in Strathaven and Leven, meeting people in these church fellowships. These included people in Oleksandr’s supportive Home Group. They also visited Edinburgh and St Andrews, to see where Oleksandr has been studying.
It has been a two-way blessing: Leven Baptist Church and Strathaven Evangelical Church are thankful for the friendship and partnership in the Gospel that will continue with the Geychenko family, Odessa Theological Seminary (where Oleksandr will be teaching) and Langham. It has enriched their fellowship and increased their interest in what God is doing in Ukraine. And they are already looking forward to welcoming Oleksandr – and perhaps the family too – when he returns for graduation in 2018!
‘Refreshed through you’
An appropriate paraphrase of the words of Paul and Timothy to the church that met in the home of Philemon says it well as we join with Oleksandr and his family in honouring these churches….”(We) thank God always when (we) remember you in our prayers…for we have derived much joy and comfort from your love, brothers and sisters because our hearts have been refreshed through you.”
On his return to Ukraine, he will teach at the Odessa Theological Seminary. He has also been invited to develop a programme for advanced degrees in Practical Theology at the Seminary.
By Liz McGregor, LPUKI Scholar Care CoordinatorTags: Glasgow, Langham Partnership, Leven Baptist Church, Liz McGregor, Odessa Theological Seminary, Oleksandr Geychenko, PhD, Scholar, Scotland, Strathaven Evangelical Church, Ukraine, University of St Andrews