Lessons From Ukraine

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Lessons From Ukraine

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Ukraine is an exciting country well worth visiting. Known as "the breadbasket of Europe" for its large grain production, it is Europe's second largest country in territory and fifth largest in population.

Our team of four from the United States, France and Sweden traveled to Vinogradov in Western Ukraine on a LifeNets-sponsored program to teach English to children attending a local summer camp. The knowledge of English is very poor but much sought after in this part of the world, hence our invitation.

From my two-week stay in Ukraine I learned some simple but valuable lessons of life:

• God loves and cares for the little children.

Jesus said that "of such is the kingdom of heaven," and "take heed that you do not despise one of these little ones" (Matthew 19:14; 18:10).

Sadly, some of the children at camp have been through some very tough times, and life has been hard on them. We were greatly encouraged by the work that local Christians were doing there in order to give the children food, clothing and a stable moral foundation by teaching them lessons from the Bible. This, coupled with love, was the recipe applied to prepare them for life.

• Ukrainians value personal contacts.

Unlike Facebook or Messenger, the real live meeting takes precedence. Eye-to-eye contact, exchanging friendly words with one another, singing and praying together, sharing a delicious meal—these are the real things in life that tie people together. You can find mobile phones and the Internet there, but they have not "progressed" as far as in the wealthy Western societies—new technology is still used with moderation by the majority.

One reason for the high dependency on personal contacts may well be that individualism is far less prevalent in Ukrainian society.

• The spoken word is often sufficient to close a deal.

Sadly, in many parts of the world today oral agreements are no longer as valid as their written counterparts. I was surprised to learn that many people in Ukraine still stick to them. This perhaps is a direct consequence of many still valuing the teachings of the Bible.

It is remarkable to observe the Bible's influence on the functioning of a society. It effectively keeps virtues such as trust and honesty alive.

• Religion is woven into the fabric of society.

You may find a number of churches in Ukrainian towns (Orthodox churches are most widespread). The people there have a greater awareness of God in their everyday lives as they now have direct access to the Bible.

This is remarkable since less than a generation ago Ukraine belonged to the Soviet Union—a communist empire where Christianity and the Bible were greatly suppressed. Today religious freedom is written into the Ukrainian constitution, and as a result people no longer fear the state or the official church in matters of belief.

One interesting thing I came across was that the Ukrainian word for Saturday is pronounced "Su-bo-ta" (sounds similar to the English word Sabbath). It turns out that there are quite a few people in Western Ukraine who observe the seventh-day Sabbath simply because of the obvious use of Sabbath for the name of the day of the week. They know that the Sabbath is commanded by the Bible.

You can learn more about the Sabbath by checking out "God's Sabbath in Today's World." Think of it as your own lesson from Ukraine. VT