Hannah Nixon, Grace UMC
Editor’s note: This is another in an ongoing series of articles about the continuing relationship between churches in Virginia and congregations in Ukraine and Russia. Even in a time of conflict, the work of Christ continues.
In the early 2000s, Grace United Methodist Church in Manassas began a connection with what is now Saint John’s United Methodist Church Lviv, Ukraine. Allan Nixon, a member of Grace, led a group of interested people from across the Virginia Conference on a mission trip to assist missionaries, David and Shannon Goran in their work with a group of university students from Lviv. The Gorans had been in Lviv for a short time and were reaching out to these young people through a program they had developed to teach English to students wanting to practice their English with English speakers. Our mission effort centered around creating and assisting the Gorans by providing a weeklong summer camp experience in the mountains of Ukraine for these students. Our camp experience made use of the numerous skills that mission participants brought with them to create the program for learning to speak English with the campers. This summer camp idea caught on very quickly and several more trips followed in ensuing years, offering more missionaries an opportunity to participate. A few of the trips were made up largely of members of Grace UMC, but they were always open to members from the entire Virginia Conference.
As a result of the Gorans ministry with these students, one of those students, Volodya Prokip has completed seminary and is now serving as pastor of St. John’s UMC and “Youth for Jesus “in Lviv, Ukraine. Grace UMC, as well as other United Methodist Churches, representing mission participants throughout the years, have offered financial support on a yearly basis to enable them to grow this ministry.
During the current war Volodya has not closed the church doors. Instead, he quickly recognized the need for assistance to refugees fleeing their homes for Poland and other countries, many of them traveling with children and only what they could manage to carry in their hands.
Lviv is located in western Ukraine and is on a direct route to Poland. Early in the war, Volodya made it known to city officials that Saint John’s UMC was willing to feed and shelter as many refugees as they can each night. Church members help in this ministry, and hundreds of weary, hungry refugees have been assisted by true Christian love shown by Volodya and members of the church.
Members of Grace UMC quickly realized what Volodya and those from St John’s and “Youth for Jesus” were doing, and wanted to help. Knowing that we could not help in person and realizing the financial strain this effort was putting on the church, the generous Grace Church congregation raised over $13,000 to send for support.
St. John’s has used these funds to purchase food, bedding, clothes, and to rent a small bus that Volodya drives himself daily transporting refugees to the border. As these people begin returning to their cities, Volodya and the church begin this process in reverse.
Frequent updates concerning the situation are provided by Volodya to Grace UMC through Facebook and emails to Grace members Alan and Hannah Nixon. Lviv has suffered damage to its city, but not as much as other Ukrainian cities. The facility that is used to house the church and the “Youth for Jesus” group has managed to stay intact throughout the war. Regular worship services and Bible study continue weekly. Thanks be to God!
If you or your congregation would like to partner with Grace UMC in this vital ministry, contact Hannah Nixon at [email protected].