As soon as I stepped into an Orthodox service in Tokmak this
morning I felt swept up into an ocean of Ukrainian /Russian history. The high
ceilings, the quavering, pleading, singing voices of babushkas, and the icons
looking down on you take you into the past and don’t require translation. I found
myself mumbling in English when all around others were saying the Thrice Holy
Prayers, responding to the Litany with “Lord have mercy,” or joining in the
Alleluia. I also noted that you do not just stay put in an Orthodox service,
there is an amazing amount of movement including quiet shuffling to an icon,
lining up for communion, and taking part in many different forms of bowing.
I am not a frequent attendee of Orthodox services. I feel
much more a part of a community in the Kutuzovka Mennonite Church. Here, every
Sunday I am accosted by bent-over women, whose walk is an ad for orthopedic surgery.
They keep asking, “When is Linda coming?” This is a community that has a caring
attitude, almost “in your face” Even here, I am trying to get by with little
translation service, focusing on the Spirit and not the words.
The services have a distinctly different approach to dealing
with children. In the Orthodox service children are expected to be quiet, not
have any toys, and be under parental supervision at all times. They have their
own separate communion service where they come up, open their mouth, and the
Priest inserts the spoon. Most were amazingly compliant. In the Kutuzovka
Mennonite service children worked on puzzles, drew pictures, had snacks, and
showed me their hot cars. While the men were serving communion one cute young
girl went up front, stood by the communion table, faced the audience, and
munched on a fine looking apple. Ironically,
the preacher spoke on Genesis 1; perhaps the little girl was role-playing the
scene of Eve eating the forbidden fruit?
I enjoyed both services and did not find the children in either service
Today I was informed that one of the women in the Kutuzovka
Church had passed away two weeks ago. She had been in the hospital but was sent
home to die with her family. She was given pain medication and died at 6:30 the
next morning. The family immediately contacted people, brought in a Minister,
and had the funeral by 3:30 that afternoon. Apparently there are no morgue
facilities in the area, and with the heat we are experiencing they have to make
quick burial arrangements. This experience is another reminder that it is
indeed a different world here.
Watching the Olympics here in Ukraine reminded me of some of
the projects we have had over the years in supporting athletic events. A couple
of years ago we supported youth from a local orphanage to attend a swim meet in
Last summer we supported Aram Arzumyan from Svyetlodolinskoye
(Lichtenau) so he could travel to the European power lifting championships in
This summer we funded a camp for physically disabled young adults in
The Olympics remind me that it is healthy for youth to pursue their
dreams, be that on the national stage or at the community and regional level.
If you wish to contribute to the work of the Mennonite
Centre in Ukraine, make your Canadian cheques to "Friends of the Mennonite
Centre in Ukraine" or "FOMCU." Cheques from American donors
should be made out to "MFC-FOMCU". All cheques should be mailed to
George Dyck, Treasurer, 3675 North Service Rd, Beamsville, Ontario, Canada -
L0R 1B1. Check our website at http://www.mennonitecentre.ca/ for information on credit card donations