Let me describe the setting for a moment, because it is indeed unusual for the area. The whole church complex is surrounded by a high-compound steel-plate and spiked fence. Once you are inside the compound it seems that you are in a different world, clean, well kept, even somewhat idyllic, with some rose bushes strategically planted along the compound walls, a water-fountain elsewhere, and some park benches. Within the compound is the parking lot and the church building constructed on two levels, and another building also with two levels, housing the churchÕs kitchen and bathrooms. The church building is an impressive building, even on the outside. Perhaps 7 or 8 years old and constructed by the members themselves, it is very ornate with much of the woodwork obviously hand-crafted and walls constructed of carved brick-work.
Upon entering the lower level this first day, we observed the students sitting at several long tables in the main hall, receiving their breakfast. These students received breakfast, lunch and supper here for the duration of the two weeks of study. (The money we collected helped to pay for this food for the students.) The students, both men and ladies, were all neatly and modestly dressed, some of the ladies even wearing a small veil or kerchief covering the hair, and the men either in suits or dress-pants and sweaters. (Sweaters especially, are very popular with them.)
At nine oÕclock sharp, breakfast being completed, the students filed into two classrooms, one upstairs in the sanctuary and the other downstairs in one of the meeting rooms. It became a regular practice with us to begin our classes with prayer and then having the students sing one of their hymns. This became a very special treat for us, because we soon discovered that these people have a passion for singing and for harmonizing well! As I stood before my class that first morning, I knew that we had the prospects of enjoyable and edifying fellowship. The ministry in the next two weeks would go both ways; we would minister to the students by teaching and they would minister to us by singing!
In class, the men seated themselves in the front row and the ladies in the second row. Most of the ladies, I learned, were there with their husbands or boy-friends, in order to assist them in their studies and to be of help to them later in the ministry.
We had the privilege of teaching 52 students, half of them in certificate level, teaching them in the sanctuary, and half of them in the degree (Bachelor) level, teaching them in the classroom downstairs. Dr. Kloosterman taught ÒInspiration and Authority of ScripturesÓ three hours in each section (Bachelor's and Certificate classes). Rev. Vander Meulen and I taught New Testament Survey courses in the Pauline Epistles and James and Jude. We had arranged our schedule so that each of us would have exposure to both the Certificate and the Bachelor's classes. Rev. Royall completed an exegetical/hermeneutical/homiletical study of the Epistle to the Hebrews, which he had started the previous year. In all our teaching we enjoyed the competent services of two young translators, Natasha and Max, both of them thoroughly convinced of the rightness of Reformed theology, and, I believe, very sincere in their faith
I discovered in the students great enthusiasm for learning the Scriptures and (especially among the men) a rigid discipline for getting proof-texts for every doctrine taught. I could not get away with teaching--for them, a new and Reformed doctrine--without giving them ample proof-texts. The reason is that most of them have come to know the Scriptures by way of Anabaptist teaching and have adopted a somewhat free-will type of theology, spread by Òtent-revival-preachingÓ along with a mixture of liberal theology.
But on their own initiative, and of course by the grace of God, they are continuing to search the Scriptures for more substantial teaching, and with the help of the recently translated and distributed Institutes of John Calvin and some Puritan writings, these students have become hungry for the Reformed interpretation of the Scriptures. In fact, by teaching as well as I could, I found the students becoming more and more appreciative, if not at times ÒexcitedÓ about the Reformed faith! But for them, to be truly appreciative or excited about the Reformed faith, they do not want to rely upon my word, but wanted proof-texts from Scripture to rely on. And I say, ÒGood for them!Ó
Our two weeks with these students were two weeks of concentrated work and intensive studies for us the teachers and for them the students. We pray the Lord to bless the work that could be done. I have learned by the response of these students that we have a wonderful treasure, called the Reformed Faith. Why? Because it is so clearly the Scriptural faith! I have learned also that when such Scriptural faith gets hold of people who have long been in darkness and repression, such faith will propel them to go out and teach it to others as well. I discovered this especially when concluding a Bible lesson; I would wrap-up the lesson with some hints for preaching on the passage studied.
The concluding minutes of each lesson became a high-point for the students because I saw them write down feverishly, every thought, every theme, and every set of points that would make for a sermon skeleton. Why? Because these students have a new zeal to bring the Gospel to their fellow countrymen. There is no doubt that God is opening the Ukraine for His Gospel.