by Pat Phillips
On Friday, May 6th, Pastor Chip Heim of East Side GBC said goodbye. Oh, he isn’t retiring and no, he wasn’t forced to resign. Instead, Chip and four other adults from the East Side GBC in Columbus, OH will be spending the next two weeks in Zaporozhye, Ukraine, at the Zaporozhye Bible College (www.gemission.org/zbc).
This trip marks the eighth yearly trip Chip has made to teach at ZBC. Each time he goes, he makes it a priority to take one or more adults along. In addition to exposing others in the church to missions, the trip enables the adults to participate in a teaching ministry in another culture. Several former participants from East Side who Chip invited are now in seminary or in full-time Christian service. In fact, one is now a senior pastor – Keith Minier at Grace Fellowship GBC in Pickerington, OH.
Accompanying Chip this year to the Ukraine are: Pastor Nate Harrison, formerly with the Navigators and now pastor of adult ministries at East Side, and one of the organizers of and speakers at this summer’s FGBC Driven Conference; Julia Gruenler, one of the young adults at East Side who has previously gone on mission trips to Philadelphia, Mexico and India; Josh Flanigan, one of the young adults at East Side who also has gone on mission trips to Philadelphia and Mexico, not to mention going on a year long short-term mission trip with GBIM to the CAR; and Heather Aspen, a graduate of Grace College and one of the young adults at East Side, where she is a teacher at Grace Christian School.
This is Nate’s and Julia’s second trip to ZBC. Julia was one of the adults who accompanied Chip two years ago, and Pastor Nate went with Chip last year for the first time. While at ZBC this time, Chip will be teaching a short course on “Human Beings, Sin, and Salvation,” while Nate will be teaching a short course on “Discipleship.”
In addition to teaching classes and answering questions such as, “What is the church like outside of the Ukraine?”, “How can I share about Jesus in my culture?”, “What can a young adult do in the church?”, and “What about the role of women in the church?”, the group will be involved in three other “significant ministries.” The first is taking students out for ice cream. The second is taking students to McDonald’s. And the third is having several of the school’s faculty over for dinner.
While at first blush these may not seem all that important, Chip has found that over the years, these activities are some of the most productive. As students, and as someone who lives in the Ukraine where the average monthly salary is $50, there is not a lot of money for what are considered “luxury purchases”, namely ice cream and McDonald’s. The students are often overwhelmed that their American guests would want to treat them to a time out at a fancy restaurant like McDonald’s (yes, that’s what they call it), much less freely pass out candy bars and chocolate.
However, as they sit around tables conversing and spending time together, some serious sharing occurs about such topics as God, love, grace, the church, evangelism, discipleship, worship, dealing with persecution, having a heart for the lost, crosscultural ministry, etc. Over the years, Chip and his groups have spoken with former Communists and even former members of the Red Army, who for one reason or another have been led to attend ZBC.
As far as Chip’s group having faculty over for a home cooked dinner, faculty salaries are meager, and entertaining groups is a luxury that they really can’t afford. Plus, what Americans would consider a modest meal is a feast by Ukrainian standards, so the faculty members feel like they are being treated like royalty. The group from East Side will try its best to prepare a Ukrainian meal, instead of subjecting their hosts to sushi, tex-mex, or some other cuisine that is foreign to the Ukrainians.
So, in addition to the money required to send these individuals, the church at East Side provides money for ice cream, candy, chocolate, McDonald’s and food. Chip’s group also takes a couple of music CDs, movie DVDs or VHS tapes, and lots of munchies, all of which go over really big with the students.
In closing, since the Ukraine has undergone a considerable amount of civil unrest recently, your prayers for the group’s safety would be greatly appreciated. And if you think that you might be interested in learning more about teaching at ZBC, Pastor Chip would love to talk with you about it. Maybe, he’d even treat you to an ice cream cone!
Pat Phillips, who serves on the board of the Brethren Missionary Herald Co., is one of the church leaders at East Side Grace Brethren Church in Blacklick, OH. To reach the church’s website, click on www.esgbc.org