12/2/2022 – A Seminary Continues in War: A President’s Travelogue

ADMIN: Alister Torrens and his wife, Sarah, are members of the MTW Kyiv Team and Alister serves as the president of the Evangelical Reformed Seminary of Ukraine (ERSU) based in Kyiv. During the war, the Torrens are based in Northern Ireland.

From Alister Torrens: On the 19th of October, I crossed over the Poland-Ukraine border. It was just a week after Russia’s massive strikes on the center of Kyiv, and their new focus on hitting energy infrastructure. Perhaps for that reason, the normal queues at the border were absent. Arriving in Lviv, my first step was to download the air raid siren app (which also reproduces the recognizable siren sound!) Our car was waiting for me in Lviv since it had been used to help with evacuations early on, so after the night in Lviv and meeting with Vasyl, an ERSU graduate doing a pastoral internship there, I drove towards Kyiv, staying with a current ERSU student in Zhitomyr along the way. Closer to Kyiv, along the highway, were a number of destroyed buildings (photo), showing just how close to Kyiv the Russians had got in March. It was great to be back in Kyiv and see neighbours, colleagues, and friends again. At first, the power cuts were infrequent, but they soon increased to regular, timetabled cuts of 4hrs, three times a day. However, my last week in Kyiv coincided with more attacks on electrical infrastructure and emergency measures meant that the electricity was more often off than on. It may seem odd to hear this, but apart from these increased enemy attacks and the inconvenience of the power cuts (which always affect the internet and often heating), life continues in Kyiv with a high degree of normality. There are still bad traffic jams as normal at rush hour as people head to and from work, but on the way home the streetlights are mostly off to save electricity. It was good to see my colleagues again, the seminary building, and of course our own home.

As well as meeting with colleagues and our 2-week seminary teaching module there were a lot of practical questions that could be taken care of such as maintenance and furbishing questions (we finally got blinds and curtains!) at the seminary building, banking issues, laptop repair and even cutting the grass at the dacha after a whole year!

We’re thankful for a successful teaching module consisting of three classes in early November. For the second week, my colleague Fedir, who is temporarily living in Western Ukraine, was able to come to Kyiv and lecture in our building. Teaching any course for the first time can be a daunting task, and I could sense Fedir’s nerves on Monday morning. However, his intense preparation paid obvious dividends as from the first lecture and Fedir confidently taught what proved to be a great OT course on the Historical Books. All our students remain online, for now at least.

At the end of our second week of classes, it was a joy to reunite in person with almost all of our Board of Trustees (photo) and I’m thankful for both a productive Board meeting, as well as being able to catch up with most of the men more informally at our home that evening. Amazingly, while Kyiv experienced frequent power cuts over that teaching period, the first time we had to turn on our generator was on the afternoon of the last day after our lectures had concluded!

The other huge joy was reuniting in person with the folk from our church-plant. While we’ve continued our Sunday Bible studies online, for four Lord’s Days we were able to meet in person again at our home for food and fellowship as well as the study itself. Indeed, we even had a couple of new people come, along the way, while two of our women, now in Finland, joined us online.

After leaving Kyiv by train on Nov 17th, the final weekend before returning to N Ireland was spent in Krakow, Poland with Sarah. Sarah needed to leave the UK, and I was In Krakow to preach at the Presbyterian church of our ERSU student who helped plant it. In fact, he is now a graduate of ERSU! Since he couldn’t have left Ukraine again if he had had to come to Kyiv for a graduation ceremony, we offered to come to him to officially award him his Master of Divinity degree. The church in Krakow is a great encouragement: A healthy, growing multi-lingual and multi-national Reformed church in a difficult place for any evangelicals. What’s more, now there are several other similar churches in Poland and in the last year they have formed a proto-presbytery. You could say, Saszko has had the ultimate in pastoral internships! It was a real joy to hand our student his well-earned degree.

In all, the trip to Ukraine and Poland was a great time of mutual encouragement, for which I am thankful.

2 responses to “12/2/2022 – A Seminary Continues in War: A President’s Travelogue”

  1. Praising God with you. Continuing in prayer for the seminary and the work ahead. Praying for you and your family for wisdom and strength.

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  2. How wonderful! I remember seeing a news release on the church in Krakow. Praise God! This newly minted pastor has more background experience than most in the US! 🙂

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