EBWU Report of Five Year Conference,
Lviv, Ukraine 20-23 September 2018
Report by Margaret Brown
Every five years EBWU gather women from all over Europe and beyond for the General Committee Meeting. This usually takes place during a conference convened for this purpose.
This year, Thursday - Sunday, 20-23 September seventy-eight women and five men from thirty countries came together in the Dnister Hotel, Lviv, Ukraine to celebrate seventy years of EBWU. The theme for the conference was ‘Love One Another’ taken from John 15:17, ‘This is my command: Love each other.’; also, in John 13:34, ‘A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.’
The Ukraine women, under the care of Anna Doroshenko and Nadia Morokhovets, excelled themselves in seeing to the many practicalities of such a conference. Three full length banners had been made with the logo and theme, one for the foyer, one for outside the conference hall and a larger one for the conference hall. The hall was beautifully decorated with flowers and part was draped in the colours of Ukraine, blue and yellow. Truly the women did a marvellous job.
Tables were set out around the hall for the participants to display literature about the work in their country and where they could offer small items for sale. Worship – music and song were led throughout the conference by young women from Ukraine assisted by Nadia who introduced the songs. Each participant received a hand-made bag containing several articles provided by the Ukraine women and EBWU.
The Conference began with dinner, then Aniko Ujvari opened the proceedings with a welcome to special guests and to all. Yaroslav Nazarkevich, Pastor of First Baptist Church, Lviv brought greetings, mentioning 2Timothy 1:5 where a depressed pastor is reminded of his mother’s and grandmother’s faith, and what an encouragement these women were to Timothy. Women today can exhibit and pass on their faith to encourage others. Anna Doroshenko, President of the Women’s Union in Ukraine, commenting that for the past four years in Ukraine when we say ‘peace be with you’ we know what it means in our situation (war in eastern part of Ukraine). She quoted 1Peter 1:22, reminding us of the theme of this conference, ‘Love One Another’.
Following a time of praise and worship, Aniko brought the opening message from John 21:15-23: Love is in the air. Love is life. God is Love. He loves us. We have here recorded John’s conversation with Peter. Do you love me more than these? We experience it very well when we are loved. The disciples are by the lake with full stomachs, then comes the conversation between Jesus and Peter. ‘Do you love me?’ What if Jesus asks us that question? There was nothing about the past, only the question. What if peter asked Jesus the question? He didn’t dare to ask it. Maybe Jesus never told the disciples He loved them, but He showed them. He died, gave His love and His life. It was not Peter’s turn to ask. It was Jesus who asked the question. To say ‘yes’ means belonging. To say ‘yes’ to Jesus shows that we belong to Him with all of life’s suffering and pain. Even to-day, martyrs suffer, even we suffer, we have pain and suffering. Jesus called Peter for pastoring, for doing, for people what Jesus was – Healer, Comforter, Source of Life and Love. Matthew 22:37 tells us we are to love the Lord with all that we are. What about the other disciple? How strict Jesus was! The conversation is not about others, but about us – namely me and Jesus Christ. What is our answer? I love You more than anything else in this world. Let us love one another for love is from God. Aniko then led in prayer.
Roll Call was the next item. It could have been named God’s Masterpieces. For each country represented, Wies Dijkstra had prepared a ‘masterpiece’, a special painting of that country which was on the screen as each country was mentioned. In turn each representative came forward, place their face within a picture frame, stated their name and country and said, “I am God’s masterpiece”. Once all the countries had their turn, curtains were drawn aside on one side of the hall to reveal the representatives dressed in various outfits which military men (women) would have worn. Wies showed on screen The Night Watch by Rembrandt, and, spoke about us being night watchmen in the darkness of the world. We are to be light, as we shine out for the Lord. The evening concluded with the singing of ‘Shine, Jesus, shine’ and a prayer.
On Friday and Saturday mornings prior to breakfast time was given for unstructured prayer for those who wished to pray either alone or in small groups.
Friday morning began with worship. Anna led the devotional time, making comment that being the children of God we can thank Him for being children of His salvation. We are not only children of God but also citizens of His city, His kingdom. The Lord reigns. Anna read from Psalm 93:1&2. Our King reigns on this earth, in this universe and for all eternity. While we are on earth we need to work for Him and we are dependent on Him. We bow before Him for His help. She then read Psalm 90:16&17. As we willingly seek to work for the Lord, our God we pray that He will establish the work of our hands as we love one another. We then prayed for each other in small groups before further praise.
Our main speaker, Ksenija Magda, Professor of New Testament Theology at Zagreb University and President of the Baptist World Alliance Women’s Department, brought greetings from the WD, then addressed the conference. To know what John 15 is about we have to read the whole chapter. Verses 1-17 were read. Ksenija asked that we get into small groups and look at the following questions: What is vs 1-11 all about? Do you feel joyful? What do you think love is?
Jesus is speaking to the disciples. He tells them to remain in Him, stay in Him. How do we do that? The ‘cutting off’ in verse 2 can mean ‘lifting up’ in Greek and ‘pruning’ also in verse 2 can mean ‘putting down’ in Greek. God has chosen you. He lifts you up. He puts you down. In Israel the vines are low growing, so for branches to be fruitful they need lifting up. Jesus is talking to those who are His. In the unlikely event of the branch turning away from the vine, there will be no fruit, only chaff. Romans 12 speaks of a living sacrifice (living means it can run away). We always have our free will; we don’t need to remain in the vine. But we do if we want to be fruitful.
John is writing to second generation Christians. He is one of the oldest disciples and has lived to see a new generation and this generation ‘knows better than God’. This is who John is writing to. John is saying ‘Stay in Jesus – His will, not ours.’ We are to obey Him and accept His Lordship. When Lazarus died, remember Mary’s words to Jesus, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.” (John 11:32). Then Jesus cries with Mary, not just because of the love He had for Lazarus, but because of the love He has for Mary. He cries with Mary. He goes through the process of pruning with us. Later Mary pours oil on Jesus feet (John 12). When I am not with Jesus I worry, I panic, I begin to create chaos (Euodia & Syntyche – became more important than the gospel). When it becomes about ‘me’, then I lose my place in Jesus. Stay with me, Jesus says, and then you can ask whatever you want. Stay! Stay! Love is possible when we stay in Jesus and we are open to others. What keeps us away from Jesus? When we stay, we can ask. Ksenija then shared a personal story of how God gave her what she asked for. Stay and then ask. God has a plan and we have to stay in Him. Stay, ask, grow, love.
During Ksenija’s message were times of discussion in the small groups and feedback from same.
Lauran Bethell addressed the conference highlighting the problem of trafficking across Europe (and beyond) and the forms it takes. Victims are vulnerable people, and, are found in our backyards and even in our churches. She promoted the workshop on Anti-trafficking held in the afternoon.
Evelyn Tully then shared about the Tully Foundation which was set up with a small amount of funding to assist women in Eastern Europe. God chose Evelyn to mentor younger women and gave opportunity to have a five-year plan in Kazakhstan offering medical care and help to the children. They have good relations with the churches. Out of this the foundation was born. Evelyn did not ask for it to be named after her, but it was. Requests for grants are carefully screened and vetted on an annual basis. Evelyn works with the WMU (Women’s Missionary Union) and WMU has worked closely with EBWU and vice versa. This year four grants have been given and Evelyn has been tremendously blessed through this work.
Seven workshops were on offer for the afternoon and participants could choose two to attend as they were repeated. The workshops were:
1. Baptist Women in the UN, BWA WD and Day of Prayer – Ksenija Magda
2. Antitrafficking – Lauran Bethell
3. Who is my Neighbour – Anna Doroshenko
4. Creative – Olga Teslenko
5. Cyber Communication – Haldi Leinus
6. Love One Another – Alexandra Anderson
7. Conflict Resolution – Dimitrina Oprenova
In the evening Dimitrina sensitively led a time of Praise and Prayer, during which an offering was uplifted. There were silent prayer and spoken prayer, individually and in groups. This was quite a moving time for some
Then we were taken on a virtual tour of Corrie ten Boom’s house in the Netherlands by Wies.
Saturday began with worship and then Fabienne Seguin brought a devotional message from John 15 and 13: Love is connected to obedience. We are to love as Jesus loves. Loving others is the Christian way of life, part of the identity of Christian society. It has nothing to do with emotions. The church ought to be the easiest place to share love, but it is not always. We are to love our neighbours and our love must be sincere (Romans 12:9&10). The Lord Jesus died for us. He values us and so we must value others. We are all one in Christ Jesus which means when one cries we all cry, when one rejoices we all rejoice. Loving does not mean that we agree with everyone, but we respect them and care for them. We do all this for Jesus. Outside the church people are still loved by Jesus. We are no better than them; they need Jesus too. As disciples, we are to bear fruit, fruit that will last. Our enemy is against us, but God is with us and with Him and in Him we have nothing to fear. We are to love our enemies also (Matthew 5:43-48). Our enemies can hurt us in our bodies, our minds, and our souls. Jesus knows what suffering is and He is our perfect example of how to behave in such circumstances. Be merciful, be loving. Love is connected to obedience and forgiveness. Jesus is without counterpart. People look at us to see how we act and behave and speak. Let us love one another because love is of God. Let us be what we claim to be. We have a big responsibility. Without love we will have no impact. There are many ways to love, but, see that you love as Jesus loves.
The EBWU Business Meeting then was convened, and voting cards were distributed to the delegates. Aniko presided over the Meeting. Tony Peck, General Secretary of the European Baptist Federation was invited to address the Meeting. He mentioned that EBWU is one year older that EBF, reminding us that women and men belong together in the life of the church, stating that only for the second time in its history does the EBF have a female President at present. We need to encourage one another for the sake of the kingdom. EBF is hoping to organise a large event 2021, a mission event, possibly in Norway. Tony then paid tribute to Aniko as God’s person for this time as she has been an asset to EBF as well as EBWU. He reflected on how the gospel came to Europe through Lydia. There are many ‘Lydia’s’ in Europe leading God’s people. He quoted from Teresa of Avila ‘Christ has not hands but our hands, no feet but our feet. Ours are the eyes of compassion to the world.’ he then led in prayer.
Aniko then read from Proverbs 2:9-11, making comment that we need wisdom, understanding and knowledge. We are grateful for the past, but there is a challenge now for women in Europe and the world needs us as women representing the Lord. As Baptist women, rise up and speak to your neighbours and love one another.
The business then ensued. The reports of the President, Secretary and Treasurer were presented and accepted, also the financial statement. From the One Euro Project money has been received to be given away. At this time a monetary gift was given to Anna for the Ukraine women for a project in support of traumatised women. Membership fees were raised and a few changes made to the Constitution.
As this was the seventieth anniversary of EBWU, Fabienne gave a brief Power point presentation of the EBWU from its inception to the present. We all received a hand-made paper heart from the Danish ladies and celebrated with a large birthday cake which we ate along with our coffee.
After the coffee break the Nomination Committee convened the Meeting for the Election of new office bearers. Margun Warem presided over the Meeting and the election took place, the new members are as follows:
Fabienne Seguin, France – President
Ruth Madarova, Slovakia – Vice President
Alexandra Anderson, Wales – Secretary
Ligita Bodniece, Latvia – Treasurer
Siham Daoud, Lebanon - Member
Cristina Pokidko, Moldova – Member
A new Nominating Committee was also elected.
Ksenija welcomed the new Committee, encouraging them – you’re in the flower stage, but fruit is coming. You will be oaks of righteousness, renewing the ruined cities. Be certain that God is with you. Ksenija then prayed for them.
Jenni Entrican, President of EBF, addressed the Meeting. She said that sometimes we are blind to certain things. What might God be wanting you to look at more closely, something differently, something not noticed before. Maybe there has to be a paradigm shift. Jenni spoke of the woman in Luke 13 with the bent back. Maybe you’ve had a bent back for long enough – now is the time to stand up straight, time to stand up straight and tall. Why not? Stand up! She then closed the Meeting in prayer.
The afternoon was taken up with sightseeing around Lviv. There were lovely old buildings and places of interest to see on the tour.
A special dinner was given on Saturday evening followed by an evening of Ukrainian music and song in various categories, the songs provided by a trained opera singer and music by professional musicians. The Vice-President of All Ukraine Baptist Union, Vasily Oliynik brought greeting to the gathering at the beginning of the evening. The Ukraine ladies were dressed in national costume and it was a wonderful evening and much enjoyed.
Aniko brought the evening to a close with tributes of thanks and a few words. The conference was closed in prayer.
What a special time of blessing, of fellowship, of challenge and encouragement as we seek to be obedient to our Lord’s command to ‘Love One Another’.
The Sunday morning service was held in First Baptist Church, Lviv. We were led in worship by a large choir and orchestra. The singing was uplifting. The Word was brought by Yaroslav Nazarkevich, Ksenija Magda and Tony Peck. During the service the new committee members came to the front of the church and were dedicated to the work by prayer led by Tony, Ksenija and Jenni. The Lord’s Supper was celebrated towards the end of the service. A fitting end to a great conference for which we praise God and give Him thanks.
Day 1 - Registration and Evening Programme (42 pictures, 211 MB)
Day 2 - Morning Programme (35 pictures, 192 MB)
Day 2 - Afternoon Programme (35 pictures, 193 MB)
Day 2 - Evening Programme (17 pictures, 95 MB)
Day 3 - Morning Programme (36 pictures, 184 MB)
Day 3 - Evening Programme (30 pictures, 140 MB)
Day 3 - Group Photos (39 pictures, 176 MB)
Day 4 - Church Service (35 pictures, 187 MB)
Bellow there are listed the same pictures in middle resolution:
Day 1 - Registration and Evening Programme - click pictures to enlarge
Day 2 - Morning Programme - click pictures to enlarge
Day 2 - Afternoon Programme - click pictures to enlarge
Day 2 - Evening Programme - click pictures to enlarge
Day 3 - Morning Programme - click pictures to enlarge
Day 3 - Evening Programme - click pictures to enlarge
Day 3 - Group Photos - click pictures to enlarge
Day 4 - Church Service - click pictures to enlarge