An Eye-Opening trip to Poroscovo
The Ukrainian village of Poroscovo is situated 30 km from the Slovakian border. We drove there one Saturday evening in March to visit the Baptist Church planted by David Chidesa. It took four hours to drive the 220km from David’s home in Slatina, along roads that were lined with pot holes.
David explained how the church came about: “I started the work in 2007. Someone told me there was an ethnic group that spoke a language which was close to Romanian. An old Ukrainian pastor said that they were known as ‘Valoch’. I went with him to Poroscovo and was surprised how poor they were but also how open they were to the Gospel. There were so many material needs among the people that I could not meet those needs by myself. With the financial help of Romanian and Hungarian brothers we were able to purchase land with a small building. We worked at this to make it suitable as a meeting place, first for children and later as a church. Later the old building was demolished and we built a completely new facility. I am very happy that a couple have started working in Poroscovo under my guidance.”
John and Gaby Patrash are that couple. They moved there to lead the work in April 2011. John explained their call to Poroscovo: “Since I heard about the ministry in Poroscovo I felt God had called us to the work, but we waited one year for somebody else to go. I didn’t have the courage to tell the brothers!” In Poroscovo they occupy a small apartment at the front third of the building and the church meets in a room which forms the rear two-thirds. The Romanians in Poroscovo are not liked by their Ukrainian neighbours, and live in the poorer side of the village.
The church has faced opposition, as John explained: “The local authority was not pleased that we were trying to minister to this ethnic group. The church neighbours were upset and complained about the children coming to the church. They signed complaints to the town hall to try to stop any church activities with the children. The mayor asked us not to have more than 15 children at once in the church building on Sunday!”
Despite this opposition the church is growing and there were about 80 people at the Sunday services. These were mainly women and children, as the men go to find work elsewhere for most of the year. Only two adults in the congregation, apart from John and Gaby, can read. One can only imagine the problems this causes. Songs have to be memorized and very few have Bibles. On the Sunday afternoon John took us to visit some of the homes of his congregation and we witnessed first-hand the poverty that David had mentioned earlier. We reached this community along a muddy track. The land adjacent to the homes was strewn with rubbish. The people were happy to let us see inside their homes. One house had just one room but was home to a family with six children.
John was asked what were the most pressing prayer needs. “Please pray that those who show interest in the Gospel will experience genuine conversion. Pray that church members will keep a good testimony amongst their neighbours. Also pray for a new building which is desperately needed, as the place we now have is insufficient. I also ask for prayer for the other villages around Poroscovo. Pray that God will open up opportunities to work among them, start churches and install leaders who can supervise the work. We desperately need more workers who can help us in the ministry.”