Update from Katie Steele, GBGM Mission Intern
Katharine (Katie) Steele is a mission intern with the General Board of Global Ministries of The United Methodist Church, serving initially as service and outreach coordinator of Youth to Jesus, an interdenominational ministry linked to the United Methodist Church in L'viv, the hub city of Western Ukraine. Katie is from Cincinnati, Ohio, where she is a member of the John Wesley United Methodist Church, a part of the West Ohio Annual Conference. Read more about Katie
I greet you this day with a heavy heart, a burdened soul and tragic news. On the first of the month I sent you all an update filled with stories of our mission teams and excitement for the upcoming events the rest of the summer, including English Camp and Vacation Bible School.
This past Tuesday, July 10th, everything in the world came to a grinding halt. In a matter of seconds the ceiling collapsed during the last work day at the student center for our short term team from Sugarland, TX. I was not at that location at the time and am physically safe and well. Yet one of the men from Texas and one of our most dedicated student leaders, Illya Onoprienko from here in Ukraine were killed and David Goran, the supervising missionary serving here was seriously injured, requiring him and his family to be medically evacuated to Germany to receive the surgery and treatment necessary to make a full recovery.
Tuesday - Thursday were the most difficult 48 hours I remember ever having lived through. Mere words cannot come close to communicating to you, my support network, the pain, loss, devastation, despair, anger, hurt, confusion, fear, sorrow and 10,000 other emotions that I and those around me were feeling. I cannot describe what it is like to look around a room and have every eye you meet be filled with tears and such looks of despair. Nor can I describe the helpless feeling one has as you sit with a woman who has just become a widow as she calls her children from overseas , as you help your supervisor pack for an immediate medical evacutation for her husband, or as you stand at the funeral of a young man who was an integral part of your first experience living abroad and to the ministry with which you work feeling, your own pain and sorrow, yet knowing the people around you who knew him far longer are suffering even more.
Yes, this past week has rocked the world in which I live, and the community with which I serve. The events that transpired have derailed all the plans that were laid for the remainder of the summer and much of the rest of my time here in Ukraine. Yet the love and care and support this faith community has shown each other and those of us Americans who are left here give me a sense of hope. Undoubtedly there is a long, bleak, unpleasant journey ahead of us in many ways but leaning on one another, carrying each other’s burdens and remaining wrapped in the Father’s loving arms we are sure to – somehow – make it through.
To those of you who have known since Tuesday what was going on, or who found out since, thank you for your prayers, emails, Skype calls and words of encouragement, or, better yet, no words at all but just your presence. For those of you just now finding out the current situation here, please, please pray for this faith community. Pray that we will not lose heart or let our faith diminish. Pray that this will prove to be a horrible bump in the road to greater ministry and that this become a catalyst for God to show is never-ending grace and love and sovereignty. Pray for the families that lost members, for everyone who lost such a wonderful friend in Illya and for those of us still here, trying to figure out what to do now. Pray the Holy Spirit will intercede on our behalf when our words and prayers fail.
Also, as of Wednesday I have moved into the Goran’s apartment to house sit, and because my lease ends at the end of the month anyway. Mail can reach me at Voronoho 11/3 L’viv, Ukraine 79000.
For more information on what happened:
If you would like to support our ministry, please prayerfully consider a financial donation. We now have no viable meeting space for either the church or the student center, are facing legal fees and continued remodeling costs. To do so:
Send your gifts through The Advance to your conference treasurer or to Advance GCFA, PO Box 9068, New York, NY. 10087-9068 with the Advance number clearly designated on your check. For more information about developing a Covenant Relationship. Visit www.advancinghope.org University Student Ministries Advance # 14055A