New Year, Old Church: First Baptist in Zhytomyr

As a new year begins, we’re thinking about time: the closing of an old season, the beginning of something new, the way love heals through many seasons of friendship and security.

One of our partners in hope and healing is First Baptist Church, an old church in Zhytomyr. During the Soviet regime, they lost their building and were forcibly relocated to a patch of land at the city’s edge. A small house of prayer, still used for services, was built in 1974. A few years ago, the church constructed a new building for Sunday School, Bible study groups, and youth meetings.

First Baptist Church

Staff members Lena Voznyuk and Olga Antonova attend First Baptist, along with two volunteers. Early on, First Baptist began donating clothes for our orphan-led families, and they pray for us corporately. Volunteer Donna continues to drop off clothing and supplies collected by moms from the church.

Donna (left) with one of our orphanage graduates at a Called to Influence event

As a fixture in Zhytomyr’s community, First Baptist has a lot to offer vulnerable orphanage graduates! They’ve been a model of consciously including orphans in the life of the church. “Called to Influence” is a program they designed specifically with Last Bell’s young women in mind.

25-30 of Last Bell’s young women attend Called to Influence

At Called to Influence, orphanage graduates discover “the inner calling of each woman” alongside their church friends. They study good examples of women in the Bible and throughout history. Donna, one of the leaders, has formed close relationships with our young women. All the leaders want to see young people learn to serve others and be a good friend to everyone.

Called to Influence, held twice a month at the church

Our young people are welcomed at First Baptist’s Bible studies and their youth group, Vector, which also hosts a camp during the summer. A year ago, Vector hosted the Christian Soccer League awards:

Orphanage graduate Masha Pankyeyeva is part of the League.

Our youth were glad to participate and celebrate!

Vika, our other volunteer from First Baptist, is passionate about serving orphans. She also volunteers with Agape Ministry and visits orphanages in Denyshiy and Kmytiv.

Vika shared:

“Lena and Nastya told me about the ministry for graduate orphans. I had the desire to learn more, and help as much as I could. I began to understand, more realistically, what difficulties they go through and how they adapt to society.”

Vika Saets

“When I have the opportunity, I visit Last Bell’s life skills lessons at the social dorm, visit personally with young people, and invite them to my small group at church. I also visit the Educational Outreach youth group meetings.

“Over the summer I accompanied a group from Last Bell to a camp in the Carpathian Mountains hosted by Agape.”

In the mountains with orphanage graduates and friends

“By profession I’m a teacher and work in a kindergarten. At church I serve in Sunday School and sing in the choir. I’m very glad I can be useful in this service as well: to help orphans find a better life, tell them about life with Jesus, and help them adapt to society.”

We’re grateful for help from friends like First Baptist as we bring hope and healing to orphanage graduates, and we look forward to working with these faithful partners for many seasons to come!