Thank you for praying with us this week for Denys Kondyuk in Ukraine.
Lying north of the Black Sea, Ukraine gained sovereignty in 1991 after the Soviet Union’s collapse. Today, Ukraine’s population numbers nearly 44 million and is 82% Christian, mostly Eastern Orthodox. In 2013, Ukraine’s government suspended an association agreement with the European Union in pursuit of closer ties with Russia. Several months of Euromaidan protests followed, eventually escalating into a revolution that resulted in a new government. A month later, in March 2014, Russia annexed the Crimean Peninsula, leading to ongoing warfare in Eastern Ukraine.
Denys is pursuing a PhD in Theology from Charles University in Prague. His dissertation – titled “Developing Cultural Analysis through a Methodology of Theological Aesthetics” – brings together theology, Ukrainian culture, and the cinematic arts. Denys’s scholarship enables him to reach a secular audience through the arts. While working on his doctorate, Denys also teaches and leads the Department of Missiology at Ukrainian Evangelical Theological Seminary (UETS), a client of the Vital SustainAbility Initiative. Check out Denys’s January 2020 Insights Journal article, “Addressing Social and Theological Challenges Faced by the Ukrainian Evangelical Church during the Current Geopolitical Conflict: A Perspective from UETS.” Denys and his wife Olga have a ten-year-old son, Yan.
Denys shares the following message:
Last year was a blessing, despite COVID-19 challenges. Though we went through the disease as a family, it was a mild experience with almost no long-term consequences for our health.
The situation in Ukraine was rather stable. Although the state’s actions against the pandemic were unsystematic and mostly ineffective for most of 2020, by the beginning of 2021, the situation got better.
The political situation in Ukraine has also reached a more stable phase. Yet, all the conflicts are still there, and there is no visible progress in relations with Russia and regarding their influence in Eastern Ukraine and Crimea.
In 2020, I had a two-month study trip to Belgium and improved my first two chapters significantly. I also recently submitted a rough draft of my thesis. Currently, I am still waiting for comments before the finalizing process begins. I am getting close to the finishing line.
I also submitted two book chapters. One is to be published in Russian and will include chapters on different aspects of theological aesthetics. The other is a volume in Routledge’s Religion and Film Series. I also published a journal article in Ukrainian Religious Studies on Christian themes in contemporary TV series. I can see many blessings in these opportunities to contribute.
Church and Ministry
We are still part of the Vineyard Church in Ukraine. Since last October, we have had Sunday services that look more like home groups. We moved from Zoom to offline meetings for most of this period. We have also slowly grown in number. We plan to organize an official church “opening” in the next two months. Currently, we are gathering in Kyiv’s downtown, close to the historical Golden Gate of the old Kyiv.
Occasionally, I also write articles with some Christian flavor for the Ukrainian film criticism journal, Flashforward Magazine. These articles are mostly missional, rather than academic. They allow me to build bridges with people who have no connection to the Church and are rather skeptical toward Christianity.
I have recently stepped down from the position of Academic Dean. Now, I am responsible for the Department of Missiology at Ukrainian Evangelical Theological Seminary (UETS).
In recent years, I have taught Ecclesiology, Theology Proper, and Apologetics. I continue to be a general editor of the seminary’s journal. We published a volume on civic society and will publish the next one on urban missions.
We had some classes on Zoom but have mostly returned to teaching our classes live on campus. This was important emotionally for our students, as they were tired of screens.
We are implementing changes in many areas of the seminary. It is encouraging, but mostly highly stressful. Also, one of our workers passed away after having COVID-19. We had to rearrange the work and quickly find another person for her position. It took more of my time than expected to help this person get into all the details of the work. There is growing tiredness in me after all these events, but I hope all these extreme situations will be over soon.
Yan had most of his school year online. After some thought, we decided to move him from the state school, which had handled the COVID-19 situation badly. They had no classes and just sent students their daily tasks for home-schooling.
Yan is now studying at an online-based private school with daily online tasks, step-by-step guidelines, and regular ZOOM classes. It has motivated him to study better. With less stress, he had no more problems with his health. This seems to indicate that last year’s health issues were psychologically rooted.
My wife Olga has moved completely to working at UETS and seems to enjoy her new position. She is still finishing her studies, but I hope I will be the first one to finish.
Both Olga and I had COVID-19 in November 2020. I had very basic symptoms for a few days and only discovered that it was the coronavirus through a PCR test. Olga had a harder time, and it took away two weeks from her. We have not had major health problems afterward. Considering that one of our colleagues passed away, we had no problems at all.
The year was stressful because of general COVID-19 restrictions, changed plans, and all kinds of limitations, but that seems to be a global experience nowadays.
(1) Please pray for my thesis progress. I have finally presented a rough draft. Now, I need to finish all the editing and have the dissertation defense and final exam. I really hope all this will happen in the coming few months.
(2) Pray for the situation in Ukraine and for the war to end. Pray for all the political processes to bring peace to our country, enable some financial stability, and preserve freedom of faith and ministry for our churches.
(3) Pray for our new church, as I have not been as involved as I should. Pray for our leadership team, which is still forming, and for the first public services and new ministries that will start in October.
(4) Keep our family in prayer. We need some time for rest. We skipped our summer vacation this year for many reasons, but we cannot continuously be busy in all areas of our lives. Pray for opportunities and wisdom to have some proper rest and breaks.
Thank you. May God bless you in your life and ministry.