Sergei on a mountain-top experience
Lynda Hollinger-Janzen
Wednesday, May 28, 2008

MIS, Ukraine (Mennonite Mission Network) – Until recently, Cliff Dueck began each school day scrambling eggs or preparing noodles with milk for seven angelic-looking adolescent boys. After breakfast, they would all pile into his van to be dropped off before classes began.

Their sweet faces disguise the struggles the boys encounter in daily life, the fight to survive the consequences of their parents' choices, their environment and occult powers. Their challenges, both in belief and in life, are just beginning.

Two of the young teens, including Sergei – the group leader – are now in an isolated tuberculosis sanatorium for at-risk children. Tuberculosis, an opportunistic disease, becomes a serious health concern in areas like the Ukraine, where HIV/AIDS infection is high. 

“Now, the other boys don’t come around as much,” said Dueck of Mennonite Mission Network and Mennonite Church Canada Witness.

In a region where no official records of HIV/AIDS statistics exist due to societal taboo, up to 60 percent of the population may be infected with the virus.

“People living with tuberculosis are told that they have asthma and people with HIV are told that they have some other disease,” Dueck said. 

Because most of Dueck’s breakfast buddies show symptoms of Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder and have open records with the police, he continues to walk closely with the youngsters since they made a decision to follow Jesus on Feb. 16.

That Saturday, the seven boys sauntered into the Kherson Mennonite Church exuding trouble, just as worship was about to begin.

“We know them well,” said Dueck, who has related to most of the boys since they were children and meets with them every Thursday. “They are all involved in the occult and the spirits that they submit to always mock our worship with hysterical laughter.”

Dueck and Vasya Shevchenko, a young pastor, consulted quickly. They didn’t want to ask the boys to leave, but if the boys stayed, no one would be able to concentrate on worship.

While Shevchenko began the service, Dueck led the boys into another room. Dueck asked them why they came to church. They said they had come to worship.

“Okay, then, let’s do that,” Dueck said.

They gathered in a circle and Dueck proposed that each person select a song and pray. When it was Dueck’s turn, the commotion began.

“The evil spirits did their best to disrupt my prayer,” Dueck said. “I stopped trying to pray and started a discussion about witchcraft, black and white magic, poltergeists and Christ’s power.”

Dueck reports that involvement with the occult is the most common form of spirituality in the Ukraine. Three of the seven boys admit to direct contact, or live with people who have direct contact, with the spirit world.

“One boy's sister is preparing to be a witch. The mother of another boy practices white magic. She has anointed the boys many times in a certain ritual. After the anointing – which they thought was a part of Christianity –  they are driven to steal, drink, smoke and skip school,” Dueck said.

After talking with the boys an hour and a half on Feb 16, all seven made a decision to follow Jesus.

The boys returned every day for prayer. During the week following their conversions, the boys brought three friends to talk with Dueck. One of them also decided to follow Jesus. One refused.

The third, Artur, from a Muslim family said, “I would like to receive Christ, but I choose not to unless my parents receive Christ.”

Dueck respected this response, but prayed with Artur requesting that God would open a way to share the gospel with his parents.

Through the daily prayer breakfasts, Dueck attempted to give the young believers a good start on their day in an environment that is so hostile to spiritual and physical health.

“The boys are being pulled in two directions. When they don’t pray with me for a few days, it hurts their personal spiritual development immensely. They often end up back where they were before,” Dueck said.

In 1998, Dueck felt led by God to Kherson. There he met, Natasha Shevchenko, who would become his wife in 2000. Four months after their marriage, they began to serve as pastoral couple for the newly planted church in Mis. This congregation has grown to 20 members over the past seven years.

Each week, between the two of them, the Duecks lead two worship services (one on Saturday and one on Sunday), Sunday school in two locations, four Bible studies and a mid-week prayer meeting. They are assisted by Natasha’s older brother, Vasya Shevchenko, who was ordained on March 30, and her younger sister, Luda Shevchenko.

Motivated by their strong concern for young people, the Duecks help organize youth clubs, summer camps, Sunday school and Bible studies. Cliff Dueck is also involved in a loan fund sponsored by Mennonite Central Committee which assists entrepreneurs, most of whom are members of the Baptist Union, the largest Protestant group in the Ukraine claiming 500,000 members.

The Duecks have two pre-school age daughters, Margarita and Abigail. Steinbach (Manitoba) Mennonite Church is their home congregation.

 

 

 Related articles

 

 

Mission worker used comforter-making to knot God’s people togetherObituaryhttps://www.mennonitemission.net/news/5082/Mission-worker-used-comforter-making-to-knot-God’s-people-togetherMission worker used comforter-making to knot God’s people togetherGP0|#52c46992-a072-4af3-b006-834f7e8b9cb1;L0|#052c46992-a072-4af3-b006-834f7e8b9cb1|News;GTSet|#544fcc8d-5de2-49c8-9d51-afee09323476
MC USA files new amicus brief in support of Apache-StrongholdApache-Strongholdhttps://www.mennonitemission.net/news/5076/MC-USA-files-new-amicus-brief-in-support-of-Apache-StrongholdMC USA files new amicus brief in support of Apache-StrongholdGP0|#52c46992-a072-4af3-b006-834f7e8b9cb1;L0|#052c46992-a072-4af3-b006-834f7e8b9cb1|News;GTSet|#544fcc8d-5de2-49c8-9d51-afee09323476Oak Flat
Mission Network announces 2024 Anti-Racism Grant awardsNewshttps://www.mennonitemission.net/news/5073/2024-Anti-Racism-Grant-awardsMission Network announces 2024 Anti-Racism Grant awardsGP0|#52c46992-a072-4af3-b006-834f7e8b9cb1;L0|#052c46992-a072-4af3-b006-834f7e8b9cb1|News;GTSet|#544fcc8d-5de2-49c8-9d51-afee09323476
Finding fresh hope at PSMC conferenceChurch plantinghttps://www.mennonitemission.net/news/5071/Finding-fresh-hopeFinding fresh hope at PSMC conferenceGP0|#52c46992-a072-4af3-b006-834f7e8b9cb1;L0|#052c46992-a072-4af3-b006-834f7e8b9cb1|News;GTSet|#544fcc8d-5de2-49c8-9d51-afee09323476
Albuquerque Service Adventure shared a southwest blend of faith and friendship for 25 yearsService Adventurehttps://www.mennonitemission.net/news/5072/Albuquerque-Service-Adventure-shared-faith-and-communityAlbuquerque Service Adventure shared a southwest blend of faith and friendship for 25 yearsGP0|#52c46992-a072-4af3-b006-834f7e8b9cb1;L0|#052c46992-a072-4af3-b006-834f7e8b9cb1|News;GTSet|#544fcc8d-5de2-49c8-9d51-afee09323476New Mexico
Ecuador Partnership's journey of collaboration and renewalInternational Servicehttps://www.mennonitemission.net/news/5067/Ecuador-Partnership-journeyEcuador Partnership's journey of collaboration and renewalGP0|#52c46992-a072-4af3-b006-834f7e8b9cb1;L0|#052c46992-a072-4af3-b006-834f7e8b9cb1|News;GTSet|#544fcc8d-5de2-49c8-9d51-afee09323476
How can I be a peace witness in time of war?Peace witnesshttps://www.mennonitemission.net/news/4681/How-can-I-be-a-peace-witness-in-time-of-warHow can I be a peace witness in time of war?GP0|#52c46992-a072-4af3-b006-834f7e8b9cb1;L0|#052c46992-a072-4af3-b006-834f7e8b9cb1|News;GTSet|#544fcc8d-5de2-49c8-9d51-afee09323476
Ana Alicia Hinojosa assumes role as Senior Executive for Ventures at Mennonite Mission NetworkPress Releasehttps://www.mennonitemission.net/news/5069/Ana-Alicia-Hinojosa-assumes-role-as-Senior-Executive-for-VenturesAna Alicia Hinojosa assumes role as Senior Executive for Ventures at Mennonite Mission NetworkGP0|#52c46992-a072-4af3-b006-834f7e8b9cb1;L0|#052c46992-a072-4af3-b006-834f7e8b9cb1|News;GTSet|#544fcc8d-5de2-49c8-9d51-afee09323476
Mennonites unite in Ecuador’s peace journeyPeacebuildinghttps://www.mennonitemission.net/news/5066/Mennonites-unite-in-Ecuador’s-peace-journeyMennonites unite in Ecuador’s peace journeyGP0|#52c46992-a072-4af3-b006-834f7e8b9cb1;L0|#052c46992-a072-4af3-b006-834f7e8b9cb1|News;GTSet|#544fcc8d-5de2-49c8-9d51-afee09323476Quito
Peer mediators gain self-esteem while working for community peacePeace camphttps://www.mennonitemission.net/news/5062/Peer-mediators-gain-self-esteem-while-working-for-community-peacePeer mediators gain self-esteem while working for community peaceGP0|#52c46992-a072-4af3-b006-834f7e8b9cb1;L0|#052c46992-a072-4af3-b006-834f7e8b9cb1|News;GTSet|#544fcc8d-5de2-49c8-9d51-afee09323476Cape Town
Lois Buckwalter discerned a new way of doing mission among the Toba-Qom peopleObituaryhttps://www.mennonitemission.net/news/5059/Lois-Buckwalter-discerned-a-new-way-of-doing-mission-among-the-Toba-Qom-peopleLois Buckwalter discerned a new way of doing mission among the Toba-Qom peopleGP0|#52c46992-a072-4af3-b006-834f7e8b9cb1;L0|#052c46992-a072-4af3-b006-834f7e8b9cb1|News;GTSet|#544fcc8d-5de2-49c8-9d51-afee09323476
Strengthening bonds: A gathering for Anabaptist theological educationTheological consultationhttps://www.mennonitemission.net/news/5049/gathering-for-Anabaptist-theological-educationStrengthening bonds: A gathering for Anabaptist theological educationGP0|#52c46992-a072-4af3-b006-834f7e8b9cb1;L0|#052c46992-a072-4af3-b006-834f7e8b9cb1|News;GTSet|#544fcc8d-5de2-49c8-9d51-afee09323476Mexico City
Dreams of the boy become mission of the manRetirementhttps://www.mennonitemission.net/news/5048/Dreams-of-the-boyDreams of the boy become mission of the manGP0|#52c46992-a072-4af3-b006-834f7e8b9cb1;L0|#052c46992-a072-4af3-b006-834f7e8b9cb1|News;GTSet|#544fcc8d-5de2-49c8-9d51-afee09323476
Movement of Anabaptist Women Doing Theology from Latin America commemorates 20 years of ministry with publicationMissio Deihttps://www.mennonitemission.net/news/5045/Women-Doing-Theology-from-Latin-AmericaMovement of Anabaptist Women Doing Theology from Latin America commemorates 20 years of ministry with publicationGP0|#52c46992-a072-4af3-b006-834f7e8b9cb1;L0|#052c46992-a072-4af3-b006-834f7e8b9cb1|News;GTSet|#544fcc8d-5de2-49c8-9d51-afee09323476
Mennonite medical ministry changing in Taiwan even as Christ’s love remains the sameNewshttps://www.mennonitemission.net/news/5040/Mennonite-medical-ministry-changing-in-TaiwanMennonite medical ministry changing in Taiwan even as Christ’s love remains the sameGP0|#52c46992-a072-4af3-b006-834f7e8b9cb1;L0|#052c46992-a072-4af3-b006-834f7e8b9cb1|News;GTSet|#544fcc8d-5de2-49c8-9d51-afee09323476

 

 

 Related

 

 

Mission worker used comforter-making to knot God’s people togetherhttps://www.mennonitemission.net/news/5082/Mission-worker-used-comforter-making-to-knot-God’s-people-togetherMission worker used comforter-making to knot God’s people together
MC USA files new amicus brief in support of Apache-Strongholdhttps://www.mennonitemission.net/news/5076/MC-USA-files-new-amicus-brief-in-support-of-Apache-StrongholdMC USA files new amicus brief in support of Apache-Stronghold
Mission Network announces 2024 Anti-Racism Grant awardshttps://www.mennonitemission.net/news/5073/2024-Anti-Racism-Grant-awardsMission Network announces 2024 Anti-Racism Grant awards
Finding fresh hope at PSMC conferencehttps://www.mennonitemission.net/news/5071/Finding-fresh-hopeFinding fresh hope at PSMC conference
Albuquerque Service Adventure shared a southwest blend of faith and friendship for 25 yearshttps://www.mennonitemission.net/news/5072/Albuquerque-Service-Adventure-shared-faith-and-communityAlbuquerque Service Adventure shared a southwest blend of faith and friendship for 25 years
Ecuador Partnership's journey of collaboration and renewalhttps://www.mennonitemission.net/news/5067/Ecuador-Partnership-journeyEcuador Partnership's journey of collaboration and renewal



 

 

For a new dad, the thought of fatherhood is more mysterious than everhttps://www.mennonitemission.net/blog/5084/For-a-new-dad-fatherhood-feels-more-mysterious-than-everFor a new dad, the thought of fatherhood is more mysterious than everBLOG
Mission worker used comforter-making to knot God’s people togetherhttps://www.mennonitemission.net/news/5082/Mission-worker-used-comforter-making-to-knot-God’s-people-togetherMission worker used comforter-making to knot God’s people togetherObituary
Here with purpose: Joe Sawatzkyhttps://www.mennonitemission.net/blog/5074/Here-with-purpose-Joe-SawatzkyHere with purpose: Joe SawatzkyQ&A
“Unity in Diversity”: An interview with Martin Gunawan about his cultural heritagehttps://www.mennonitemission.net/blog/5079/Unity-in-Diversity-An-interview-with-Martin-Gunawan-about-his-cultural-heritage“Unity in Diversity”: An interview with Martin Gunawan about his cultural heritageQ&A
Anabaptist Witness combines scholarship and global solidarity with Ethiopian issuehttps://www.mennonitemission.net/blog/5077/Anabaptist-Witness-combines-scholarship-and-global-solidarity-with-Ethiopian-issueAnabaptist Witness combines scholarship and global solidarity with Ethiopian issueAnabaptist Witness
Complex grief of climate changehttps://www.mennonitemission.net/blog/5078/Complex-grief-of-climate-changeComplex grief of climate changeCreation Care