Last week, the leading bishop of the United Evangelical Lutheran Church of Germany (VELKD), Ralf Meister, together with the executive director of the German National Committee of the Lutheran World Federation (GNK/LWB), Norbert Denecke, visited the congregation of the German Evangelical Lutheran Church of Ukraine (GELCU) in Odessa. Here they were welcomed by Rev. Alexander Gross. 

“In Germany, we are praying for you and an end to this war. But now we want to pray with you in your church and perceive your needs with our own eyes,” Meister said. “Maintaining and strengthening the bond with Christians worldwide is one of the essential work priorities for the LWF and VELKD.” 

Joint prayer in St. Paul church in Odessa with VELKD leading bishop Ralf Meister (right) and GELKU pastor Alexander Gross.
Photo: I. Nazarenko

“With our visit to Odessa and the congregations of Petrodolynske and Novohradkivka, we wanted to express our solidarity with our brothers and sisters and obtain first-hand insights into how we can support them even more effectively,” the bishop said.  

“This visit is very important for us,” Rev. Gross said. “It is a special sign of solidarity with our church and the Ukrainian people.” 

 “Here in the coastal region on the Black Sea in southern Ukraine, hardly anyone can plan for the future. Most people only think about surviving: having a job, having food,” said Gross. In our community, many people are poorly educated and come from socially disadvantaged families. They would typically have found work in tourism over the summer. That income would be stretched to cover the entire year, he added. “Now, no one in Ukraine goes for vacation by the sea, and our people don’t know how to pay for food,” said Gross. “We are helping as much as possible so that no one goes hungry.” 

Close ties to the LWF and partners in Germany enable the GELKU congregation to care for internally displaced people and provide reliable supplies of energy and drinking water. “The VELKD and GNK/LWF have provided substantial sums for this purpose,” Denecke said. “In addition, many individual donors have shown their generous support.” 

A visit to the Bethany Children Center, Petrodolynske. Photo: I. Nazarenko

As a result, solar panels will be installed in the community of Petrodolynske to provide electricity. In Kremenchuk, a church house will be renovated to serve as housing for internally displaced persons. A well will also be upgraded to provide drinking water reliably. During the visit to Odessa, Bishop Meister shared a donation of 4,000 Euros with pastor Gross for urgently needed medical aid. 

“Together, we long for a world in which peace and justice no longer have to be fought for,” Meister said.

LWF/A. Weyermüller Source