Through a series of unlikely – but God-ordained – events, a Ukrainian Nazarene congregation was recently organized in Murcia, Spain. The new church is uniquely positioned to reach other Ukrainian refugees who are moving to the area.
In the south of Spain, Murcia has become a city of refuge for those who need to start a new life or find help outside of their native country, especially people displaced from eastern Ukraine by the ongoing armed conflict between Ukraine and Russia.
One of these was Pastor Yuriy, a Ukrainian pastor who relocated to Spain five years ago with his family when he became very ill and could not get the medication he needed in Ukraine.
Years before, Yuriy had found Christ under the ministry of Nazarene Pastor Roman, when Yuriy was still addicted to drugs. Having found freedom from addiction through Christ, Yuriy wanted to minister to others who were still in bondage to addiction and embarked on his own pastoral ministry.
“For about 10 years he wanted to help [those who were] in the same place he once was before,” Pastor Roman said. A while after arriving in Murcia “a group of Russian speakers that had moved to Spain was captivated by Pastor Yuriy’s way of teaching.”
Because this group was not affiliated with any denomination, Pastor Roman talked with Pastor Yuriy about the Church of the Nazarene’s teaching and doctrine.
After they agreed that they wanted to be part of the denomination, Nazarene leaders in Spain, Ukraine, and Portugal agreed to work together to help establish this new Ukrainian congregation in Spain. Since then, the small church in Murcia has been part of the Spain District.
“As a district, we have a mission to plant churches,” said Ignacio Pesado, superintendent of the Spain District. “We visited [the Ukrainian group] and, from the first moment, we knew that they would be part of the Church of the Nazarene in Spain.”
Now that the Spain district is a mix of Spanish-speaking members and members from Ukraine and Russia, one of the challenges this district faces is communication. Although both Pastor Yuriy and Pesado communicate through translators, it is not easy.
“Even though we have the language barrier, every time my family and I visit Pastor Yuriy and his family, we feel at home and our friendship is growing,” Pesado said.
Instead of turning the church into a Spanish church, Pesado saw that there was a need to retain the congregation’s original identity. Pesado found that the Spanish government has an official agreement with Ukraine to receive refugees displaced by the armed conflict in eastern Ukraine and help them start over in Spain. Most of these people have lost family and friends. Therefore, the church in Murcia is particularly able to reach other Ukrainian refugees in their own language.
Pesado said, “With the will to serve and to join strengths, we see that the church can help a lot of the refugees.”
In August 2017, Ukraine sent a volunteer missionary, Sergiy Dzyba, through the Eurasia Region’s M+Power initiative to help Nazarenes serve in other parts of Eurasia as cross-cultural volunteers. Dzyba received a call from Scott Rainey, the leader of the CIS Field, including Ukraine. Rainey told Dzyba about the Ukrainian church in Spain and its desire for more support.
“He told me I was the perfect choice because I speak English, Russian-Ukrainian, and I’m learning Spanish," Dzyba said. "At the moment, I do not know why I started learning Spanish, it was just a language that I liked. I had no interest in going to Spain one day."
After working with youth and as a pastor for many years, Dzyba felt God’s call to go help in Spain for almost four months. One of his tasks was to help with the integration of the church into the district life.
“He helped the church understand better the Church of the Nazarene since many came from different backgrounds, and this helped them feel part of something more,” said Pesado. “He helped us with the language barrier.”
While working with the church, Dzyba helped Pastor Yuriy and his family with the congregation.
“It’s a small church, about 40 people, but it’s a good church,” Dzyba said. “They started five years ago and are now an organized church.”
At the organization service, Pesado was the main speaker.
“We also had guests from other churches that are close to us in Murcia," Dzyba said. "The Nazarene churches in Spain are far from us, so other pastors could not come.”
Now, Pastor Yuriy wants to start a rehabilitation center in Murcia.
“He is planning on starting a ministry for people with addiction because there are many people from Ukraine and Russia suffering from this problem,” Dzyba said.
Even though the church is still limited in the Spanish language, they are working to integrate with the district.
“They have a very strong congregation with a good heart, committed and faithful to the Lord," Dzyba says. If they listen to God’s plans for them, I think they will have a great future."