08 April 2009

First Prison Seminar in Ukraine

The Kiev prison authorities and the Vinnitska leaders, who attended the April 2008 trip to USA, granted us permission to do the first seminar in the Litin(central Ukraine)Prison beginning Monday, April 6. The Litin Prison is on the west side of Litin, just a stone's throw from Pavel Pochapsky's church. The prison officials did not grant our request to hold the seminar in the standard format, but restricted our time to two hours a day. They are allowing extra time on weekends to allow us to complete the 32 hours of the Basic Seminar within two weeks.

Thirty seven men came to attend the training, although three left early on, taking their workbooks.

About 10 days before the start of the training, the Litin Prison authorities informed Sasha Shevchenko that they would let us work with 4 men. Pavel told him to tell the prison authorities in Vinnitsa that we are canceling the seminar and going to the Zhitomir(western Ukraine) oblast, where we have an open invitation to begin from the colonel who made the trip to America. At this news, Pavel told me they did a quick about face and even put up advertisements in the prison for men to attend. Praise the Lord for the 37 who came the first day.

Sasha Shevchenko is well known and respected at this prison, so he made the initial greetings. He then introduced me, and I talked about the history of the training, sharing about Bill Gothard's devotion to young people and criminal gangs in Chicago. I let the men know that only recently has the training been used in prisons in America and in other countries. One prisoner, Sasha, stood up and proclaimed, "Crime is the response of normal people to abnormal societal conditions!" Several prisoners grunted their approval. He then said, "We prisoners are mostly Orthodox and care nothing for your protestant teachings." I said, "Thanks for your comments and statements, because they allow me to underscore a couple important facts. First, we only allow people to attend voluntarily, and if that is not the case we need to know about it immediately. Are you all volunteers?" They all quickly assured me they were. "Secondly, this is a fully non-denominational program, enjoyed the world over by all Christian denominations. You will notice that all of the sessions are characterized by a deep love and respect for Jesus Christ as Lord and for the scriptures as God's inspired Word. I presume there are no problems here with those values, which are shared by all Christians." All were in agreement, and the vast majority very respectful toward us, so we began the training. A couple of rebels demonstratively kept their workbooks closed, but when Bill began to share about the causes of conflicts, they quickly began to write and made up for lost time. It seemed to me that all were scribbling quite furiously to keep up with the lessons.

I was very pleased with the first session, and I pray the remaining sessions will be revealing and helpful to all of them.

Unfortunately, I was granted permission to be there only on the first day. I had hoped to be there for questions and answers on following days. However, Dima is very well versed in the principles and will do that job well, if we will keep him in our prayers. He will also give us a full report on the ministry of these two weeks.

Thank you to all who prayed. Jeff Franks

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