Wes Jansen and I walked the empty Saturday morning streets of Kiev, turned down Shevchenko Street and into the National Arts building, heading up to the fourth floor. The door opened and we stepped into a room of some 250 women. Most seemed older than my 75 years, but I learned that most were younger.
By Bryan C. Stiller
A tough life can add on its years.
This was a Saturday morning Bible study, but not your average group. They were widows, brought together by a symphonic orchestra and chorale.
It all began years ago when Americans Roger and Diane McMurrin founded the Kiev Symphony Orchestra and Chorus. Today, led by Canadians Wes and Kim Janzen, the group tours Europe and North America. Now well known in Ukraine, professional musicians have joined. The message of the gospel struck a chord with them, and one by one the musicians and singers came to personal faith in Christ.
As their music flourished and their fame spread, they dove deeper into Scripture, and the musicians noticed that the Lord had a special place for widows and orphans. Out of years of deep struggle, first under Soviet Union rule and now living with war on their eastern front, many widows find poverty is the norm.
And it is here that the story takes an interesting turn.
These musicians took it upon themselves to bring special care to widows, and then orphans. Today in Kiev, 309 widows are supported by friends around the world and cared for by St. Paul’s Evangelical Church.
It took a few minutes for me to understand the nature of this group and what this represented. I watched from the rear of the room as Kim dismissed the first group. They quietly filed out of the concert hall, taking the stairs to the first floor. How they exited mattered, for only as they stood to the inside of the stairs could the next assembly of widows make their way up to the fourth floor for their hour of Bible study.
Okay, I thought, good organization. But as I arrived on the first floor, what I saw gave me a completely revised understanding and appreciation for the vision and heart of a ministry and church that began over classical repertoires and concerts.