By Rev. Dennis Royall
When I had been asked to return to Donetsk again by Rev. Merle Messer (the President of R.I.T.E.), I understood that there would be two sections of classes to teach, but thought that the way we had done in previous years would continue, namely, that each professor would teach one section for two hours and then the other for two hours, teaching for a total of four hours per day. Rev. Ferguson and I were surprised to learn our first day that we would each be expected to teach all day - 4 hours for the "Certificate" class and then four hours for the "Seminary" class. An EIGHT-HOUR teaching day! We would teach from the same material in each group, but as the Certificate students are not as advanced in their education as the Seminary students, we would need to adjust the quantity and depth of our teaching between each group.
Once we got into the "groove" of our teaching (just past the middle of the first week), we settled into a pattern of teaching that we believed was helpful and useful for the students and, we pray, edifying for them in their training and nourishment in the word of God. We were both quite tired at the end of each day but, thankfully, we could relax in the apartment and about every other day go to one of the nearby restaurants to enjoy good food and a time of relaxing fellowship.
Lest we over exaggerate our work load, we should note that on Mondays we had a shortened day. The students, many of whom come from some distance out of town by way of trolley busses or trains, would arrive at the school somewhere around 10am and both Mondays we usually didn’t get started with our classes until nearly 11am. On the first Monday that day needed also to be shortened at the end so the students could go check into the dormitories where they would sleep throughout the week. So, that first Monday would put us at the school at 10am, and we would begin teaching sometime around 10:30 - 11am, and the day ended for us just after 2pm. Tuesday - Thursday were "normal" days for us. On a couple of days, for about half of the day, we joined the two classes together, to give each Professor and translator a bit of a break. Our translator, Natasha, usually accompanied by our other translator, Yana, would pick us up outside our apartment at 8:30am and drive us to school where we would arrive about 8:45. At 9am the class monitor (who wielded a tiny bell that signaled the beginning and ending of classes) would ring his bell and the students would all come into the larger classroom for devotions. Rev. Ferguson and I alternated these devotions, reading a portion of scripture and making some expository remarks from the text. We would then lead in prayer, all translated by our translators, to which the students would respond: "AMEEN." (The Russian pronunciation of Amen).
We would then split up into the separate classes, Rev. Ferguson and I alternating groups each day. The "Certificate" class had seven students whereas the Seminary class had some 23 students. About half of the students in each class were female, most of these were wives of men who were also studying at the school. These women are seeking to prepare themselves to be useful in the Church in teaching and catechizing children and leading women’s groups, and in being godly women assisting their Pastor husbands.
This year Rev. Ferguson taught a course in Ecclesiology. This is the study of the doctrine of the Church, dealing with all the historical and biblical matters and material that concern the church and her order and ministry. From what I could hear (our rooms were very close to one another and, as most of our folks know, Rev. Ferguson has a rather strong voice — thus I could hear much) Rev. Ferguson did an outstanding job with his classes. He established a ready rapport with the students and displayed a gift that I wish I had. He was able, very early in the first week, to remember every one of our students’ names and attach those names to their person. After knowing some of these students for several years I must confess that there are some whose names I still don’t remember. Rev. Ferguson did an able job of teaching our students the doctrine of the Church and I would recommend that he be invited to return to teach again in the future.
I taught the Book of the Revelation. This built upon the series of sermons that I preached in our church some years back, preaching through the entire book. And, also, I had taught the Revelation at the Baptist school some four years ago. My preparation time before going was shortened for me by reusing some of my material. I did revise much of the material and reprinted my syllabus, dealing as I knew I would be now not with majority Arminian students, but with those who are either committed to the Reformed doctrines of grace, or who are seriously considering them.
Once again, I am thankful to God that He would permit me to take a small part in ministry to His church not only where I live but also in Ukraine. I thank God that He has placed me in a congregation that generously gives support to this and other mission works and allows that their Pastor may be absent from his ministry at home for the time to take ministry to others. You will never know the joy and encouragement you, my beloved congregation, give to those young (and some middle-aged) Ukrainian men and women when you send us to them to open the treasure house of God’s Word to them. The burden that God has given me for Eastern Europeans in general since 1989 and for the Ukrainians specifically since 1997 grows each time I am privileged to travel there.