“Ukraine’s First Meetinghouse Completed,” Ensign, Oct. 1998, 76
On Sunday, 28 June, almost 500 people crowded into Ukraine’s first Church-built meetinghouse to participate in dedicatory services led by Elder Wayne M. Hancock of the Seventy, Second Counselor in the Europe East Area Presidency.
Prior to the dedication, three days of open houses and musical concerts attracted reporters, government officials, educators, and other guests from Donetsk, Ukraine, where the Church has six branches. Sister Alla Shushkevich, a civil engineer who has translated 44 hymns into Russian, organized the concerts, which featured narration, classical vocal and organ solos, violin duets, hymns sung by choruses of missionaries and members, Primary songs sung by young women and children, and a patriotic reading about Ukraine. Sister Shushkevich invited friends of other faiths to perform, and several said they wanted to learn more about the Church.
“From the very beginning when I was baptized six years ago, I always wished there would be a meetinghouse like this,” said 70-year-old Nina Eelyenko. “Even though the Church rented places to hold meetings, most of them had no heat and often we were kicked out. We have prayed to the Lord for our own building, and now He has brought us this.”
Aleksandr N. Manzhos, president of the Ukraine Donetsk Mission, said, “I think that opening this meetinghouse is a big step for the Church in Ukraine and a blessing for all the people who live here.” He quoted a government official who commented, “We’ve always known you were a people who will help others, but now we know you are a people with a high level of spirituality.”
The Kievsky Branch will initially occupy the meetinghouse. Branch president Vladimir Dmiterko said that members worked tirelessly to clean windows and floors, move furniture, and make the grounds beautiful for the dedication. “All the members of our branch know this building is a great blessing for them and have treated it as a gift from the Lord Jesus Christ,” he said.
“We have many places of learning which teach people to be good plumbers or good electricians, but no place teaches us to be good fathers and mothers,” said Vjacheslav Shushkevich, whose family was among the first six families from Donetsk to be sealed in the Freiburg Germany Temple in 1995. “The doors of this building will be open to all people who want to strengthen families.”
Soon after he was baptized, 17-year-old Yuri Yurievich Martinenko was hired by the meetinghouse’s Turkish builder. Mixing cement all day long, he would pray for strength to continue working because it was a building for the Lord. The Turkish workers gave him the nickname of Little Mormon because he was small in stature and always blessed his food. “I am really happy to be here because there are drops of my sweat and tears in this building,” he said.
The meetinghouse “will be as a beacon light drawing the honest seeker of truth to inquire about its purposes so that they can enter the doorway to receive answers of eternal consequence and value,” said Elder Hancock in his dedicatory prayer. “This initial edifice will be replicated across this vast and beautiful Ukrainian nation as other meetinghouses dot the landscape and provide spiritual havens for Heavenly Father’s spiritual offspring.”