While sifting through my archives I chanced upon an article (in fact, a Letter to the Editor for the English-language Kyiv Post) which I wrote years ago and which was published at that time as a reader’s viewpoint. Since the letter has never appeared online before and because my views haven’t changed an iota, I thought it made sense to post it even after that long lapse of time.

Dear Sir, in the latest issue of the Kyiv Post you published a letter “These guys Need Help Too,” which I cannot pass unchallenged. While sharing the author’s indignation over the verbal conduct of the supposed preachers of God’s Word, I would say that Will Smiley (the author of the letter mentioned) is too quick when he rushes into generalizations of the type: “The last thing this nation needs is the Bible which they already have;” or” “missionaries walk a highly questionable line in countries like Ukraine;” or “I wonder, what makes any of the American churches think that people overseas appreciate their doctrine.” Such maxim-like phrases cast a shadow across the work of people who, being in the same “missionary” category are somebody Ukraine really needs.

I attend an English-language church in Kyiv, and I can say only good words about the team of missionaries who are preaching there. In times when money is the new master in this country and when much of what you hear is nothing but double-talk, they speak of timeless truths like patience, compassion, understanding, forgiveness, thankfulness, i.e. concepts which, I’m afraid, are becoming old-fashioned in Ukraine. You also add these people’s strong-minded personal decency to what they say. To skeptical know-it-alls, who always find some selfish motive behind any action, I would say the following: “What is the driving force that makes a person leave the high living standards of an industrial country and go to the “back of beyond” with his wife and five children (the youngest being not more than five years old) and settle in a city with Chernobyl nuclear plant coughing next door?” Mr. Smiley, you may be proud that you are an American.

Regarding the Bible that we “already have”, thanks to my new friends I have immersed into the amazing richness – linguistic, conceptual and spiritual – of mankind’s greatest heritage. Incidentally, when I was a post-graduate student, I used to read into works by Heidegger and Gadamer, but this time I have discovered that the hermeneutic principles of those philosophical eggheads are brilliantly implemented by the missionaries when they interpret the Bible during Bible study.

Last but not least, I have a very vague idea about who or what the Mormons are (the guys, who were casually using foul language while talking with each other, told Mr. Smiley that they were Mormons). However, If so many people follow their doctrine, there may also be positive values about it. My principle is that any sincere belief cannot be entirely unacceptable and deserves some respect just for its sincerity. I understand that this point may be argued against, but tolerance and liberal views are something that we, Ukrainians, also need after so many years of cultural totalitarianism.


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