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BPC disciples Ukraine

Jim Ward preaching at Ilichevsk Baptist Church
Jimmy Ward of Cochran, left, preaches at Ilichevsk Baptist Church in Odessa with a translator.


By Kelley M. Arnold

Director of News & Public Information

MOUNT VERNON—A local pastor and one of Brewton-Parker College’s graduating seniors traveled halfway around the world to Odessa, Ukraine, over Spring Break to minister and disciple the people of that area as part of BPC’s learning and missions coursework opportunities through the college’s Division of Religion and Philosophy.


Dr. Hal Ostrander
Dr. Hal Ostrander, left, preaches at the Odessa Theological Seminary with a translator.

And, Jimmy Ward, Jr., plans to go back – bringing with him as many members of his church family as possible. Ward is the pastor of Lakeview Baptist Church in Cochran, Ga.


Ward and Dr. Hal Ostrander, Division Chair, took advantage of a new opportunity for BPC to “teach and preach” at the Odessa Theological Seminary. The opportunity came through a combination of missions support and liaison from Bob Hartman International Ministries domestically and Calvin and Janet Bobo in Odessa. The Bobos have local and Brewton-Parker ties.


Ward started piecing together the where’s and who’s of the family’s South Georgia connection and realized he “grew up just a few miles from (Calvin’s) mom and dad’s house.” Calvin Bobo is a 1993 BPC alumnus, holding an associate of arts and a bachelor’s in ministry.         


“It’s kind of neat to go that far and find people you know,” said Ward. The elder Bobos attend Limestone Baptist Church in Cochran.


Ward’s memories of the trip are vivid.


View of the road conditions and area surrounding Odessa.

He recalls the travel over deep-rutted and pot-holed roads at a slower than American pace between the churches he visited, where he taught either youth leadership or gave his testimony. Youth ministry is a relatively new concept to the Ukrainians because it was not allowed under Communism, Ward explains.


He tells the story of a local pastor giving his own testimony at one of the daughter churches in Odessa. The pastor, then serving in the Communist Army, was snatched from his bed in the middle of the night by a few of his bunkmates, held at gunpoint and demanded upon to either renounce his faith or be shot. He didn’t. A few hairy seconds passed where the pastor could feel the weight of the gun’s barrel pressed to his back but no shots were fired. His tormentors laughed at him, told him he was crazy and to go back to bed.


Ward met a Muslim man who did renounce his heritage and religion – radically – for the faith of Christianity – and who now makes it his mission to “spread the truth about Isalm,” pointing out passages in the Koran that endorse incest and bestiality.


Then there is the memory of the Ukrainian hospitality, very similar to the Southern American kind. Each time Ward and Dr. Ostrander served the people, they were welcomed into one of the church family’s homes and offered tea with chocolate and snacks; the tea hot and poured from ornate silver decanters and percolators.


Potemkin Stairs in Odessa
View looking down the Potemkin Stairs in Odessa looking to the Black Sea.

“The southern portion of Ukraine is much more economically depressed than the north, where Kiev is located,” said Ward. “All you saw were ports (on the Black Sea) and agricultural areas, but there is a zeal about (the people) that I think is lacking in our churches. Only a very small percentage is evangelical Christians. There is a majority in Atheism and Agnosticism.”


“The Gospel is making more inroads in Ukraine than in other Republics,” continues Dr. Ostrander. “The need in Ukraine is not so much evangelism but discipleship. Everyone wants to get the thrill of seeing converts. In Odessa, you are able to help them grow and learn.”


Ward is excited to return to Odessa and bring a team of missionaries from his church to help meet the needs of some of the daughter churches.


“Already five or six people have told me they want to go,” he said. “We would like to help with a backyard Bible school in the summer and meet some construction needs.”


Calvin and Janet Bobo with son Adam
IMB host missionaries in Odessa, Calvin and Janet Bobo and their son, Adam. Calvin is a 1993 BPC graduate and his parents live in Cochran, Ga. (Photos provided)

Back at BPC, Ward was awarded the Barnabus Award, a special award from the Division of Religion and Philosophy at Honors Day Chapel April 27.


“Jim has been an encouragement to both the professors and the students. He models Christ to younger students,” said Dr. Ostrander. “Sometimes having an older student, more knowledgeable about life, in the classroom you can see how God uses him. He is always willing to talk with us and minister side-by-side with (the professors).”


Ward was a youth pastor for five-and-a-half years and only became a full-time minister a year ago “when God called”. He is a part-time student, and after four years completing two years of coursework, he will graduate May 15 with the Class of 2010 with a bachelor’s of ministry. He plans to go onto Southeastern Theological Seminary and earn a Master’s of Expository Preaching.


“One thing Brewton-Parker has done is to show me that in our churches, we are just scratching the surface,” said Ward. “There is much more there to teach if we are willing to teach it. That’s what we should do.”


Ward earned three hours of college credit during the missions practicum to the Ukraine. Dr. Ostrander has taken several students over the years to places like Odessa, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Russia and Germany, to name a few. If you would like to learn more about attending these Spring Break mission opportunities through BPC, either for or not-for-credit, please contact Dr. Ostrander at or call him at 912-583-3116. Upcoming locations will include Israel, Zambia and Lithuania.


Brewton-Parker College is the only accredited four-year Christian college in south Georgia.


Fort Belgorod
At Fort Belgorod. From left, Jimmy Ward, Calvin Bobo, Dr. Hal Ostrander and Ryan Naylor, a former student of Dr. Ostrander’s.


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The mission of Brewton-Parker College, a Georgia Baptist college, is to develop the whole student through the application of Biblically-centered truth to a liberal arts curriculum in a community of shared Christian values.
Brewton-Parker College is accredited by the Commission on Colleges of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools to award associate and baccalaureate degrees. Contact the Commission on Colleges at 1866 Southern Lane, Decatur, Georgia 30033-4097 or call 404-679-4500 for questions about the accreditation of Brewton-Parker College.
Updated on: May 14, 2010 3:15 PM