Ukrainian mother and daughter join congregation which offered refuge

A mother and daughter from Ukraine have joined local Christians in making a public declaration of their faith after finding a refuge in Scotland.

Svitlana Lushchan (60) and her daughter Anna were among the 13 new members joining Kirkliston Parish Church near Edinburgh.

Some of the new members joining Kirkliston Parish Church: (from left) Alicia Lourens, Anna Lushchan, Caroline Laing, Catherine Mackie, Deborah Sheppard, Iain Cunningham, Lloyd, Rebecca and Jo Jansen van Vuuren, Lize Potgieter, Suzanne and Leah Nolte, and Svitlana Lushchan. Not pictured is Louis Nolte while Philip Lourens joined via video link.

With so many new members, among them family groups, Kirkliston minister Rev Erik du Toit arranged a special service to mark the occasion, which also included the baptism of new member, Iain Cunningham, and Holy Communion.

One of the new members, Lance Corporal Philip Lourens, was on active service with the army, but was able to join the new members, including his wife, Alicia, via videocall.

Iain Cunningham (left) is welcomed into membership of the Church by Kirkliston minister Rev Erick du Toit.

“They just married two weeks earlier. What a great way to kickstart your marriage,” Mr Du Toit added.

The larger than usual membership service is in part due to a backlog as a result of Covid restrictions, but the pandemic also saw more people join Kirkliston Church’s online services. The church’s in-person discipleship groups and biennial Alpha courses have also helped attract new members, offering a space to explore Christianity in smaller groups, and the new members include people not just local to Kirkliston, but from Livingston, Stockbridge and Fife.

“The group of new members is quite diverse,” Mr Du Toit said.

“The majority are under the age of 50 and I already see loads of leadership potential to invigorate the church.

“What we do here is what most churches endeavour to do: build relationships. We don’t have a blueprint, we simply try to be imaginative and creative in sharing the love of Jesus.”

Svitlana Lushchan (right) and her daughter Anna have been welcomed by the Kirkliston congregation after fleeing Eastern Ukraine following the Russian invasion.

Congregation’s sacrifice make exiles feel at home

That commitment to service and sharing has also helped Anna and Svitlana adapt to life in Scotland.

Mr Du Toit said: “The congregation’s been absolutely amazing in supporting them. Everyone plays their part. Some give time such as coffee, lunches, teas or day trips. Others give money – we have a fund set up for them – and others teach English or help with skills development.

“It’s truly humbling and it makes me proud to be part of such a vibrant and faithful community.”

Those qualities have also been much appreciated by Anna and Svitlana, whose home town of Zaporizhzhia has received international attention following fighting around the neighbouring nuclear power station.

“The community has accepted us with care, love and attention,” trained dermatologist Anna said.

“We cannot thank them enough for what they’ve done. So much sacrifice has been made to make us feel at home.”

The welcome from the community had also influenced their decision to join the church, pharmacist Svitlana revealed.

“We wanted to be included in God’s family within this context,” she said.

“We’ve already started to serve and involve ourselves so it made sense to commit to this congregation. Though there’s a language barrier, the love of Jesus builds bridges way beyond what we can imagine.”

The women’s Christian faith has also been a comfort to them after they were forced to flee their homeland and the war continues in Ukraine.

“God’s hand is visible in all that happens,” Anna said.

“We continue to lean not on our own understanding but on His direction. Where would we be without the help of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ? He is with us always.”

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