Visit to Ukrainian Sabbatarian Community in Willow Springs, Missouri
February 16, 2014
On February 16, 2014, Victor and Beverly Kubik along with Peter and Terri Eddington visited pastor Nikolai Gantiuk and his wife Angelina at the community of Ukrainian Sabbatarians near Willow Springs, Missouri. Here a community of 500 Sabbath keeping immigrants has established a church. Two hundred-ninety are baptized; the remainder is children. They also have an affiliate church in Springfield, Missouri, about 100 miles away, with an additional 150 people. And, there is yet another Sabbatarian church called, “Church of Christians of the Sabbath Day,” from Portland, that has resettled 50 or so to Springfield. Vladimir Pavlov, their Portland pastor, recently died. The pastor of the Springfield congregation is the son of the deceased pastor. We visited them in Portland this past April. It is this church that financed two boreholes in Zambia for LifeNets and you can read that story here.
The four of us stopped by to visit at their community and spent a few hours at the Gantiuk home. We have not seen each other in 14 years and caught up on what each of us has been doing. We appreciated sharing our experiences with the Eddingtons.
Their beliefs are very similar to the United Church of God. According to pastor Nikolai Gantiuk, 45% now keep all the Holy Days of Leviticus 23 that Jesus Christ kept.
Those who have resettled here are industrious people who work in construction, mechanics and other vocations. They seem to be gainfully employed. Nikolai said that if you have a mind and hands you can find work. Many are self-employed or work as crews in SW Missouri, as far away as Springfield about 100 miles west.
Nikolai is the pastor but also works in construction as well. He is not paid for his pastoral work. Sabbatarian pastors do not take a salary and do it as a labor of love and dedication to their people.
At one time this community operated a school, but it became to expensive to keep it going. The children mostly go to public schools. Their English is very good, however, the adult immigrants, even after more than a decade here, are challenged with the English language.
In their outreach they support less fortunate people back in Ukraine. They also are very sensitive to the needs of their people in their own community. There are only six people over age 70. You see many children.
Nikolai Gantiuk is from Tajikistan in Asia. He emigrated from Tajikistan to Germany in 1992 shortly after the country was no longer a Soviet republic. There he married a Siberian girl, Angelina, who moved to Tajikistan. After three years in Germany he resettled in Portland, Oregon in May 1995. He because pastor of new Ukrainian Sabbatarian church that became the "Home of God" Church two months later in July. It started with 50 members. In two years it increased to 250.
More Sabbath keepers left Tajikistan in 1997. Through what became LifeNets and the United Church of God, we helped them during a civil war that started among Muslim factions. I documented this in blog style back then and you see it here. This includes a trip that I made to Kherson, Ukraine to meet the refugees first -hand for the first time.
Back to Nikolai. In 1998 a number of the Portland Sabbath-keepers were seeking to move from Portland where they could provide a better environment for their children. They sent scouting missions across the United States. They came upon a piece of property near Willow Springs, Missouri and purchased 80 acres. They added another 120 acres. The first order of business was to build a church. They traveled six times over the next year to prepare the property for relocation.
In 2001 Nikolai and his wife Angelina moved to Willow Springs. He left his original congregation, the Home of God Church in Portland with 485 people with Pastor David Klassen, who is pastor to this day and has well over 1000 members. David Klassenn's brother Franz lives in Ukraine and pastors in Kherson at the mouth of the Dnieper River at the Black Sea. Nikolai Gantiuk's sister is Franz's wife. Another Gantiuk sister whose name was Tanya was pastor Dievert's wife in Germany. She died in November 2013 of a heart attack at the age of 55.
Gantiuk is 50 years old and has more than 20 grandchildren. He is a most dedicated and God-fearing Christian and leader.
- by Victor Kubik