Attendees at the weekly prayer meetings at Wahroonga Adventist Church in Sydney (NSW) got quite the surprise when a Ukrainian resident joined them on Zoom recently.
Anatolii Lepeshko had been looking to connect with Adventists in an English-speaking country and during his search he Googled churches in Australia.
“God told me ‘to find brothers and sisters abroad’. I didn’t understand why but I started to find countries where [they] speak English, because I know it a little,” Mr Lepeshko said.
“In Australia I found a lot of churches but just Wahroonga church has the available online prayer meeting [listed on the church website].”
Due to the war in Ukraine the 31-year-old had lost connection with his church in Kiev.
“I remember our pastor asked everybody, ‘What will you do when you lose or disconnect with your church? Or if the churches will close?’ [These] were questions in that time when there was COVID. But nowadays in Ukraine these questions remain relevant,” he said.
Wahroonga hosts its weekly prayer meetings in a hybrid arrangement—some meet in the church building while others join via Zoom.
Sandra Weslake, one of the organisers, said she got quite the surprise when she first saw Mr Lepeshko join the meeting “as I thought I knew all our online prayer warriors”.
“I said hello to him not knowing if he spoke English or not. I thought he linked in by mistake and when I saw his name Anatolii from Ukraine I thought he logged into the wrong Zoom site,” Mrs Weslake said.
“When he said he wanted to join a prayer group I realised he was on the right site. The whole prayer group made him feel so welcome. I emailed him the prayer list afterwards and he was so thrilled to join in and be made to feel so included as part of the group.
“He asked for other links for our church, so I sent him the Sabbath School link that runs at 8am Sabbath mornings, our livestream site for church and also the singalong Friday night link with Sandra Entermann. He has been on all those sites and thoroughly enjoyed them all.”
Mr Lepeshko has become a regular attendee at Wahroonga’s prayer meetings—and he’s not the only international participant. A Wahroonga member currently living in South Africa also joins online each week.
“I would never have thought Zoom would be such a blessing as it has been,” Mrs Weslake said. “COVID has stopped a lot of ministries in our churches, but it has certainly enhanced Wahroonga’s prayer meeting by at least two-fold. Praise God.”