Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary
FORT WORTH, Texas – During a recent visit to Ukraine, March 10-12, Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary First Lady Dorothy Patterson provided biblical training for women from across the country and empathized with the struggles of these women at such a critical time in their nation’s history.
Ukranian Baptist Theological Seminary in Lviv, Ukraine, invited Patterson to speak to women about themes of biblical womanhood. Seminary president and Southwestern Seminary graduate Yarslov Pyzh has led the seminary to start a women’s studies track.
“We’re working on helping them develop a certificate of study that will give them courses helpful in their woman-to-woman ministries,” Patterson said.
“We’re hoping and praying that the Lord will enable them to get this program off the ground so the women in the churches will have some trained leadership.”
Candi Finch, assistant professor of theology in women's studies at Southwestern, accompanied Patterson and helped with curriculum design and teaching. She also enjoyed opportunities for informal conversations on how to connect older women and younger women in churches.
“The program is very new, so we met with Yaroslav to talk through what type of classes to offer and brought copies of our programs for women at Southwestern,” Finch said.
“In our class sessions, we covered several passages and topics that we cover in our Biblical Theology of Womanhood class at Southwestern. One of the students told me that the very fact that the seminary there in Lviv would offer programs specifically geared to women’s ministry in the church was really encouraging to them.”
During their time in Eastern Europe, Patterson and Finch also visited the Republic of Georgia at the request of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, which has a Festival of Hope crusade scheduled there in June.
“They asked me to come in and do a rally for women from across Georgia in preparation for this crusade,” said Patterson, who spoke multiple times to approximately 700 women during a one-day meeting.
“The idea was to encourage women to be fervent in prayer to support this crusade.”
Both Patterson and Finch came away from the trip encouraged and challenged by the faith and resolve of the Ukrainian and Georgian women, especially in the face of current hostility with Russia.
“I was reminded in a very poignant way that women who are caught in a situation like those who are in the Republic of Georgia as well as Ukraine have a very great burden to bear,” Patterson said.
“They are facing some real challenges. Because of the threat to the nation, almost every woman in that country is going to have a brother, a husband, a father, or a son in the military—they’re all going to be affected by this, and that’s a huge burden. This is a very difficult time in the lives of our brothers and sisters in that Eastern European region.”
At the same time, Patterson recognized the complex nature of tensions between Russia and these other countries. While she is grieved over Russia’s encroachment on sovereign nations, she is thankful for the ongoing progress Russian Christians have made in preserving the sanctity of life and championing the biblical design for marriage and family in the country.
For this reason, Patterson sensed a burden and responsibility to pray for believers in all of these Eastern European countries.
“I felt when I returned home that I had a responsibility to the kingdom and to my Christian brethren in Ukraine and Georgia,” Patterson said. “That primary responsibility is to pray everyday that the Lord would intervene because ultimately He’s the only one who can bring peace.”
As she continues to lift up these fellow Christians in prayer, Patterson cannot help but be reminded of the Christlike attitudes and humble hearts of the women she met.
“I cannot help but be overwhelmingly encouraged to see these women, at a time like this with all the pressures, coming in to get training, opening their Bibles and just being so excited to study God’s Word,” Patterson said. “In spite of all their hurting, they were there, and they were faithful.”
Keith Collier is director of news and information for Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas.