At 16, Henry H. Regehr saw his entire family killed before his eyes. He fled Ukraine, immigrating to Canada, where he became a pastor at Steinbach (Man.) MB Church. Despite that trauma, Regehr “chose the way of Jesus; the way of love and forgiveness,” says grandson Wes Janzen, a member of Bakerview MB Church, Abbotsford, B.C. “His example continues to inspire me.”
A professional conductor and director of choral activities at Trinity Western University, Langley, B.C., Janzen has modelled his grandfather’s spirit of loving and giving by returning regularly, since 2006, to Ukraine, where he points people to Jesus through the many ministries of Music Mission Kiev/Kyiv (MMK).
The Kyiv Symphony Orchestra and Chorus (an arm of MMK), performs sacred masterpieces with their gospel witness in Russian and Ukrainian lyrics, but “Christ’s great commission is not limited to a few languages,” says Janzen. “Musical language also communicates, but in ways that often go beyond words.”
Principal guest conductor of KSOC since 2006, Janzen is presently on leave from TWU, living in Ukraine with his wife Kim (a voice instructor, worship leader, soloist, and choir director), and their three teenagers. He acts as MMK interim president and KSOC principal conductor, while his wife and children serve with MMK’s compassion ministries. “Each family member has found significant ways to be involved and make a difference,” says Janzen.
“Seeing the Lord work in the lives of Ukrainian people has definitely been one of the most meaningful parts of my involvement with MMK,” says daughter Kristina. “The power of the gospel is incredible and I know that bringing the good news to the precious people of Ukraine is what God has called us to do.”
In addition to training and performing with professional musicians, and resourcing corporate worship at the affiliated Saint Paul’s (evangelical) Church in Kyiv, MMK facilitates a pensioner’s choir, children’s choir, and teaches music education at a local orphanage.
Caring for the least
And its activities don’t end when the music stops. Current and retired musicians of KSOC, many barely subsisting off the payment they receive from KSOC and other musical jobs, assist in serving the “poorest of the poor” in their society – orphans and widows without children – through MMK’s program of visitation, Bible teaching, and food distribution. MMK currently cares for 360 widows.
“The music ministry became closely tied with care for widows and orphans because that’s what the Bible encouraged our musicians to do,” says Janzen. “Many people are coming to Christ. God is doing something miraculous and extraordinary in this part of the world.”
KSOC has toured openly in former Soviet republics that have majority Muslim populations – and closed doors to missionaries. For audiences here, Janzen says, “music may be the best form of evangelism.” Many of the musicians themselves have become Christians through the witness of the music they sing and play.
MMK partners with organizations like Christian camping association Kingdom Ventures Inc., and the Ukrainian Bible Society.
MMK was founded in 1992 following the breakup of the Soviet Union, by Roger McMurrin, a U.S. Presbyterian church music director. The response of musicians, choristers, and audience members to a performance of Handel’s Messiah, which he guest-conducted, inspired McMurrin to move to Ukraine to organize KSOC. All KSOC members are professional musicians, many trained at the Tchaikovsky Conservatory of Music. They are paid for rehearsal time but generally require at least one other job to support their families.
This fall, KSOC will tour North America (including 10 concerts in B.C. and Alberta) with 90 musical artists performing sacred classics and Ukrainian sacred folk music.
Wes Janzen, conductor
Music Mission Kiev deputation
12th Chilliwack Alliance, Chilliwack
13th Central Heights, Abbotsford
14th Central Heights, Abbotsford
15th Christian Life Assembly, Langley
16th Peace Portal Alliance, Surrey
17th Bethany Baptist, Richmond
18th, Evangel Church, Kelowna
19th, tba, Calgary
20th, Beulah Alliance, Edmonton
will be taken to support the evangelistic ministry of
Music Mission Kiev
in the former Soviet Union.