KOBRIN, Belarus — A delegation from The Baptist Home, headed by president Steven Jones and musicians from the First Baptist churches of Farmington, Dexter, Oak Grove and Jackson, helped dedicate the Baptist House of Mercy in Kobrin, Belarus, on June 26. The facility will house up to 54 elderly Belarusian Baptists.
Choir and orchestra members of the Missouri churches joined Belarusian musicians under the direction of Farmington minister of music John Jackson and Belarusian director Tima Kirichun to produce music as magnificent as the House of Mercy building itself. The music filled the 1,500-seat Kobrin church, where the dedication service was held with several hundred Belarusian Baptists in attendance.
Jones shared a brief message using The Baptist Home’s theme Scripture from Psalm 71:9: “Do not cast me off in the time of old age; Do not forsake me when my strength fails.” Those words are inscribed on buildings at The Baptist Home as well as the admonition to “care for aging humanity,” Jones said.
From dream to reality
The House of Mercy began in the mind and heart of building contractor Stepan Trubchik of Kobrin. His dream of serving elderly Belarusian Baptists was shared with Mennonite missionary Tim Kennell, who shared it with Baptist Home development officer Roger Hatfield, who shared it with Jones.
After a fact-finding and exploratory visit in 2006, the board of trustees of The Baptist Home entered into a five-year commitment with a goal of raising $500,000 to renovate an old Soviet Army barracks building for the House of Mercy. Construction began in September 2006 and was complete enough to permit most of the Missouri delegation to spend two or three nights in the facility.
Trubchik said the ministry will begin with a few residents as the staff learns to care for them before expanding the number of residents they can serve. Several Belarusian Baptists already are on a waiting list. Leonid Petruchik, an attorney and chairman of the House of Mercy trustees, thinks it will be at least August before residents can begin to enter.
After the worship service and a meal served in the church basement, the dedication moved to Kobrin Camp and the House of Mercy building. It featured a chamber of commerce-style ribbon cutting, complete with a Belarusian orchestra.
After the initial dedication of the building, the House of Mercy was opened for tours and most of the Belarusian Baptists present saw the structure for the first time. The rooms were furnished with one or two beds, displayed with quilts made by the women of First Baptist, Farmington, and bathrooms with toilet, sink and shower.
A brief ribbon cutting and dedication was also held for Woolley Gardens where Margaret Woolley, making at least her 10th trip to Belarus, cut the ribbon. The garden honors Woolley and her husband, Bob.
Stephen Mathis of the Missouri Baptist Foundation unveiled the plaque on the wall of the Nelson Gallery, the gathering place or socialization room of the House of Mercy and named in memory of the late Tom and Flora Nelson. The Nelson’s son, Jim, of The Baptist Home staff hung two of his mother’s paintings as part of the ceremony.
Hatfield, the organizer and driving force behind the trip and co-founder of Future Leadership Foundation, assured Trubchik that he would not be deserted in the final stages of his quest to open the House of Mercy.
“Stepan, we stand with you,” Hatfield promised.
Jones was also reassuring when he noted, “God finishes what He starts.”
Jim Nelson is director of advancement for The Baptist Home.