A Brief History of RITE in Ukraine
Dr. Merle Messer and Dr. Van Lees both started teaching in Ukraine in the late 1990s and early 2000s under the auspices of another mission board. When that board decided to focus on other areas, Dr. Messer and Dr. Lees met with some of their students in Donetsk, Ukraine and saw that they were interested in continuing their studies in Reformed theology. Therefore, while they were there they rented an apartment for traveling professors and hired Natasha Seleznova to be the main translator and administrator. They had worked with Natasha in the previous school and knew her well. When they got back they contacted some other professors who had taught there and formed a new mission board.
Reformed International Theological Education was formed and incorporated as a non-profit mission board in the summer of 2003. The first classes were held in September, 2003 in an old apartment that was built during the Stalin era. RITE started with about 25 students comprised mainly of students from the previous school. The next year a second class of beginning students was formed. As RITE grew a master’s degree program was added. A second translator, Yana Matveyeva was hired in 2004.
For several years, we held classes in various locations, such as the Donets’k Christian University. Our principal residence during those years was in the Light of Resurrection church facility in Makeevka, Ukraine, a suburban community just north of Donets’k.
In 2012, RITE purchased an office building north of Donetsk, remodeled it to house classrooms, a dormitory, and a cafeteria. The first classes were held in the building in 2013. Sadly, with the Russian invasion of eastern Ukraine in 2014, most of our students had to flee from the Donetsk area. It also became impossible for traveling professors to go to that region. From the spring, 2014 to March, 2015, we kept in touch with our students through Natasha and continued to give them financial assistance while they were living as refugees in various parts of western Ukraine. In March, 2015, RITE resumed classes in Kiev. The school now meets at a sanatorium (resort) just outside of Kiev.
While the disruption in eastern Ukraine is very sad and has caused a great deal of hardship to our students and translators, the result has been much like what happened in Acts 8 when persecution began against the early church. The Christians were scattered and preached the gospel wherever they went. Our students quickly got involved in churches in the new areas where they are living. This has resulted in RITE having students from areas of Ukraine in which we had never had students in the past.
Part of the Light of Resurrection Facility in Makeevka.
The New Building North of Donets’k Under Construction as Seen from the Rear
A Classroom in the Building We Had to Leave in Eastern Ukraine