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A History: Centre Church of Christ and Kiev Bible Institute

By Roger Campbell and Jim Waldron

religion, articles, christianity

The Centre Church of Christ began in Kiev, Ukraine, on Sept. 1, 1991, when 48 persons were baptized into Christ, having been taught by Ernest Burnette and Jim Waldron. During the first year the Centre congregation was served by Burnette, Waldron, Stephen Law, Robert Reece, Boyd Cribb, and others on a rotating basis.

In September 1992 the Kiev Bible Institute was established with the goal of training local Christians. Waldron, who works with Bible training schools in both India and Pakistan, served as the director for the first two years. The Bible Institute is the work of the Centre church aided by sister congregations and individuals from America. The Waldrons are sponsored by the Avondale church of Decatur, Ga.

Also in September 1992 Kerry and Karla Sword moved to Kiev to work full-time with the Centre church. Brother Sword, in addition to his work with the church, immediately began a full-time study of the Russian language. The Swords have two children: Savannah, 3, and Aaron, 1. They continue to work with the Centre church. The Swords are sponsored by the Pennville church in Summerville, Ga.

In March of 1993 about 20 members from the Centre church went with Ernest and Carolyn Burnette to begin a new work on the east side of the Dnieper River, which flows through Kiev. The Left Bank congregation was started with the full backing and fellowship of the Centre church. Its attendance now runs about 30 on the Lord's day. In the summer of 1994 the Centre church sent one of its men to work with the Left Bank congregation for at least one year. In the latter part of 1993 the Burnettes spearheaded the establishment of the Lord's church in Cherkasse, a city about 120 miles south of Kiev. That congregation now has an attendance of about 70. The Burnettes, who have an insurance business in Lawrenceville, Ga., support themselves.

In August 1993 one of the students after finishing his first year in the Bible Institute started a new congregation in Belocirkof, a city which is two hours by train from Kiev. They have now baptized about 30, and they are doing wonderfully well without the regular help of any Americans. Robert Reece visits them on an annual basis.

In August of 1993 the Roger Campbell family moved to Kiev to work with the Centre church and the Bible Institute. Roger, Donna, and children, Caleb, 15, Jacob, 13, Reagan 12, Rebekah, 11, moved to the Ukraine from Taiwan, where they lived and labored for over 10 years. Campbell immediately began a full­time study of the Russian language, as well as teaching part time in the Bible school. He also served as assistant director. The Campbells are sponsored by the Viva Drive church, Truman, Ark.

In September 1993 an evening school program was added to the curriculum of KBI. That same Autumn the first two converts from the continent of Africa were baptized. A total of 10 men from Ghana and Nigeria have now been taught and baptized into Jesus. There is an excellent opportunity to work among the Africans who live and study in Kiev. Each week two special studies are conducted for them by Campbell and Sword.

In July 1994 10 students, who had completed the two­year course in KBI graduated. It was a very special day in the history of the Centre church. There were seven women and three men in that class. The second graduation was held in December 1994 and six more graduated - four women and two men.

Roger Campbell became director of the Institute in August 1994. Waldron now serves as his assistant. Later that year the first convert from Mainland China was baptized after having studied with brother Campbell for over a year. Altogether there are presently three Chinese men who have been taught and baptized in the last five months. Campbell conducts a weekly Chinese Bible study, and Lord willing, will soon begin a separate Lord's day service in Chinese.

The Centre church is made up of Christians from seven nations: Ukraine, Russia, Ghana, Nigeria, China, Canada, and the U.S. The attendance has averaged about 140 over the past year. Sixteen have been baptized since Jan. 1, 1995, and there were 153 present on April 9. Since its beginning the church has practiced discipline according to 2 Thessalonians 3 :6, "Withdraw from every brother who walks disorderly" and, unfortunately, several have been disciplined, but the church is stronger for it.

There are presently 49 students in the Bible training school, 16 of whom are men. Twenty-eight first- and second-year students study full-time, with an additional 16 studying in the evening school, and four in the third­year program for men. Most of the students are from the Ukraine, but there is one each from Russia and the United States. All students in the school are Christians. It is required that all incoming students have been baptized at least one year before admission.

Full-time students in the school are in class 21 hours per week with classes meeting Monday through Friday. The night-class students study 10 hours per week, with classes meeting on Sundays, Wednesday, and Thursdays. The church has no building of its own, so space has to be rented. At present all courses of KBI are conducted with an English to Russian translator. American preachers and teachers who have served on a short term basis are Tommy Alford, Mark Bass, Ernest Burnette, Wirt Cook, Perry Cotham, Guy Dickenson, Fritz Erhart, David Lemmons, Charles Leonard, Jim Lewis, Bill Mead, Michael Millard, Chuck Northrop, Jim O'Conner, Frank Parker, Walter Pigg, Clifford Reel, Paul Scoggins, Ben Vick, Gary Workman, and Bobby Wood. Kerry Sword has filled in for some classes while engaged in his language studies. There are three faithful brothers who do the regular translating. We use women translators for our women's classes. Sisters who have taught our ladies are Joanne Bass, Donna Campbell, Naomi Pigg, and Jean Reel. Katrinka Workman taught a series of classes for the women of the church.

Published March 1996