FORT WORTH, Texas (BP) -- Dorothy Patterson, in a visit to Ukraine and Georgia, saw firsthand that women "have a very great burden to bear" in the two Eastern European countries.
Patterson, professor of theology in women's studies at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, spoke at the Ukrainian Baptist Theological Seminary about biblical womanhood. In Georgia, she spoke as part of preparations for a Festival of Hope by the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association in June.
The Ukrainian seminary had invited Patterson, wife of Southwestern President Page Patterson, to assist in adding women's studies to the curriculum.
Yarslov Pyzh, seminary president and Southwestern Ph.D. graduate, has led the initiative to add women's studies at the school in Lviv, a city of 750,000 in central Ukraine.
Patterson recapped, "We're working on helping them develop a certificate of study that will give them courses helpful in their woman-to-woman ministries. 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 engaged in conversations on ways to connect older women and younger women in Ukraine's Baptist churches.
The women's studies program at the Lviv seminary "is very new," Finch said, "so we met with Yaroslav to talk through what type of classes to offer and brought copies of our programs for women at Southwestern."
"In our class sessions, we covered several passages/topics that we cover in our Biblical Theology of Womanhood class at Southwestern," Finch said of the interaction with women from across Ukraine. "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."
In Georgia, Patterson spoke at a women's rally at the request of the Graham organization.
Patterson spoke multiple times to about 700 women during a one-day meeting. "The idea was to encourage women to be fervent in prayer to support this crusade," she said.
Both Patterson and Finch came away from the March 10-12 trip encouraged and challenged by the faith and resolve of the Ukrainian and Georgian women, especially in the face of current tensions 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 noted the complex nature of tensions between Russia and its neighboring countries. While grieved over Russia's encroachment on sovereign nations, she said 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.
Patterson said she sensed a burden and responsibility to pray for believers in Ukraine, Georgia and other 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 every day that the Lord would intervene because ultimately He's the only one who can bring peace."
As she lifts up fellow Christians there in prayer, Patterson said she remembers the Christ-like 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."
Based on reporting by Keith Collier, director of news and information for Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas (www.swbts.edu/campusnews). Get Baptist Press headlines and breaking news on Twitter (@BaptistPress
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