By Linda Bloom
July 9, 2012 | (UMNS)
A United Methodist volunteer from Texas and a Ukrainian student were killed July 10 and a missionary seriously injured when a building's roof collapsed in L'viv, Ukraine.
The fatal accident, which occurred while repairs were being made to a church-related facility, was confirmed in a news release issued by the United Methodist Texas Annual (regional) Conference and United Methodist Board of Global Ministries. A mission team representing members of both First United Methodist Church in Sugar Land, Texas, and Lakewood United Methodist Church, Houston, were making the repairs.
David Nevotti, a member of the Sugar Land church, and Illya Onoprienko, a member of the student ministry of the University of L'viv, were fatally injured during the collapse.
The Rev. David Goran, a United Methodist missionary serving in L'viv as a student ministry director, was seriously injured and plans were being made to move him to a hospital in Kiev.
The mission work in Ukraine, an outgrowth of student ministry, is part of the United Methodist Russia Initiative.
The L'viv United Methodist Church serves a largely downtown population of young people. One of its ecumenical ministries, "Youth for Jesus," includes Orthodox, Catholic and Protestant students, with the goal of uniting and organizing "young people to understand, practice and grow in living Christian faith."
Goran and his wife, Shannon,were commissioned in 2009 by the Board of Global Ministries and Goran was ordained an elder last month by the Ukraine/Moldova Annual Conference. They have two young children.
More about missions, people
Watch a 2012 video about Illya Onopreyenko and his work at the student center.
L'viv has about 150,000 college students, but the schools do not have traditional campuses. For several years, the Gorans had run their ministry from a fourth-floor apartment in a downtown building. There, they offered tea and cookies, free Internet access, a clean bathroom and a place for students to hang out, do homework and take part in Bible studies.
But, more space was needed, says Jan Snider, a United Methodist News Service producer who visited Ukraine early in the spring of 2010. This year, work was initiated on a new space a couple of blocks from the old apartment. In a May 14 post on their blog, Shannon Goran reported that remodeling had begun.
The Gorans had appreciated the continuing assistance from United Methodist Volunteer in Mission teams in realizing their mission dreams, Snider said. "They were always inspired to have those VIM teams come in the summer and help them."
Nevotti, a member of the Sugar Land church for 16 years, was one of those dedicated team members.
Kip Johnson, the director of missions and children/student choirs at the church, called him a "kind and gentle" spirit. "He always was thinking of other people, and if he knew of something (difficult) that was happening in somebody's life, he would come and talk to the pastors and say, 'Let's see what we can do about this.' He just loved people."
The Sugar Land congregation, which has about 3,700 members, has planned trips to Ukraine since 2006, but this was Nevotti's first mission experience outside the United States.
"He just felt called to this mission field," Johnson said. "In fact, a year ago, we weren't able to field a team, and he was disappointed. So this year, he and his wife, too, were very excited to go on this team to Ukraine."
'Gentle spirit, humble attitude'
Back in L'viv, Onoprienko was a member of the United Methodist ministry's leadership team. He helped coordinate the Thursday night worship service and played in the worship band. The Gorans appreciated "his gentle spirit, his humble attitude and his love of the Lord."
He was featured in a short video about the ministry in Ukraine shown during the 2012 United Methodist General Conference this spring in Tampa, Fla.
Houston Area Bishop Janice Riggle Huie and Thomas Kemper, the mission board's top executive, expressed their "deep sorrow" over the accident.
"We, of course, mourn this loss of one member of our church family, but also the loss of the young man from Ukraine, who was our partner in mission," they said in a statement. "May God be with his family and the Nevotti family to surround them with love.
"We also pray for healing for our missionary, Rev. Goran, and for all those who are suffering as a result of this tragedy, including the communities at the University of L'viv and First United Methodist Church, Sugar Land, and Lakewood United Methodist Church."
Others now serving in L'viv through the Board of Global Ministries are Michael B. Airgood, a missionary assigned as a church planter and youth ministry developer; Nicholas L. Haigler, a mission intern working as a service and outreach coordinator at the L'viv United Methodist Church; and Katharine "Katie" Steele, a mission intern assigned as service and outreach coordinator of Youth to Jesus, an interdenominational ministry linked to The United Methodist Church there.
*Bloom is a United Methodist News Service multimedia reporter based in New York. Follow her at http://twitter.com/umcscribe. UMNS multimedia reporter Heather Hahn contributed to this story.
News media contact: Linda Bloom, New York, (646) 369-3759 or [email protected].