Evangelist and radio speaker. A Saint's Legacy --- Friends from all over the world gathered with the family of Stephan Bilak in Lausanne, Switzerland to honor the man whom God used to begin the Slavic World for Christ ministry and to plant the Old Park Church of Christ in Ternopil. For more than 50 years, Stephan spread the Good News to his native people of Ukraine in a multitude of ways: radio broadcasts, smuggling Bibles behind the Iron Curtain, printing and distributing spiritual materials in the Ukrainian language, and finally, after the fall of communism, by returning to his native country to establish a church in western Ukraine. Besides this, Stephan was an influence on a number of missionaries who have devoted themselves to the work in Ukraine (myself included). His wit, determination and unsinkable optimism were trademarks of a life lived in God's service. The following is the obituary which was read at the funeral in Lausanne:
LAUSANNE, SWITZERLAND. Epi Stephan Bilak, 78, died on October 27, 2004, after a long battle with cancer. An evangelist, his radio program, "The Messenger of Truth," was heard throughout Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union for more than 30 years. Within three months of the fall of the Iron Curtain [Dec. 1989], Stephan and his wife, Reba, returned to Ukraine to investigate possibilities of planting a congregation in his beloved homeland. It wasn't long before a group of believers began meeting for worship. This group is now the Old Park Church of Christ in Ternopil, Ukraine, and is actively involved in evangelistic and benevolent outreach in western Ukraine. A number of individuals and congregations have helped support Brother Bilak and this mission work. Since 1974, this ministry has been under the oversight of the Elders of the Minter Lane Church of Christ in Abilene, Texas. Stephan was born May 13, 1926, in Kosmeryn, Ukraine, and was the first child of Dimitri and Anna Derkach Bilak. At the age of 15, he was taken by the Nazis to forced labor camps in Germany. Following World War II, he studied at the Bible Institute in Nogent, near Paris, France. While there, he corresponded with and later met Martha Reba Denny. Stephan and Reba were married on March 26, 1954, in Nashville, Tennessee. They graduated from David Lipscomb University (then College) in 1957, did mission work in Canada and Plattsburg, New York; and in 1959, they began teaching at Michigan Christian College (now Rochester College). They were the parents of four children: Rebecca, Stephanie, Paul and James. In 1969 the Bilak family moved from Rochester, Michigan, to Lausanne, Switzerland. A neutral country during the Cold War, Switzerland allowed for easier access to correspondence with radio listeners. In addition to his mission work with the Slavic nations, Stephan served as the preacher for the L'Eglise du Christ in Lausanne from 1972 to 1985. His wife, Reba, died February 13, 1999. On May 24, 2001, Stephan married Carolyn Halbert Pletz in San Antonio, Texas. Carolyn also traveled to Ukraine with Stephan, and encouraged the Christians in Ternopil. Stephan was preceded in death by his parents, his first wife Reba, and son James, who died July 13, 1984. Three brothers: Ivan, Roman and Wasyl Bilak, also preceded him in death. Stephan is survived by his wife, Carolyn; two daughters Rebecca (and Tim) Meixner of Brighton, MI; Stephanie (and Brady) Smith of Lausanne, Switzerland; and son Paul (and Monica) Bilak of Paducah, KY; one stepson Randy (and Debbie) Boggs of San Antonio, TX; one stepdaughter, Alison Boggs of Boulder, CO; eight grandchildren, three step-grandchildren; one brother, Wladimir Bilak of Mississauga, Ontario, Canada; one sister, Orysia-Maria of Mikolaiv, Ukraine, as well as other relatives and many friends. Stephan's funeral was held on November 2, 2004 in Lausanne. Memorial services are scheduled at 3:00 p.m. (local time) on Sunday, November 14, 2004, at two congregations: the Minter Lane Church of Christ, 2502 Minter Lane, Abilene, TX, and the Troy Church of Christ, 800 Trombley, Troy, Michigan. Memorial Donations may be sent to Slavic World for Christ. PO Box 2872, Abilene, TX 79604. Funds received will be used to continue supporting the ministry of the church in Ternopil, Ukraine. --- www.ternopilchurch.com.
Note: While On The Sea - #774 in Praise For The Lord hymnal:
While on the sea hear the terrible roaring;
See how the boat of my life rolls with me;
In fear of death and in deepest of anguish.
Lord, hear my prayer; watch my soul on the sea.
Save me, O merciful Father, forgive me;
How as my life with its ending I see.
My youthful strength has been spent in the battle.
Lord, now I beg You, have mercy on me.
I have no strength left to aid on my journey;
Help me to reach that fair land past the sea;
Help me to travel to my native country.
Lord now I beg You, have mercy on me.
– Translated by Stephan Bilak
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