As I think about my father’s ministry, I am amazed at the story of his life and work. To me, it looks like another testament to God’s leading and to His provision.
My father was not born in a big city or a town or even a village, but in a hamlet. He was not born to privilege, but grew up in humble surroundings in a country that wasn’t even independent. He immigrated to a foreign country, with a different language. He traveled across the ocean on a ship with his wife and two small children and a few belongings – mostly clothes and books and whatever would fit in a suitcase and a trunk.
He ended up becoming known around the world wherever Ukrainians lived and meeting presidents of two countries. But his most important "meeting" was when he accepted the Lord Jesus Christ as his personal savior at the age of 12 in 1932. He was baptized (by immersion) in 1938.
His mission in life became to proclaim the gospel and the good news of salvation in Jesus Christ, and to help people in whatever way he could.
Olexa Roman Harbuziuk (Олекса Романович Гарбузюк) was born March 29, 1920 in the country of Ukraine in the hamlet of Berehy (Береги), not far from the town of Mlyniv (Млинів) in the Rivne oblast (province or region). His parents were Roman (born April 20, 1888) and Maria Harbuziuk (born Maria Konarchuk May 25, 1898). At that time, Western Ukraine was under Polish occupation, until 1939.
At the age of 22, he was deeply involved in missionary work among young people in Ukraine. He attended the Theological Seminary of Evangelical Free Churches in Germany during World War II. When the city of Hamburg was bombed, his professors moved the classes to another city. He also majored in journalism at the Ukrainian Institute in Germany. In 1946, after graduating from seminary, he became pastor of the Ukrainian Baptist Church in Cornberg, Germany, and an editor of "The Way of Truth" (Дорога Правди), a monthly magazine published by the Ukrainian Baptist Association in Germany. He also taught for two years in a high school in Germany.
He met Sophia Maksymiuk in Germany, and they married on October 26, 1946, in Germany. Two children were born in Hersfeld, Germany. On Aug. 14, 1949, the family arrived in the United States of America at Ellis Island in New York aboard the ship USS General Taylor. In total, Olexa and Sophia were blessed with seven children and 11 grandchildren. All eight of their great-grandchildren were born after Olexa died. After suffering for four-and-a-half years with the disease of lymphoma, his earthly life ended on October 4, 1997 at home in Elmhurst, Illinois.
The photo at left is Olexa as a young man, but the age is undetermined. The photo 2nd from left was taken May 19, 1951, when Rev. Harbuziuk was officiating at the wedding of Katherine Yakimow and William Stepaniuk. Katherine believes that her wedding was the first one that Rev. Harbuziuk officiated in Illinois. The photo 2nd from right was taken in 1993. The photo at right was taken June 1988.