John J. Shep, age 73, received eternal life in Christ on June 25, 2020.
John was born Jaroslav Petrovich in a refugee camp in Rosenheim, Germany on January 19, 1947 to Eugenia and Petro Shepelyavetz. In 1942, as young teens, his parents were forced to leave their villages in Ukraine to work as slave laborers in Germany. Then in 1950, under the Displaced Persons Act, they emigrated to the United States where they eventually became part of the Ukrainian diaspora in Chicago.
John attended school in Chicago, as well as Ukrainian school on Saturdays. The family became naturalized citizens with his name then changed to John Shep.
He attended Bethany Lutheran College in Mankato and Mankato State University. He was joined in marriage to Naomi Vangen in 1969. They were blessed with four children.
After teaching one year in a parochial school in Scarville, Iowa, John began studies at Bethany Theological Seminary and was ordained into public ministry August 19, 1973. During his early years of ministry, he served parishes in Forest City and Thompson, Iowa, Chicago and Cottage Grove.
After a visit in 1976 to visit his remaining grandmother in Ukraine, John experienced a strong calling to aid the oppressed people including his relatives in the Soviet Union. In September 1979, with support from American Lutheran churches, he began a radio ministry in the Ukrainian language called Thoughts of Faith which beamed a weekly religious program behind the Iron Curtain.
With continued support from American Lutherans and other civic groups, and with loosening of restrictions on foreign travel to the Soviet Union, he began delivering millions of Bibles to Christian groups in Ukraine, provided two mobile medical clinics to aid children and mothers affected by the Chernobyl Nuclear Accident, provided the first computers to Ukrainian schools, published the first textbooks for children in the Ukrainian language, provided aide to orphanages and hospitals, among numerous other humanitarian projects.
In 1985 he resurrected the Ukrainian Lutheran Church which had been destroyed by Stalin in 1939. For several years he lived with his family in Kyiv, Ukraine. Following his return to the United States in 2000, he became involved in Interim Ministry in south central Wisconsin for 10 years serving several parishes before retiring in 2012. Since 2014, he has been a visitation pastor at First Lutheran Church in Stoughton.
John is survived by his wife, Naomi; his children Matthew, Chippewa Falls, Mary (Andrew) Scharf, Chippewa Falls, Peter, and Andrew both of Stoughton; one grandchild Stephan Scharf; siblings Michael Shep, Loudon, Tennesse, Mary Duke, Marysville, Tennesse, and George Shep, Venice, Florida; siblings-in-law Philip (Debra)Vangen, Waynesville, North Carolina, Eve (Guion) VanRensselaer, Fitchburg, plus many nephews and nieces, as well as cousins in Ukraine and Chicago. He was predeceased by his parents.
Private funeral services will be held on Monday, June 29, 2020 at First Lutheran Church with internment at Western Koshkonong Lutheran Cemetery, Cottage Grove. A memorial service will be held at a later date. Memorials may be made to First Lutheran Church, Bethany Lutheran Seminary, or Orphan Future – an organization aiding orphans in Ukraine. Blessed be his memory! Please share your memories of John at: www.CressFuneralService.com.
Cress Funeral Service
206 W. Prospect Street, Stoughton