Ukraine has been making the headlines for many months now as the rising tensions and escalating violence demonstrated a populace driven to Revolution in the push to achieve some true democracy. Now, with Russia having invaded Crimea and Russian troops massing on the borders of mainland Ukraine, tensions have never been higher. Thousands of Ukrainians are enlisting in the military, with thousands more being called up from reserves. War seems to be on everyone’s lips. However, some students are feeling God’s call into His full-time service, ready to make a difference.
If you drive west from Kiev in central Ukraine, you begin to delve deeper into the Ukrainian heartland, where the lingering roots of the ancient Kievan Rus culture still find expression. Just an hour or two west of Kiev, the intermingled Russian and Ukrainian languages give way to pure Ukrainian, and the local accents lose their Russian flavor. A couple more hours further west and you get to Ternopil, a small but key city about 80 miles from Lviv, the cultural center of Ukraine. In this area of Ukrainian patriotism and a religious faith that has spanned the centuries, there is a small school for training Ukrainian missionaries about to celebrate its 10th birthday.
The students are primarily native Ukrainians, with a few coming from Central Asia and elsewhere in the Russian-speaking world. These students ensconce themselves in an oversize home outside the city for seven months of training that will better enable them to be effective missionaries. They experience a parade of teachers who fill their heads and hearts with knowledge and fuel their desire to serve God. With former students scattered across 11 countries on three continents, they have opportunities to pursue their calling in many places.
Ukrainian missionaries are highly respected for their strong work ethic and their willingness to live and work with money less than a quarter of their western counterparts. Over half the pastors in Russia are Ukrainians, and Ukrainians drive much of the evangelism in Russia and the Commonwealth of Independent States. Additionally, Ukrainians have the ability to move freely throughout most of the former Soviet Union, and can bring the gospel to many areas completely closed to anyone from the west.
Several people serving with One Challenge teach at the missionary school. Steve Aldrich comes in to teach his Lifeworkx course, and Joel and Irena Colon (OC Ukraine resident team) teach on leadership, discipleship, and church planting in a missions context. Joel and Irena have had a strong relationship with the school almost since its inception, and currently fill a monthly mentorship and discipleship role with both staff and students.
While the school is not large, accepting 18 students this year, it was one of the first missionary training schools in Ukraine, and still remains the only one to regularly accept students from multiple denominations. The students are required to pay a fee toward housing for the time they spend at the school, but this fee is kept low to prevent money from being a barrier to poorer students. Some students from closed countries are even allowed to study at no cost, if they can afford the travel to come.
All the teachers donate their time to the school, and many contribute toward operating costs. Funding is primarily raised through a few committed churches giving on a monthly basis, and offerings taken for the students as they travel each weekend sharing about the school and their dreams for cross-cultural ministry in foreign lands. Money is always tight, with even food items like butter being at times a luxury item rather than a staple. But the students get by, focusing on studying and knowing they will most likely face bigger challenges on the mission field.
Pray with us
Please pray for the school in several ways:
- Pray the Lord would provide increased funding for the school in order to increase the number of students it can accept and provide adequately for them.
- Pray the students would continue to grow spiritually into men and women capable of serving well in their chosen fields, and effective ministry and touched lives.
- Pray the school staff will experience spiritual protection and blessing as they minister together to the students.
- Pray for peace in Ukraine so that this and other Christian ministries can continue unhindered.
Would you like to give to support the leadership training, community outreach, mission worker training, and other projects in the Ukraine and beyond?