Less than 3% of Ukraine is evangelical Christian in doctrine, they are culturally orthodox which carries more religious superstition than it does moral weight I find. Though there is a rich history of Christianity, and some Orthodox believers that are trying to make a difference, the overwhelming consensus among protestant believers is that the Orthodox church is more apathetic toward a spiritual awakening than it is a proponent of it. Fortunately, and unlike the Russian Orthodox Church in Russia, the Orthodox church has less of an authoritative role in religious freedom, and more of a symbolic and cultural reference to the Ukrainians past. In some cases, as is in our town, the church is not opposing the actions of the protestant believers, though we wouldn’t receive official approval. This has allowed missionaries in Ukraine, unparalleled freedom to interact and reach out to the Ukrainians during this season of east vs west struggle over Ukraine.
A) Church Leadership: We serve the local church plant in Rzshychiv, Ukraine. Bruce is an Elder in the church, leads bible studies, shares Sunday morning teaching and is focused on Leadership Development among the Ukrainian and Foreign Missionaries. Deborah shares regularly to the young women and leads by example as a faithful wife and loving mother of 6. The church has approximately 15 missionaries, and 30 Ukrainian believers, and growing.Our heart is for discipleship, to see a harvest of young people trained in the Word and filled with God’s spirit. Our prayer is that God would use our family to instigate a missionary heart among the Ukrainians, to see them sent out into surrounding communities that need the gospel, and even other nations that they can effectively minister in.
B) Sister City Partnership: In 2008 we helped initiate a strategic relationship between Kilgore, Texas and our new home in Rzshyschiv, Ukraine. We host regular Webcast video conference meetings between the two Mayor’s and City leaders. Through this relationship the two communities have been able to learn about each others culture, government policies, business climate, but most importantly meet new friends across the ocean.
This partnership is meeting a practical need in Ukraine, by providing business concepts and economic development strategies that are still very new in the former Soviet state. The Soviet system is still very much in place, from the long lines, the stamps and over abundance of documents at every turn. Sharing of budget information, how American communities are set up, run meetings, involve business discussion, are interesting topics for Ukrainian government officials, especially on the local level in smaller communities that are left to fend for themselves.
As we have worked to build this practical bridge, and meet this felt need in our new community, God has worked wonders by opening doors for continued religious freedom and genuine trust among the local believers in the town. We are friends with the city officials, and greeted as such in public. Our church has been asked to help participate and organize several events for the city, especially in the area of children and family. The body of Christ is being recognized as asset to the community, a caring and genuine expression of hope for the future of our town. We give God glory and praise for this opportunity and the relationship that has been forged through the Sister City partnership.
C) Business Development: in 2009 we registered Business Development Network in Ukraine, for the purpose of training and aiding entrepreneurship in Ukraine. Ukraine is a place of open opportunity, shadowed by corruption and a me centered philosophy. We’ve begun hosting ‘Business Seminars’ in our community for the purpose of sharing ideas among government and private business. We’ve brought in fellow business owners/friends from America to share as objective observers and teach on such topics as, Customer Service; Economic Development; Entrepeneurship.
We are currently working to secure property downtown through the business. This property will be used to incubate a new Cafe ministry, and Family Center downtown. We want to use this business to promote Christian values, and the gospel message of hope in Jesus Christ as God enables.
D) Cypress Interactive: In 2003 God led me to start a web development business, www.cypressinteractive.com and www.edsuite.com. At the time, this business was not part of my plan as it related to missions, but God was much wiser than I (surprise!). The business has been blessed with great clients, and wonderful Christian brothers who work in design, programming and project management. Through the internet, I’m able to continue a role, though lessened in Ukraine, of management and general oversight.
E) Raising a Family: our greatest disciples are our children. With 5 boys and 1 daughter, Deb and I consider them to be our most prized ministry, a gift directly from the Lord. By God’s grace we are praying and working in their lives to help them see the harvest, to care about others, and to know the kindness of of our great God! While we are busy with many other things in life, nothing burdens us more than to see our children follow our Savior, and we pray, their pursuit would include extending and doing greater things then that of their parents.
This is a snapshot of our life and ministry. Like yours, it’s dynamic, constantly changing and re-focusing as God directs. We believe the harvest is plentiful in Ukraine, and in Eastern Europe. God is sending more missionaries, raising up new believers to take His eternal message of salvation in Christ alone, by grace alone, through faith alone!