I couldn’t think of a better title for this blog than the word AMAZING! I know the word gets overused. But this time it is not even a strong enough word for what I’ve experienced. I’ve just returned from my trip to Ukraine. I went primarily for the 20th anniversary of Tavriski Christian Institute (TCI). 20 years ago, six Ukrainian leaders and I started a training institute. We met in a building with no heat in winter. The first class was small. We honestly had no idea what we were doing or how to do it well. I was the first president while we waited for the man we wanted to lead us to retire from the KGB. Yes, I, an American, asked a KGB colonel named Pavel in his office in the KGB building to serve as the first “real” president of a Christian college! Crazy!
God put on our hearts the need to train people for ministry. And 20 years later…wow! Here’s what’s happening now. Students from the last 20 years are now serving churches and ministries all over Ukraine and the world. I got to meet so many pastors and leaders that I had the opportunity to teach over these years who are doing amazing things in very difficult circumstances. In fact, 443 students from six different countries have graduated over the last 20 years! The college is now accredited and today we have a beautiful campus with modern buildings (and heat) on the banks of the Dnepr River. We bought this land for $60,000! What an investment!
And TCI now has extension sites in Uzbekistan, Tajikistan and Georgia. I got to meet the leaders from each country and heard them tell their stories, which were both heartwarming and heartbreaking. The former leader of the work in Tajikistan had spent a full day being interrogated by the security force there. The next day he died of unknown causes. But God and his work continue in these places in spite of intense daily persecution. God is doing amazing things!
TCI has also helped start Pioneer Bible Translators of Ukraine. They are working on 4 dialects of the Roma people (or commonly known as Gypsies) in Ukraine. They also translate books needed for the Christian education we provide in the national languages of the countries we serve. Wow!
And that is not all. They host men’s, women’s, children’s and youth conferences and camps on site. They have a printing shop in Ukraine and in some of the “closed” countries. They provide digital libraries and laptops to the leaders where persecution makes having Christian books dangerous. They train the volunteer leaders of churches. They are involved in community transformation and helping pastors develop sources of income (green houses, sewing machines, a wool processing factory, etc.). They are helping people near the border of Afghanistan who are victims of sex trafficking and training Afghan Christians out of country (for now). And they are serving the under-resourced Ukrainian army trying to protect their borders from the Russians while caring for refugee families who are victims of the war. And the story just keeps going.
It is rare in life to be able to be a part of starting something that 20 years later is having a huge international impact. I’m so grateful to see the fruit. I’m so grateful to have joined some amazing faithful leaders who refused to let the challenges stop them. Just amazing!