Students Find Open Arms in Ukraine

Click here to see more photos of the Global Encounters team’s trip to Ukraine

Some of the Bible’s most powerful messages can leap any language barrier.

“The love of Christ needed no translator,” Amber Campbell (’12) said after Maranatha’s Global Encounters team returned from its three-week trip to Ukraine. “God taught me a huge lesson on this trip about having a broken heart for the needs of others. God taught me to pray for a broken heart.”

Five Maranatha students worked with Baptist International Evangelistic Ministries missionaries Rick Barry and Eugene “Zhenya” Buyko. The team’s primary responsibility was to help direct day camps—the rough equivalent of Vacation Bible School—at six churches and a public school in the Kiev area. The students also visited a government orphanage.

Campbell, who was making her third trip to the Ukraine, was joined by Mariya Bondarenko, Courtney Swayze, Kerri Demlo, and Gabriel Kluver. They were among more than 100 students who ministered around the globe this summer.

“One thing that impressed me was the servant’s heart of the people working in the church,” Demlo said. “I thought I knew about how to be a servant. They taught me what that means on a completely different level.”

Six children accepted Christ during the day camp sessions, which included games, crafts, Bible stories, songs, skits, and stunts. Swayze said most of the children knew some English.

“Christianity … is so different from here in the States,” Swayze said. “The pastors are very close. They will help each other. The people from one church will go to another church’s opening service, even if it’s 200 miles away.”

Kluver said he feared hostility to Americans, but found exactly the opposite.

“They love Americans,” Kluver said. “I felt like a superstar there for a little while.

“The rewards and benefits from teaching little kids on this trip were life-changing. One thing I learned is that a smile goes a long way.”

The Ukraine Team also encouraged believers in local churches by sharing their testimonies, singing, and preaching. Students met with a college-age group to describe life at a Bible college. The lone frustrating aspect of the trip was the lack of response from adults, most of whom (68 percent in 2010, according to the Razumkov Centre), follow Orthodox religions.

Most Maranatha students say their view of missions, and many other aspects of their faith, becomes much broader after a Global Encounters trip. The Ukraine Team was no exception.

“It doesn’t matter what country you go to, Global Encounters will change your life as long as you are open to God’s calling,” Campbell said. “It gives you a wider perspective and stretches you where needed. It’s definitely worth a few weeks of your summer.”