From the time I was in middle school, the Lord was calling me to serve Him in missions in some capacity. My youth group leader gave me books like “Called to Die” and “Through Gates of Splendor”, the stories of Chet Bitterman and Jim Elliot. The stories of men living and dying for Jesus greatly impacted me as I explored what it meant for me to serve Jesus. In college I went with my soccer team to Argentina on a short-term missions trip, which God also used to move my heart in the area of missions. After college I went on a short-term missions trip with my dad to Ukraine, and the Lord confirmed His leading on my life to serve Him overseas.
After Rochelle and I met and got married, we were seeking the Lord together for where in the world He would have us serve. In the meantime, we worked with international students studying at the University of South Carolina with the organization International Friendship Ministry in Columbia, SC for three years. Altogether, Rochelle and I prayed for seven years about where God wanted us to serve! We researched ministries, locations, and opportunities, talked with people, received and prayed over various invitations to join different areas of service until some friends of ours invited us to join a church planting team in Odessa, Ukraine. In 2002, we joined TEAM and two years later found ourselves in Krasnodar, Russia for two years of intensive language and culture study. Then in 2006, our young family moved to Odessa, Ukraine.
Our role when we first came to Odessa was learning more about the culture and what it meant to serve on a team, partnering with established churches in the region, and establishing ourselves in the community. God opened up many opportunities for ministry through building relationships with people around us. The ministry in Tairova has looked different at various times, but at its core, we have always been about serving people and sharing Jesus with them in relationship. Whether through teaching English in private schools or in courses, backpacking, soccer, home cooking classes, a country music club (ask me about what that was like!), teaching science, or a community recycling program, ministry here is all about relationships and sharing the beauty of Jesus among our friends and neighbors here.
Rochelle (wife), Kayla, Anna, Sierra, Eli
The ministry in the Tairova region of Odessa centers around discipleship: walking with people together as we focus on growing closer to the Lord, pointing people toward Jesus who don't know Him yet, and encouraging those who know Him to love Him more. We will do just about anything to be around people! We’re always looking for ways to serve people in the community and share Christ with them. Our ministry activities look different depending upon the context we find ourselves in. For example, ministry on some days has looked as different as going skiing with friends, walking on the beach, community clean-up days in and around our apartment, or repairing something for our building.
Another awesome and unique part of ministry in Tairova is our New Life Plastic program. God has used it to foster great conversations about the Lord and begin relationships with people I'd otherwise never meet! Read more about the program here.
Church in our context is structured in a way that has a low emphasis on structure and a high emphasis on relationships. We meet in homes, take turns sharing and leading, and worship God through singing, praying, and reading Scripture together. This creates long-term sustainability and reproducibility with low overhead, which works well in our city context.
We love partnering with other churches and ministries, such as ministries to orphans, ESL teaching, backpacking, seminars and trainings, with CRU (Campus Crusade for Christ), marital counseling, partnering with people in business, coaching, and encouraging other missionaries/workers.
We love when short-termers come! We see them and their service as not only a tool to further ministry here in Tairova, but also as an opportunity to disciple them and walk with them as they grow in the Lord. Short-term missions, we hope, has been as encouraging to them as it is to us, and helps us all to learn and grow together.
Primary Prayer Request:
That we would stay close to Jesus and have ears to listen to His leading daily.