I was born in the Soviet Union into a family of evangelical believers who experienced persecution for their faith in God. My father was imprisoned for his faith but remained faithful to Christ. Thankfully, he survived the imprisonment and returned home.
Because of limited freedoms in the Soviet Union, believers did not have access to theological education. They were not allowed to open faith-based schools. Church leaders, pastors, and preachers were self-taught without adequate formal training. Despite of this, churches grew and persisted through prayer. God heard the prayers of His people and answered beyond their dreams.
The Soviet Union collapsed in 1991 with its republics forming independent states. Ukraine got its independence as a country. Freedom from the communist rule brought freedom of religion. This meant that believers could freely meet to worship, plant new churches, and establish educational institutions. Bible institutes, colleges, and seminaries opened their doors to students, responding to the unaddressed need for trained ministers and preachers of the Gospel.
One of the seminaries formed during this time was Kyiv Theological Seminary (KTS). It was established in 1995 by the Baptist Union of Ukraine. Its founding president, Anatoly Prokopchuk, had graduated from Dallas Theological Seminary, which in itself was God's miracle. Hungry for biblical teaching and passionate for God's work, I was among the first cohort of students who enrolled.
Since my graduation in 2000, I have served both in a local church and at KTS in various capacities. I earned an M. A. degree from the Talbot School of Theology at Biola University, Southern California in 2018. When Anatoly Prokopchuk retired as KTS president in 2017, I was appointed as his successor. It is a great honor for me to lead this seminary which serves the church in Ukraine and other post-Soviet countries.
At KTS, our mission is to prepare believers for effective ministry who are able to lead others in a growing relationship with Jesus Christ. We have a big vision to train the next generation of preachers and leaders who will serve the church, impact society for the Lord, and fulfil the Great Commission. We do this by providing relevant training and instructive resources, and by nurturing networks for evangelical Christians in collaboration with local churches and parachurch organizations.
I was introduced to the ministry of GTP by my good friend, Dr. Michael Cherenkov of Mission Eurasia. When Michael informed me that Dr. Gary Hoag was coming to Ukraine, I was excited that KTS could serve local churches by hosting a seminar on generosity and stewardship. This is a big need in our country as churches, ministries and seminaries lack this biblical teaching. Thus, much of our support has come from outside Ukraine, and this creates unhealthy support dependency.
Ministries like KTS rely on God's provision. In fact, the history of KTS is marked with dependence on God for financial and human resources from the start. And God has provided resources through faithful and generous people. So, we were excited to get biblical and practical training for growing local giving.
As such, the seminar was relevant to the KTS community. Thirty students from undergraduate and graduate programs attended the seminar along with local church planters, pastors, and ministry leaders who reach out to more than 1,000 people in different locations. Everyone in attendance got a special gift at the start of the event. Mission Eurasia provided each attendee with a free copy of the book, Spirituality of Fundraising, by Henri Nouwen translated into Russian.
From there, the seminar participants appreciated how Dr. Hoag facilitated the session. He began by asking about the challenges linked to stewardship and sustainability in church and ministry settings and asked attendees what they hoped to learn in the session. Then, he delivered biblical teaching and offered practical suggestions in response to the sharing from the audience. All found the teaching compelling. It provided a biblical foundation to shape our local thinking and practice.
At KTS, we always encourage students to take what they learn in the classroom and apply it to the specific contexts of their churches and ministry. This happens in the form of preaching, teaching, and other practical applications. All the students who participated in the seminar wrote papers on stewardship and generosity. Moreover, some students preached sermons on stewardship and generosity in their churches in Kyiv, Poltava, and Cherkasy. Others used this material in their ministry.
At KTS, we thank God for the biblical principles Dr. Hoag shared during the seminar and the reading resources provided to the attendees. We are also excited that Mission Eurasia announced the translation of three of Dr. Hoag’s books into Russian soon. These books will help inform and strengthen our biblical fundraising, faithful administration, and ministry governance.
God has blessed us with freedom. Thanks to the teaching we received, we can use our freedom to grow faithful and generous stewards to sustain local churches and ministries. This seminar has already impacted 24 churches with more than 1,000 people in Ukraine. I pray that God will cultivate the culture of generosity in the country through the people that heard this message and pass it on. May generosity abound and faithful stewardship be exemplary in the churches and ministries in Ukraine.