25 Things We Learned Our First Year as Missionaries in Ukraine

 

25. While Ukraine may be considered historically a “Christian nation” it does not mean people understand the Gospel.  They do not have the same access to the abundance of Christian resources that America has, or a Gospel driven Christian sub culture.  There is however “religious” sub-cultures and traditions which actually distract from the teaching of the Gospel.

24. People in Ukraine are exceptionally relational.  If in America many people go to church because they made a friend, found acceptance, or found fellowship and community, rather than because of an objective investigation of truth, it is even more so this way in Ukraine.

23. It is fairly common in Ukraine to meet pastors who are relatively uneducated.  Often they tend to begin ministry first and get trained later.  This is slowly beginning to change I think.

22. Be careful in the way you tell people about their sin.  Of course, this goes the same for people in America, but it is important anywhere as a missionary to know where a person is at before you challenge them with certain particulars of holy living.

21. Leaders can be pretty twisted.  You know how the saying goes that people let you down.  Well, we tend to expect more from leaders.  Just an FYI, don’t invest all your eggs in the leaders either.  Ukraine needs missionaries who are really ready to give themselves entirely away and who can be respected and followed.

20. Sometimes ministries or social agencies will be competitive and lie to each other, or not work well together, almost like they’re in competition with one another, as opposed to building God’s Kingdom or working together for the cause, they want to build their work.

19. When you begin to fight for the Gospel, stand for truth, and call a spade a spade, you will be slandered and opposed.  Make sure you have counted the cost before you begin trying to let the Gospel be King.  Satan doesn’t like sound teaching.

18. If in America the government is corrupt, here it’s more so.  If in America people drive over the speed limit, here it’s more so.  If in America people value relationships more than truth, here it is more so.  If in America people don’t listen to preachers on the street handing out literature, here it is more so.

17. Often in missions in takes money to get certain things accomplished.  Not a superfluous amount, but enough to bring things together.  As a ministry leader you begin to see the role that resources play in missions.

16. The biggest felt needs of people change over time.  In the 90’s it was valuable to teach ethics classes in the schools, now people need English lessons and AIDS education and other things.  It is important to keep watch and pay attention to the biggest and most current felt needs of the people and to realize that this is shifting over time.

15. Invitation methods to meetings change.  In the 90’s it was enough to stand on the streets and hand out flyers to invite people to a meeting.  Nowadays, the internet and social media is the most fruitful way.  However, in time there may be a better way to do it.  Ways of effectively connecting with new people in outreach change.  How can we be innovative with this and stay current?

14. Some missionaries are more prepared than others.  Realize that not every missionary has had the same training or is prepared to give up as much, or work as hard as other missionaries may be prepared to do.  Take the time needed to understand who you may be working with and work to let them understand who you are.  Expectations are good to communicate up front, and sometimes even then misunderstood, so evaluate them more than once.

13. It is important to put enough of the important things in your updates and find the balance between honesty with over sharing.  People don’t need to be bored to death with all the details of your life but they don’t need to be misled that you are conquering kingdoms and toppling towers for Jesus overnight either.  Let them know the real and how they can pray, joining you in the work in this way.

12. Different types of mission fields will require different types of sacrifices.  Missionaries in Ukraine do not have to bushwhack in the jungle or fear for their life, but there are many other conveniences or comforts they must give up.  There are also many things they must get used to.  Each calling is unique and after getting used to some sacrifices you may begin asking what else you can let go of.

11. Keeping in touch with people in the States is a lot of work.  Raising finances is a tremendous amount of work.  Missionaries must learn that many people will not be able to be relied on, that God alone can be their confidence.  People who verbally commit to giving may have to be gently reminded a few times and this takes a lot out of what the missionary could be focusing on in the mission.  This is to be expected to go with the territory of being a missionary.  Though it doesn’t make it any easier, should be accepted as part of the work.

10. It is much easier to take up your cross and follow Jesus in theory than it is in reality.  Missions are the perfect opportunity to die to yourself and make giving Jesus your life more than academic Bible talk.  (This is not to imply people can’t do this without being missionaries).

9. Living in Ukraine I realized how much smaller food portions people are satisfied with.  When trying to keep to our budget, I saw how careless I was in America with money, things, and food.  The more I cut back, the more I realized how much we consume of what we don’t need at all, we just think we need.  For example, I had always taken for granted how often I ate meat in my meals.

8. Ukrainians are different than Americans.  Often I liked to focus on all the similarities between us.  But eventually I came to terms with the fact that they are definitely different than me, and rather than trying to make anyone understand how similar we are, it is much more fruitful for me to learn all the ways we are different and why.  Culture shock and learning the culture takes time, months, and even years.

7. In ministry Biblical knowledge is important, but especially in this type of ministry and in leadership, people skills are among the most important to develop.  Loving people well takes a lot of deliberate thought and action.  More than many of us are habitually used to.

6. God is in control.  The things we plan or desire are not always the direction God takes them.  We must be always ready to follow things down the road the Lord takes them.  Plan carefully, work hard, and submit your will in prayer to God’s direction.  God wants our faithfulness, not shiny neon lights flashing loudly from our ministerial service.

5. In a culture which is so mystical, relativistic and relational, it is good to be patient and spend some time with people, letting them know you care about them as people before you rush into conversations about Jesus with them.  It is good for people to see how you live your life over time and to know there is a difference about it.

4. Missions work takes lots of time, patience, learning the culture and language, and perseverance.  I am not sure there has ever been a single successful missionary who at one time thought of quitting because of the challenges, but didn’t.

3. In Ukraine people tend to see Protestant Evangelicalism as a “western thing”.  So, when you are sharing your faith, there is often this idea in the back of people’s minds that this is normal for you and perfectly acceptable to be a “Christian”, because you’re a Westerner.  So, faith is viewed as a cultural thing rather than objective and absolute truth.

2. Fasting is good, helpful, necessary and awesome.  Are you a missionary?  Learn to fast and pray regularly!  Do not neglect this!

1. Trusting God and learning to do so more and more, I believe, is one of the greatest graces gained by being a missionary.  More and more God nudges them on to be people who lean heavily on the Lord and His promises.  It’s all worth it for this reason alone, and others as well.