Accidental missionary finds niche in Ukraine

By  Katie Boyer
First published in Campus Crosswalk

Spring 2002

I wanted to do a lot of things when I was younger, but mission work wasn't an option I considered seriously.  Even when I went to Kyiv, Ukraine, for the first time, the trip was as much an indulgence of my love of travel as it was the outreach to other college-age Christians it was designed to be. 

But something about the spirits of the people I met there caught me, and within a few months of returning from that first visit, I had committed to spending a year in Kyiv as the first intern with the Ukrainian Education Center.

Perhaps even more unusual than my accidental introduction to mission work was the fact that my degree from Lipscomb University, a place for training ministers and missionaries, was not in Bible, but in English.

As it turns out, though, my background in literature and English language had well prepared me for the variety of challenging projects I’ve worked with since moving to Ukraine in May of 2001, just a week after my college graduation.

My internship began with a team from Let's Start Talking, and my main responsibility has been coordinating through the UEC follow-up programs for people we met as part of LST.  One program in the fall was a free hour-and-a-half grammar class that met once a week at the UEC's newly renovated facility.

However, my pet project was working with another group of 20-25 readers who read Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis.  The "faith discussion groups" started with a meal that I prepared with the help of several Ukrainian students.  After dinner I gave a lecture in English on a chapter from the book, which was translated, and then we broke into four smaller discussion groups, which were led by myself and six college-age Ukrainian Christians. 

All of us involved with this program grew over the course of those three months.  Many readers began to think of Christianity as a viable option for their lives, and the group leaders and I were confronted with the need to trust God when our own abilities were inadequate and were encouraged by seeing that God is faithful in providing strength to do His work.

We invited about 10 readers from both projects to be part of a cell, or home group, at NivkiChurchin Kyiv, with which I also work. Another group of 10 was invited to a Bible class on the gospel of John that I began teaching in January.

My literature background has been put to the test as assistant for Chris Lovingood, the UEC's volunteer director and my host missionary, in his class at International Christian University.  During the fall semester, I taught two class sections and helped with Chris's weekly student outreach, and during the spring semester I took over the class.

I have also been part of the leadership team for one of the church cells, have been studying the Russian language, and continue to be awed as the Spirit of Christ moves in the people here.

I don't suppose my thus-far limited experience in Kyiv qualifies me to write a book on international missions, but I can say that this was the best thing I could have done with my life immediately following college.

 This internship has allowed me to experience first-hand some of the differences and similarities in Christians all over the world.  I have learned that God’s ability to work in and through people in order to do good is the same, regardless of the cultural context. 

Knowing that has given me the security to embrace and celebrate the differences that make the best of Ukrainian and American culture unique, and to understand how the leaves of the Tree of Life in Revelation can truly be “for the healing of the nations.”

Whether it’s my Russian tutor teaching me the Lord’s Prayer and the Ten Commandments or singing praises with the “kitchen staff” as we prepare a meal, my own faith has been nurtured as much as I have, hopefully, nurtured faith in others.

And, very personally, this work with the UEC has been an opportunity to trust God with my entire life and to attempt something I knew I couldn’t do without His gracious support. 

Truly, I have been richly rewarded.