Hello, my name is Andre and I live in Gostomel, Ukraine, a small town outside of Kyiv. I recently graduated from school and now study at Dragomanova University, while at the same time working in a children’s preschool/kindergarten. My story begins 6 years ago. At that point, life was challenging and I had a turning point in my faith. I was just 16 years old. I had been dating a girl and we had a very hard break up. I had been attending church with my friends and we were planning to be baptized and join the church. At that time, for some reason, my parents forbade me to go to church or be baptized, saying I was too young to make that kind of decision. I didn’t expect this kind of reaction from my parents, especially since my mother really loves Misha, my youth pastor, and mentor. To make matters worse, my parents even forbade me to associate with my Christian friends. I was hurt and didn’t understand their motivation. Misha encouraged me to submit to their authority. Honestly, even though I did not attend church on Sunday mornings, I still stayed in touch with everyone and slowly began serving again. Two years later, when I turned 18, I informed my parents of my decision to be baptized.
At that time, my family had financial problems, so I began to look for jobs and to start earning a little money. After I found a job, my parents starting asking me for money, to make what I considered unnecessary purchases. Naturally, It made me angry, and I grew even angrier as this situation was repeated many times. To make things worse, my parents thought that I was giving all my money to the church. Misha reminded me, that even in these situations God also shows Himself. We also discussed the biblical truth that God is good all the time. Misha supported and believed in me during that difficult time. This provoked me to action to deal with my anger. Now, when I myself counsel teenagers, I understand more why Misha did these things. Despite my not-so-wholehearted obedience, now three years later, I have been baptized and am a full member of my church and my relationships with my parents has greatly improved.
God has used Misha in my life in other ways. We travel a lot together to different events and I especially like my times with Misha in the car. This is a time when I can learn in an informal setting through the normal stories of life. Even when Misha confesses honestly that things are difficult for him, that he is tired and needs help in ministry, he doesn’t complain, but only asks us, his ministry team, to pray for him. I see him in these difficult moments, and at the same time, I see how much he trusts God. Misha as my youth pastor, friend, and mentor travels often to preach and teach at different conferences and seminaries. When my mentor returns from these events, he motivates and ignites a spiritual fire in us, the whole ministry team, to continue serving. Misha’s life is an example of a servant leader and discipler.
I am especially grateful to Misha for teaching me how to listen to people. He himself is a wonderful counselor to young people. I myself was often demanding and impatient with others on our ministry team. Misha’s family became an example for me and taught me to accept people just as they are. In time, I began to understand that people are very different, with very different needs, and I only understand those needs when I listen. This lights a fire in me and now that I am myself mentoring teenagers, I understand Misha even better.
In the future, after I finish my studies at the university, I plan to enter Kyiv Theological Seminary so I can better “share the gospel through sharing my life”, words I often hear from Misha. I want to thank Youth Ministry International for investing in me by investing in Misha, my youth pastor, and mentor. THANKS!
Andre (left) with Sam Hughes, YMI’s Eurasia Director.