What do four FCA staff from Ukraine and eleven college students from Wisconsin have in common?
That’s what both groups came together to find out during the end of a week-long virtual experience trip hosted by the Chi Alpha ministry at the University of Wisconsin- Madison. From April 5-10, students watched documentaries, videos on Ukrainian dancing, learned to cook favorite Ukrainian meals and had a two-hour virtual meet-and-greet and Q&A session on Zoom with FCA staff spread across the country.
“Pasha sent us a video about his life and testimony that kicked off the week,” said UW-Madison student Charlie Rennicke, who coordinated the week’s events. “It’s amazing to get to know staff; they are so sweet and kind and have such a heart for people.”
Nadia (east Ukraine), Luda (central Kiev), Pasha (Kiev, Left Bank) and Sasha (west Ukraine) answered questions about Ukrainian culture, ministry to coaches and athletes and challenges faced while serving. And the staff, in turn, asked questions to the eleven students about their own faith, engaged in language trivia and connected over shared jokes and desire to serve Jesus.
Students got to know staff and understand their interactions with coaches and athletes in Ukrainian community and culture.
Pasha, who serves in Kiev, has a prayer list for coaches and sends them texts, believing it’s important to just be around and willing to listen. Luda, who led much of the conversation with lively and connective questions, told students to keep being attentive to what’s going on around them and believing God is at work. And Nadia shared her story of being a professional shotput athlete, coming to know the Lord after a hard adolescence, and how she came back to shot put as a sports chaplain.
“This experience was amazing,” Rennicke said. “I loved meeting Luda, Pasha, Sasha and Nadia. Sasha was so helpful in coordinating this talk and was so open and willing to help however he could.”
Ukraine National Director Sasha Aleksandrov shared FCA Ukraine’s vision to reach 80,000 coaches and how they build relationships with coaches and athletes throughout the sports communities. He hopes this time inspired students to consider opportunities to serve around the world.
“It was good to share the vision and great to see young people who can go and serve,” Aleksandrov said. “We have internships for students who would like to know more about what we do. It’s important to engage and equip a new generation of leaders.”
Aleksandrov got his start in sports ministry as an FCA volunteer back in 2009. From there, he became an area representative, and is now the national director of Ukraine. For him, connecting with these students and providing students an “up-close and virtual” look at ministry plants seeds for someday down the road, never underestimating the influence God has to nudge someone toward a life of service.
“Trips, even virtual ones, are really important,” he said. “You can look and see God’s calling on your life and where He can use you.”
Though separated by half a world, the two groups found connection with one another in learning both what is shared through simply being human, the impact of Jesus and what can be learned and used to bring people together through experience.
“There is need to be together and share our experiences and faith, and to share how to serve others,” said Aleksandrov. “We had different backgrounds, but we got together and learned from each other.”
Rennicke added, “The Great Commission—we’re all called to it, but it’s inspiring to see these men and women fulfilling it and go into their communities to make an impact for Christ. FCA shows true compassion and service. It helps us see what we could do.”
Aleksandrov and his team are continuing to develop relationships with coaches and athletes throughout Ukraine. Please pray for these relationships, as well as God to raise up more leaders in the country.
To learn about internship opportunities with FCA Ukraine, email Sasha at firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you’d like to financially support FCA Ukraine and learn how to get involved in the ministry, go here.
Photos courtesy of Charlie Rennicke