“Pay careful attention, then, to how you walk—not as unwise people but as wise—making the most of the time, because the days are evil.”
In May 2007, FCA’s President/CEO Shane Williamson and I went on a mission’s trip to Ukraine to see how God was using sports ministry outside the United States. At the time, FCA was only U.S.-based, and we didn’t have an international strategy. During that trip, God opened our eyes and touched our hearts. He showed us how FCA could expand from ministering to 4% of the world’s population to reaching the other 96%.
During our final night in Ukraine on that trip, we visited a sports school to see how a local leader was developing a basketball ministry in the community. We met Andriy. He was leading the ministry, and we were blown away that he was doing it exactly the way FCA does sports ministry. We shared this with him, and he responded, “What’s FCA?” Two years later, Andriy became our first staff person in Ukraine, and Ukraine became the first, and largest, country FCA does ministry in outside the U.S.
Under Andriy’s leadership, ministry opportunities and the number of Ukrainian staff grew. Andriy later became FCA Ukraine’s National Director. Today, he serves as the Divisional Vice President of North Global, which includes 63 countries throughout Europe and Eurasia. We often reflect on how God used that divine appointment during Shane and I’s first trip to Ukraine to introduce us.
Since 2007, I have traveled to Ukraine more than 15 times, with the most recent visit being last December. From the moment we met, Andriy has said he believed the door to openly minister in Ukraine would one day close, and that we needed to minister with urgency. On each trip, I would question him because there was an incredible openness to the Gospel throughout Ukraine. He would simply say, “We have limited time. We need to minister every day with urgency.”
Even though it was hard to believe him at the time, I decided to make Ukraine a priority and took advantage of opportunities to serve. That’s why I have traveled there so many times! As it turns out, Andriy was right. The door is closing. However, God used 13 years of powerful ministry to reach thousands of coaches and athletes in Ukraine and lay a strong foundation.
Although FCA in Ukraine has looked differently the past month, and will continue to, our ministry continues even in the midst of war. Our Ukraine staff are still leading online Huddles for coaches and athletes who are displaced throughout Ukraine, Europe and the United States. They are checking in with their coaches and athletes, as well as their families and community members, to pray and meet their needs. We currently have eight staff who are still in Ukraine. They are loving, caring for and serving every day.
When there is a crisis, we can either step backwards and do nothing, or we can step forward and become the hands and feet of Jesus.
Read Ephesians 5:15-16. This passage reminds me of how Andriy and his team do ministry. Paul urges the church to step up and make an impact every day. Paul understood the same urgency Andriy has felt, and it made him an urgent leader. There are three characteristics of urgent leaders I see in this passage:
1. Be alert and aware.
My coaches always reminded me, “Put your head on a swivel!” Leaders need to keep their heads up to be alert and aware of what is happening. Satan is working overtime to prevent the Gospel from expanding, and leaders need to pay careful attention to his tactics and schemes. Urgent leaders understand the times and know what to do.
2. Walk in wisdom.
Wisdom is simply seeing the way God sees. When leaders walk in wisdom, their lives are marked with integrity, humility and transparency. Wisdom allows our lives to shine in the darkness. Remember: When the dark gets darker, the light gets brighter. Urgent leaders have strong character in both public and private spaces.
3. Maximize every opportunity.
Leaders maximize every opportunity that God puts in front of them. God’s job is to bring the opportunities; our job is to be obedient. Leaders need to be intentional, strategic and available when it comes to Kingdom work. Urgent leaders live each day like it is their last, and bring all they’ve got to every opportunity.
Let’s be urgent leaders who are always alert and aware, walking in wisdom and maximizing every opportunity. Even in times of war, God is moving, and the Gospel is spreading around the world. Let’s be the hands and feet of Jesus and make a difference today.
Lord, I long to make the most of every second You give me. My time is limited, so I desire to use every moment for Your glory. Help me become an urgent leader. In Jesus’ name, amen.