Finding Jesus in Ukraine

December 3 2019

Mary’s spiritual story begins during childhood visits to her grandmother. She was curious about God and the Bible, but her grandmother told her the Bible was a special book—only accessible to a select few chosen by God. So Mary didn’t even try to read it, believing she wasn’t chosen.

That is … until three years ago when she heard about an English camp offered by the OMS Ukraine team.

She was just finishing her first year at Grinchenko University with dreams of a successful business career and financial independence. She decided the camp would be a great way to improve her English skills.

But Mary got way more than English practice.

She experienced an atmosphere of love and acceptance that she had never seen before. She saw and heard people talk about Jesus like he was easily accessible—and when camp participants discussed the Bible, it came alive and was quite understandable. On one of the last nights of camp, Mary prayed to follow Jesus and experienced a joy she had never felt before. She left camp excited and ready to follow Jesus wherever he led.

But when she returned home, her parents were skeptical, and her friends were closed. She felt a coldness from them and began to question her new belief. She dealt with her questions in the way she always did—by burying herself in work, achievement, and success. And slowly … Mary’s passion for Jesus burned down to almost nothing.

But last Christmas, she responded to an invitation to attend a Christmas worship celebration hosted by the Kyiv Life Group Network, a network of home-based churches started by the OMS Ukraine team. She had rejected many of those invitations before but this time couldn’t find a reason not to come.

Jesus touched her heart again during the worship time. Feelings of joy and love for him flooded her soul again. She made a decision to return to Jesus with a passion and boldness that hasn’t passed away.

Now, one year later, Mary is a key member of the Life Group Network, was baptized this summer, and is boldly sharing with others what it means to follow Jesus. She also joined the summer English camps—but this time as a student assistant, sharing her testimony and building relationships with pre-Christian Ukrainians looking for opportunities to share the Good News.

This fall, she’s been meeting with multiple young women from the camps to discuss the Bible and to help them grow in their relationships with Jesus or to come to know him. She’s even feeling a call to ministry and missions and has started to study at an online Bible school.

Her parents have been concerned, worried that she might be involved in a cult. But after attending a network retreat recently, they realized she’s connected with good people—and they, too, have become more open to God.

Thanks for praying for Mary … that God would use her powerfully as she seeks to share the Good News with those around her.

You can help others, like Mary, have a wonderful camp experience and be introduced to Jesus for the first time. Or give to one of our other seven Christmas projects.

Tags: summer english camp, ukraine, finding jesus, ukrainian youth,

​Camp Transforms Persistent Student

May 31 2016

Darina was an outgoing engineering student at a technical university in Kyiv, Ukraine, when we met her six years ago.

She was applying for one of our English camps, which we offer every summer. Darina just wanted to improve her English and have fun at the camp—which she did—but she didn’t get involved in any of our follow-up activities, and we thought she wasn’t really interested in God.

When Darina applied for camp again the next year, we turned her down, choosing to invite new people who might be more open to the Gospel. She was upset, and we thought we’d never see her again.

But a couple of years later, God brought Darina back. She joined one of our weekly English clubs, and God began to work on her heart. We saw spiritual progress and a greater openness to God, so we invited Darina to camp again in 2013. That’s when she really understood the Gospel and made a decision to follow Jesus.

Darina remembers sitting at the evening meeting near the end of camp week, listening to a Gospel presentation—and when it came time to pray, she found herself repeating the prayer without realizing it. When she caught herself praying, she didn’t stop; she just knew it was right.

Since that day, Darina has been growing dramatically.

She’ll sit for hours talking about the Bible and her spiritual questions, and she’s gotten involved in two of our weekly life groups (small group Bible studies), providing key organizational leadership. She has a spiritual gift for pastoring and regularly checks in with various group members to provide spiritual support.

Darina is also active in helping newer believers grow spiritually and has discipled at least three other girls who were saved through camp. She’s what we call an active encourager in this ministry, committed to growing herself spiritually, as well as helping others grow.

It’s a goal of our ministry here in Kyiv to see God raise up many more Ukrainian young people like Darina to become followers of Jesus who want to partner with him in making more disciples. We’re pleased with the progress so far, but we know there is much more God wants to do.

Like Darina, many of the people in our life groups have been saved through our two summer English camps. The camps are a great way for pre-Christian Ukrainians to experience the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit over a multi-day period, which allows God to soften their hearts to his Good News.

Team members from North America, the United Kingdom, New Zealand, and Australia volunteer just to love Ukrainians and to help them practice English with native English speakers, but God also uses them to display and share the love of Jesus.

Most Ukrainians say that at the end of camp their English has dramatically improved, but most also say that they receive much more than English language skills. Some, like Darina, even make decisions to follow God.

If you would like to partner with us in reaching out to Ukrainian young people, pray about joining one of our summer 2017 teams. You also can join our daily or weekly prayer team, or you can help sponsor a Ukrainian to attend the camp. For more information on how to give, visit

By Randy Marshall, OMS Missionary and Ukraine Field Leader

Tags: camp, english camp, summer, ukraine, volunteer, short-term missions,

Teach English and Make a Friend in Ukraine

May 17 2016

It’s always an adventure recruiting native English speakers and Ukrainian participants for our two summer English camps in Ukraine.

We never know exactly how God is going to work, but he always comes through with the needed people.

For example, in the spring of 2009, we were getting a lot of interest from Ukrainian girls for camp, but we had only four American women signed up to come in August—limiting the spots for Ukrainians to eight.

Our camps are set up for a one to two ratio of native speakers to Ukrainians—allowing each Ukrainian to live in a room with a native speaker and increasing the potential for relationship building, language practice, and spiritual impact.

We had two Ukrainian girls we really wanted to invite—feeling confident they were spiritually ready, but we didn’t have the space.

So, we sent out a last-minute appeal via email for more North American or British women … and then, we prayed. One woman from Colorado opened her messages, and the appeal for more women volunteers leaped out at her. She sensed in her spirit an immediate call from God to go to camp.

It was late for her to join the team and to raise the funds, but God provided, and she came. God used her powerfully too, as one of her Ukrainian partners prayed to accept the Lord.

We always start recruiting our summer teams at the end of the camps the previous year because so many of the team members have been moved by the Spirit and have seen him work through them. They’re ripe and ready to come back.

We have many who come back year after year, they love it so much. “It’s the greatest two weeks of my year,” said a Kansas farmer after his fifth time at camp last year.

Jennifer Schreckengast, a caregiver for the elderly in Colorado, loved her first time at camp last year. And she’s signed up to join us again in August. “This has brought me closer to God,” she said. “To see his love be shown to others—it’s amazing!

“This camp changes everything I thought I knew about missions,” she added. “The disappointment I feel that I must leave. It’s like cutting a cord that is in my heart to Ukraine. It won’t stop me from coming back.”

These camps are a great way to show and share with pre-Christian Ukrainians what it means to live in relationship with Jesus Christ. Most of these Ukrainians come to the camp because they want to practice their English, but by the end, most of them have become quite interested in God and the Bible, and some even make commitments to follow Jesus.

Thankfully, God has provided full teams for our two camps this summer, but we are always looking for more people—especially for next year! If you have an interest in learning more, contact our Mobilization team at for more information.

Even if you can’t come personally, please pray. We need more prayer warriors for Ukraine. And if you want to support the camps financially, here’s a link to help partially sponsor a Ukrainian to come:

By Randy Marshall, OMS missionary and field leader in Ukraine

Tags: ukraine, summer english camp, volunteers, short-term mission,

​10 Days of Summer English Camp Not Enough

May 10 2016

Although Ukraine has a long history of Christianity, 70 years of Soviet atheism and the recent influence of post-Christian Europe have made it a country with an interesting mix of spiritual interests.

Many grandmothers here still hold to the traditional Christian faith—often visiting the Orthodox church services with its candles, painted icons of the saints and sing-song liturgy in an old form of Russian.

Many middle-aged people, meanwhile, remember their scientific Soviet education and don’t put much stock in the teaching about a Creator.

But many young people have spiritual interest—some lightly holding to the traditional Christian faith, while others are trying out Eastern religious practices in search of deeper spiritual meaning or seeking an identity in an ancient pagan religion from Ukraine’s past.

This is where OMS has been led to invest its efforts in evangelism and church planting among the more spiritually open young people.

The OMS team in Kyiv (Kiev) has been working among university students and young adults, seeking to make disciples who want to gather in small groups called Life Groups and to reach out to friends and family with the Good News of Jesus Christ.

It’s an exciting adventure, and it’s been a joy to see God raise up young leaders called Encouragers, who have taken responsibility to lead Life Groups, to share with their friends about Jesus, and to help organize special outreach events at Christmas and Easter.

But the biggest evangelistic event of the year is our English camp ministry. We recruit teams of native English speakers from North America, the United Kingdom, Australia, and New Zealand to help lead the camps. And then we invite pre-Christian, but English-speaking, Ukrainian university students to participate.

Camps are a great way to see God work through ordinary Christian people who come together to just show the love of God.

We’ve had farmers, cell phone store managers, school teachers, small business owners, pastors, university students, architects, veterinarians and many others participate as teachers in our camps each summer, and God has used them powerfully.

They didn’t have to speak Russian or Ukrainian. They didn’t have to be theologically trained experts. They didn’t even have to know the ins and outs of English grammar. They just needed to be in love with Jesus and willing to let him love Ukrainians through them.

And he does. One of the most common student responses we get at the end of our camps is how much the Ukrainian students loved the atmosphere of the camp.

“I loved the busy schedule and the great atmosphere of cheer and faith,” wrote 17-year-old Sasha at the end of the 2014 camp. “I loved everything, but maybe 10 days isn’t enough!”

Lola, also 17, agreed. “Our sincere talks with some people were better than anything. I felt a lot of pain inside, but such amazing people here helped me to overcome all the bad feelings inside of me.”

On the last night of one recent camp, one girl stood up at the final banquet and said that she came to camp empty in her soul, but she said her time at camp had changed her. She said Jesus had filled her heart, and she was going away full.

But Ukrainians aren’t the only ones who are changed—so are the native speakers who come to help lead the camp.

“This was an amazing experience, and it helped me grow closer to God as well as to make many new friends,” wrote a bank teller from southwestern Nebraska.

“It’s an awesome way to minister to others!” wrote a university student from Pennsylvania.

“I learned a lot from the entire experience, and my faith has definitely grown as a result of the camp,” wrote a businesswoman from New Zealand. “This is one of the best (if not the best) camp I have been to.”

We have a few spots for women left at our two camps this summer if you would be interested in joining. Or you could start planning for next summer. It’s a great opportunity to stretch yourself and to grow in your relationship with God. Not to mention that it’s a lot of fun!

And if you can’t come to the camp, don’t worry. You can pray. We need more prayer warriors for Ukraine and financial gifts for the camper scholarship are always welcome.

By Randy Marshall, OMS missionary in Ukraine

Tags: summer camp, english camp, ukraine, ukraine history, religion, camp fun,

English Camp Makes a Splash in Ukraine

May 3 2016

Olya, a 24-year-old graduate of the Linguistics University in Kiev, Ukraine, was so shy, she would barely mouth a word during our weekly Life Group meetings.

She was content to just sit and listen and think.

Sometimes, when we called on her, she would say some significant things, but she preferred not to talk much. Her quiet personality led her to feel rejected by some classmates during her school years, and that might have contributed to her reserved behavior.

Although she had made a decision to follow Jesus at one of our 2013 summer English camps and started attending a Life Group faithfully, she didn’t really grow significantly until one of the 2014 camps. We invited her to help reach out to new students, but God reached out to her.

“I understood what it means to live with Jesus and to follow him,” she wrote after camp. “I want to change my life totally. Not to be afraid to leave my old life and habits and to be brave enough.”

Now Olya is growing significantly. She has even led the Bible discussion at one of our weekly Life Groups a number of times. She is a thinker and not afraid to ponder questions deeply. She still doesn’t talk a lot in Life Group, but when she does, she usually shares a powerful idea or asks a significant question.

Olya still is learning boldness, but God is changing her. She recently shared how she felt the Spirit prompting her to challenge her pre-Christian brother about some disrespectful comments toward their parents.

He responded not with anger, but remorse—expressing that he feels helpless to stop his behavior. And he asked Olya for help—opening the door for deeper spiritual conversations.

Olya is just one of many Ukrainian young people who have been touched by the Spirit through the English camp ministry in Ukraine. We’ve been privileged to organize 20 camps in Ukraine since 1994.

A goal of our camps is not to teach English—but to help students who already speak English get lots of practice with native speakers. That’s why we invite teams of 10 to 15 native English speakers from North America, the United Kingdom, Australia, and New Zealand.

But our main goal is to place pre-Christian university students in a camp atmosphere with a group of vibrant, Jesus-loving Christians. And the students usually experience a love and acceptance that they’ve never felt before. It forces them to deeply consider the claims of Jesus and the Bible—most for the first time ever.

It’s always amazing to see students who come to camp with an ambivalence toward Christianity and the Bible join so enthusiastically in the worship by the end of camp. The Spirit of God and the love of Jesus have a powerful transforming influence.

To give to the Ukraine Summer English Camp fund, click here.

By Randy Marshall, OMS missionary in Ukraine

Tags: ukraine, summer english camp, students, fun, teaching english, life groups,

An Example for the Believers

November 10 2015

Sitting around a dining room table with cups of tea, walking along the Dnieper River, or going on a retreat at a camp outside Kiev, young Ukrainian believers are learning to minister to one another as they grow in their knowledge and love of Jesus Christ. Each week, they meet together in homes for Life Groups to encourage one another in Christ. They take turns sharing responsibilities, preparing ice breakers, leading Bible studies, selecting songs, and praying for one another.

Everyone has busy schedules with either university studies or full time jobs. Finding ways to equip these young believers with knowledge and skills for ministry is a creative adventure in theological education, working in partnership with the OMS missionary team in Ukraine. Just as the Ukrainian believers follow the early church model of house churches, we are following the example of Paul’s methods for leadership training and discipleship. Paul wrote letters to teach and to encourage the new believers. We are also writing. Rather than letters, we are developing a series of lessons that give biblical answers to questions such as: “What will happen at the end of time?” “Who is the Holy Spirit?” “What is worship?” “What is sin?”

Paul traveled and made personal visits to encourage new believers. In October, I had the privilege of making my third trip to Ukraine to share in a weekend retreat. I was asked to teach about developing our friendship with God through the practice of spiritual disciplines and to lead a discussion on what it means to be community in Christ. Each time I return, there is a deepening bond of trust. We discuss joys, questions, and concerns over cups of tea. This is the life-on-life model of theological education that Jesus modeled with his disciples.

These young believers represent the power of the Gospel of Jesus Christ to transform lives through their personal testimonies and outreach to others. They represent the hope of things to come as the kingdom of God extends across Ukraine. As Paul encouraged Timothy, let’s pray that they will receive and live out these same words of encouragement: “Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in life, in love, in faith and in purity” (I Timothy 4:12, NIV).

By Colleen Fitch, One Mission Society Missionary and Theological Education Consultant for Europe

Tags: ukraine, youth, community, retreat, theological education,

Missionary Stories from Around the World

July 2 2015

On Thursday, June 18, four OMS field leaders spoke in chapel, sharing stories about the way their ministries have affected lives all over the world.

Cindy, who leads the field in the South Pacific with her husband Mark, teaches English at a missionary school and shared about a student named Carrie.* Carrie and her classmates have been struggling with grief and confusion caused by the sudden death of several students. Even so, Carrie participated with her school on a spring break mission trip. Cindy shared that in Carrie’s reflection paper about the experience she wrote, “God met me there. He let me know I am not alone.” Cindy then spoke about a Christian girl whose father is Muslim. When the daughter would ask her father questions about his religion, he’d get angry or frustrated. Cindy had the opportunity to speak truth into the lives of this girl and her mother, who is also a Christian. The small family is moving, but the mother told Cindy that she is determined to find a good church to help her minister to her husband. This missionary school and its teachers are having lasting impacts on their students in the South Pacific.

Randy Marshall, field leader in the Ukraine, shared about a young girl who has been attending the English club he and his wife, Shelley, lead at a local university. This student, Anna,* has participated in the club for two years. The English club, which regularly has spiritual discussions, also has an annual summer camp where the Marshalls are able to show and share what it’s like to have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. At this camp, Anna made a decision for Christ. She then participated in discipleship with Shelly and another younger girl, but she started to doubt and ask questions. Shelley switched to an apologetic focus to help her find answers. Shortly after this, Anna saw a Christian drama on the street and was given the opportunity to accept Christ. Anna prayed and truly accepted Christ. This time, she has stayed firm through searching answers and even persecution from friends and family. The Marshalls testified to the change they have seen in her and reported with joy that she now helps run one of their ministry’s small groups.

Micah, field director in Brazil, opened his talk saying that he often pops into a local technology store and speaks to the men there who want to practice their English. Through starting mini-English classes, Micah got to know one man, Robert,* very well and also had the opportunity to invite the men to a 20-week Bible study. Robert once asked Micah if he’d ever had an affair. Micah replied that he had not, and Robert answered, “I’ve had several. It’s not good.” At Bible study, Micah noticed that Robert had a lot of biblical knowledge, which he came to find out was because he had grown up in a religious family. He lived a “Christian” life and as a virgin married a virgin. He has a daughter the same age as Micah’s daughter. However, a few years ago Robert’s daughter was diagnosed with leukemia, and he became angry and turned away from God. In Bible study, they would talk about the importance of confessing sins to one another. Robert was always the one to speak up and disagree. One night, a while later, the study group learned through the Psalms about the unconfessed sin in King David’s life. The next Sunday, Robert went to his home church and confessed to them about his affairs. Micah ended his talk praising God for not only changed lives, but also changing lives.

Field leader in the Dominican Republic, Gail Leroy, shared about the effect of OMS’ human trafficking prevention ministry, HOPE61. Gail spoke about a safe house where 10 young girls are being discipled and finding healing. Five of the girls have gone through baptism classes and have been baptized in the local river. Upon seeing this, the other five girls requested to be baptized as well! The five who had already been baptized have each been paired up with one girl who hasn’t. They are helping each other through the baptism classes, and last Saturday, they all had their first communion altogether.

Gail shared how she has seen them change from bitter and distrusting to sweet and sincere. She said, “We’ve seen them grow in faith. We’ve seen them get along together. We’ve seen them start healing from what they’ve been through.” Gail ended by requesting prayer for a new property because, praise God, they now need more space to help even more young girls.

It was overwhelming to hear the things that God is doing all over the world. As an avid traveler, I am invigorated by these stories of redemption from people of such diverse backgrounds. As I listen to these stories of hardship and victory, I feel my sense of curiosity about the world and its people intensify. I love hearing the missionaries speak; from the lilt of the Scottish accent to the achingly familiar African cadence. I want to know them all, learn about our similarities and differences. Just last week, I met an MK from the Ukraine who likes to sing in Russian and listens to the same bands as me. I know that this burden I feel to know and love others stems from our Creator’s desire to know and love us, his people.

*Names changed for security.

-Laura Jouhnson, Summer 2015 Communications Intern

Tags: ukraine, brazil, dominican republic, south pacific, evangelism, missions, missionary stories,

Ukraine Summer Camp Report

November 6 2013

Ukraine Summer Camp Report

“Before camp, I could believe in God, now I can trust in him.” It is comments like this that really make camp, or indeed any mission trip, either short- or long-term, worthwhile. There is nothing greater than seeing a soul come to know the Lord and deciding to follow him in their daily lives.  

Before a student can get to this point, those initial barriers between God and themselves must be broken down. Some of these barriers usually come in the form of unanswered questions, which the students are eager to have answered before they make a decision to follow Christ. However, before they can get the answers they desire, they need to build up a sense of trust with their teachers (English speaking short termers). One way in which this is carried out is by giving the students the opportunity to take part in a range of different activities, both indoor and outdoor, which encourages interaction between students and teachers. The activities also give them the chance to improve their language skills, which is one of the main goals of camp. As a direct result, the students will then begin to open up, which is vital if we as teachers are to fulfill our ultimate goal, which is to make the students think about the true meaning of life and to expose them to the reality of the Gospel.

To demonstrate the power of God’s saving grace at camp, I want to tell you the story of one student who came to camp this year. The quote at the beginning is taken from an interview with her post-camp. Similar to most of the students, Stasy (pictured on left in photo) came from a Ukrainian Orthodox family where God is primarily viewed as a mystical being, who is beyond human comprehension and any type of personal relationship. As Christians, we know that it is sometimes hard to comprehend who God is, but we know that it is possible to have a personal relationship with him. Throughout camp, Stasy found it really hard to open up and trust others, let alone God. However, with the unique family atmosphere and the loving atmosphere that existed at camp, which we can only ascribe to God himself, by the end of the 10 days these barriers had been broken down and Stasy had opened her heart to others, and more importantly to God. The transformation was so evident in her life, and the desire to walk with God and to read his Word was so real.

This story is only one of many that demonstrate how God is clearly moving throughout this city of Kiev and the country of Ukraine. It is because of stories like this that many of us keep returning to Ukraine and continue to serve God in our local context as we know that he has the power to change lives. It is my desire that others might experience this feeling and want to serve him.

--David Cathcart, OMS UK short-term missionary to Ukraine, summer 2013

Is God calling you to be a worker, either on the front lines or in a support role? View all of the opportunities how God may use you to be a missionary. You can even register to serve in Ukraine next summer for an English camp. Contact Brent Morrell at 317.888.3333, ext. 391 or for more information.

Tags: be a missionary, become a missionary, English camp, evangelism, life changing story, missions in ukraine, oms uk, one mission society, short-term mission trip, short term missions, short-term missionsteach English

One Mission Stories "After the Show" -Randy Marshall

September 20 2013

One Mission Stories "After the Show"

We hope you enjoyed last night's (Sunday, Sept. 22) One Mission Stories, OMS' radio program, featuring Randy Marshall, OMS missionary serving in Ukraine, along with his wife Shelley and his three kids.

It's exciting to share the stories of what God is doing around the world of OMS.

Here are our "After the Show" resources to better connect you with things you heard about on the program last night.

Do you want to participate in next summer's short-term English camp as a English teach, friend and mentor? It's not too early to sign up. Perhaps you were moved to pray for Randy and the other OMS Ukraine missionaries. If so, we can get you signed up to receive weekly requests by email. We are looking for 1,000 intercessors! Email us at and just put Ukraine prayer in the subject line.

Would you like to help get a Ukrainian student to camp next summer? A gift of $50 will offer a subsidized scholarship for one student. Just type account #301620 in the blank.

Finally, do you want to learn some more fun facts about Ukraine? Through our One Mission Kids ministry, we have created a virtual tour of the country, especially for kids.

Have fun exploring and please tune in to next week's One Mission Stories to hear OMS' executive director of international ministries, Randy Spacht talk about his current role and his 17 years in Colombia.

If you have any questions, you can email us at

If you missed the program, you can listen to it at, or you can subscribe to our iTunes podcast here.

Tags: be a missionary, become a missionary, give to missions, life changing story, missions, missions in ukraine, one mission kids, one mission stories, short-term mission trip, short term missions, teach english, english camp