My Missionary Life In Kiev
by M. John Peace
"The LORD had said to Abram, "Leave your country, your people and your father's household and go to the land I will show you. I will make you into a great nation and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing."
Part I How God helped me make a decision to go to Ukraine as a missionary
It all began with Dr. Samuel Lee's prayer topic for UBF to send missionaries to the former Soviet Union in 1985. It was in obedience to Jesus' command in Mark 13:10, "And the gospel must first be preached to all nations." Along with all Chicago coworkers I participated in the prayer to send missionaries there–not knowing at that time that I was going to be one of them. Then, in 1999 God began to lead me in that direction. Our fellowship prepared a skit on Dr. Peter Kim's missionary life in Kiev, Ukraine. I was moved by his shepherd heart and sacrificial life to remain as a missionary in Ukraine. Many of his sheep ran away or stole valuables from his apartment. All of his fellow missionary coworkers went back to Korea. But he remained and established God's work among Ukrainian students. Then in 2002 I was invited to attend the Easter Bible conference in Kiev with two others. I was blessed to deliver a message on "Abram's Call" based on Genesis 12:1-2, "The Lord had said to Abram, 'Leave your country, your people and your father's household and go to the land I will show you. I will make you into a great nation and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing.'" While preparing this message God moved my heart to leave America as a missionary to the land of Ukraine. So as a conclusion of my message I made a decision to go out as a missionary in 2003.
When my father-in-law heard that I wanted to take my family to Ukraine as a missionary family he said to my wife, "You are stupid! Ukrainians want to come to America and you want to go to Ukraine." We had good jobs, I was in my 7th year as a teacher in the Chicago Public School, and my wife a nurse in her 16th year. We owned a house near downtown Chicago, and our 4 children all went to magnet schools and got top educations in the city for free. We had the American dream. Why leave? But I heard God's calling "Leave your country, your people and your father's household and go to the land I will show you." After one year on July 31, 2003 Chicago UBF sent me out as a permanent American missionary to Ukraine. This was an answer to Dr. Samuel Lee's prayer, coworkers' prayer and my prayer to make America a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.
Part 2 God's provisions for the lay-missionary life
One of the first hurdles a missionary must overcome is finding a means of self-support. I just held on to Matthew 6:33 in my heart, "But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well." My coworker and I decided while I looked for a job in Kiev she would support me working full-time as a nurse in Chicago. I went to "Kiev International School," which hired American and Canadian teachers. At first the principal said there was no position for me but after 2 weeks he called me back and offered me a position because of the increased enrollment. After talking with him I got down on my knees to thank God for granting me a proper job to be a self-supporting missionary after only two weeks. I called my coworker and told her the good news. She immediately gave her two weeks resignation letter and started making preparations for our children to come to Kiev. Then in October, 2003 my coworker and children were commissioned as missionaries and our family was united in Kiev. God also provided a good Christian school for my children. I thank God who keeps his promises and provided everything for my family to live as self-supporting missionaries in Ukraine.
Part 3 Overcoming some difficulties in the mission field
By God's grace our family could buy land and build a new house. After moving to our new house in December of 2005, so that shepherdesses could have our old apartment, we faced some difficulties. We had no gas but we had a fireplace and an electric furnace and radiators. But on the first week we realized our electricity was not sufficient to run our electric furnace, also our fireplace was very smoky. We just prayed that God would be with us. We decided to heat only one bedroom, kitchen and bathroom. In one bedroom we had two full size beds, 3 of us slept on one bed and the other 3 slept on the other bed, using our body heat to keep warm. We realized that Msn. Maria also had to work to survive. She got a part-time substitute teacher position at my school but they never called her. Then really cold weather hit us. For one week it was -10 F or more below zero. Also our car needed to be heated every two hours so that it would work the next day. So Msn. Maria and I took four hour shifts all through the night to keep our car going. We wondered why God would give us such severe weather. Then the next week the school called us. They needed Msn. Maria to work the whole week to administer the IOWA's examination because many children missed it during the cold weather. We thanked God for the wonderful cold weather. With the money she received from work we bought an infra red electric heater that is very hot and uses very little electricity. We felt like normal people again. God blessed the school enrollment to increase so that they offered Msn. Maria a permanent position. In all these struggles to live in our house my children complained very little. Even when we had to eat bones and grits often they were not picky. We were so thankful we could eat and keep warm.
Another great difficulty we had to face is the language problem. In Kiev more than 50 % of the people speak Russian. But the national language is Ukrainian, so all the billboards, news and legal documents are in the Ukrainian language. There was also a movement towards more independence from Russia and so many college students preferred to speak in Ukrainian. When we first arrived we took Russian courses since our worship service is in Russian. But when we met Mother Sarah Barry in 2004 at the MSU conference she encouraged us to learn Ukrainian. Therefore, we had to learn 2 languages at the same time because the people of our mission field speak them both. Please pray for us. When we speak it is a combination of Russian-Ukrainian with a little tinge of English. But amazingly our church members understand us quite well.
Satan attacked us in many ways in our mission field. The most difficult attack to bear was when he attacked us through our daughter's depression. After arriving in Kiev our eldest daughter, Maria Joy, began to face the reality of missionary life. She had to leave everything behind almost immediately to go out as a second generation missionary and she had some difficulties assimilating into the new culture. She was even suicidal. She used to cry to her mother once a week, asking why we left America. Msn. Maria and I prayed for her everyday and God began to work in her heart. Recently, Maria Joy told her mother that coming to Ukraine as missionaries was the best move we had ever made. She reads her Bible often and earnestly writes testimonies and is preparing to enter Bosporus University in Turkey. She has a burning desire to enter the University not just to leave her parents but she wants to help Msn. Point pioneer Turkey and evangelize Muslim countries. Please pray for her to enter Bosporus University.
Part 4 How God has used my family in the mission field
At first, my coworker and I really didn't know how we could serve Kiev UBF. However, God enabled us to serve God's work as English Bible teachers. Many Kiev brothers and sisters were interested in English Bible study. My coworker and I could have 5 or more 1-1's each week and be a blessing to Kiev coworkers in the course of working full time and native language study. God also enabled my three daughters Maria Joy, Christine Good and Sarah to be orchestra members. God has also been raising them as English Bible teachers. Among Msn. Maria's sheep, Olena, has grown to be a Bible teacher and mother of prayer for Kiev ministry. English is an international language and many students are very interested in learning English. When we invite students to Bible Study and they hear our English they easily want to talk to us. Shepherdess Olena told my wife she would not have come to Bible study if English Bible study taught by Americans had not been offered to her. Many students are curious about the American culture. They watch American movies translated in their own language and even listen to American music in English even though they don't understand the words. Sadly many countries get the bad effects of the American culture. But there is another culture of America that is very good. It is our Christian heritage. Now is the right time for America to be a kingdom of priests and a holy nation by sending out permanent missionaries to the ends of the world.
Part 5 Vision for America
This past summer we had our first historical mini Ukrainian World Mission meeting. We invited one Ukrainian Pastor Anitoli to give the message based on Isaiah 43:19a, "See, I am doing something new." He said there are two kinds of churches. One is a self-centered church which focuses only on her own problems and the other is a world wide centered church which focuses on the needs of the world. He said a church that doesn't send out missionaries is not a world wide centered church. We were very encouraged by his message and Kiev UBF wants to be a world wide center church which focuses on sending missionaries to the world especially the Muslim world. Then our missionaries and pioneers from Ukraine gave their testimonies. It was an amazing night. Before this Ukrainian World Mission report Dr. Peter told us in a prayer meeting that Korea and the US shouldn't be the only ones giving world mission report meetings. After the meeting Msn. Maria corrected him saying that America UBF never had a world mission report meeting, only Korea. Nicolae and Hande who are sheep from Turkey asked us why our American UBF is not sending out many permanent missionaries. We told them that we send out many short term missionaries. But in our hearts we were sorry that Ukraine had a World Mission Report meeting before America UBF. Are Americans afraid to go out as permanent missionaries? We too were afraid to lose our securities. But we just obeyed God's call and left Chicago with only God's promises in our hearts. God made my family a great nation by raising disciples in America and Ukraine and our children as well. He has blessed us in a foreign land and made us a blessing. Our family are not special people. But when we simply believed God's promises he made us special people. Let's take him up on his promises and make decisions of faith to go out as permanent missionaries. Amen.