Campus Ministry Leads to New Churches in Ukraine


 Michael Airgood, a member of First UMC in Kane, PA, is a General Board of Global Ministries missionary serving as a church planter and youth ministry developer in Western Ukraine. He’s based in the city of L’viv. The United Methodist presence in and around L'viv is growing rapidly after being introduced through student ministry. University-based work led to the formation of the L'viv United Methodist Church and to a new church start in a nearby village.

Erika Tatchyn first came to “Molod’ do Isusa” as a teenager.  Youth to Jesus, as it’s known in English, is an inter-confessional university student ministry in L’viv, Ukraine sponsored by the United Methodist church.

 Erika enjoyed spending time with the young missionary couple and the small group of students who gathered for worship and Bible study.  She stuck with the organization through the years and became a natural leader. 

Today the ministry has expanded to include half a dozen small groups each semester, a packed student-led weekly worship service, a growing United Methodist church plant, and an active children’s ministry.  Erika and her husband, Andriy, are active worshipers who helped establish each of these ministries.

Any campus ministry faces the reality of student turnover.  Students are active participants in every facet of the ministry for four years and then they graduate.  While we are excited about the potential for ministry in the places these young adults will go – we are sad to see them leave.

 Erika was so influential for the student center because she had natural ties to the community.  She knew many people in the city and invited many of her friends.  Also, because she is from L’viv, she has been able to participate for much longer than the typical four years!  Her teenage brother recently began coming to the student center and has even brought a friend with him to worship. 

The teenagers who file through the student center are interested in what we do, but they don’t always connect well with the University students who have been our primary focus.  And so, it is with great joy that we begin the adventure of youth ministry at St. John’s UMC in L’viv.

We recently hired a young seminary student who has been an active member of St. John’s.  As a student pastor, Valodiya Prokip’s primary responsibility will be working with teenagers. 

In my early 20s, I visited several churches in Eurasia where I was one of the older people present.  Young people are interested in new expressions of the Christian faith, and in the United Methodist church they find an openness and acceptance that is unavailable in many places of worship.       

Every day I walk through the crowded city streets and see the overflow of young people in this city. I can’t help but wonder which one of them will follow in the footsteps of Erika and Valodiya.  Which teenager will God call to be a pastor, church planter, or missionary?  Our hope is that some who share that vision would come and help us in this new venture this summer.

This August, Jim Walker will lead a young-adult focused team to L’viv, Ukraine to come, learn, pray, and share with the ministry in L’viv. Our hope is that the mission team coming from the Western Pennsylvania Conference will help us expand and grow the new youth ministry by engaging with new young people in the city.   The group will be flexible and we will certainly be open to using whatever gifts and talents God provides the participants.  


To support the student ministry or monthly salary support for Erika Tatchyn or Valodiya Prokip gifts may be given through The Advance # 14055A .  If you would like to support me and the rest of the GBGM missionary community financially, you may do so through Advance # 3021393.