Kiev, Ukraine—a city currently plagued by dangerous political unrest and intense protest. A city wrought with confusion and uncertainty, in need of love and encouragement. And that is just what a group of Point Loma students plans to offer this upcoming summer.
Stemming from a decision made in November of 2013, citizens of the Ukraine have been in a state of violence, protest, and dismay for the past several months. Their president at the time, Viktor Yanukovych, decided not to become part of the European Union last year, causing intense disappointment among locals.
What followed in the next months was a devastating amount of bloodshed and unwarranted destruction of the city’s governmental properties. More recently, the citizens of the Ukraine have been angered once again with the announcement of the annexation of Crimea
However, before Ukraine was in the international spotlight, this country was already on the hearts and minds of those at Spiritual Development at PLNU. For the past three years, Brian Becker, director of international studies and his LoveWorks team have been contemplating the idea of the Ukraine as one of their summer mission trip destinations.
Becker and his team decided to officially offer it as a LoveWorks stop as everything started to fall into place this past October. One major component that played largely into the initial planning success was the possibility of a PLNU affiliated host family in Ukraine. Silvia Cortez, a former PLNU employee, is now married to a pastor in Kiev and offered their church as a ministry headquarters. In January, the dates of Aug. 1 to Aug. 18, were chosen. From this point on, all of the details were further determined.
And now, in Ukraine’s time of disturbance, a LoveWorks Ukraine team prepares to enter a mission environment unlike any other. Although it may seem like traveling to this region at this time is misguided, George Williamson, director of worship ministries and leader of Team Ukraine sees it as just the opposite.
“Many of our LoveWorks trips take people out of their boundaries, and we’re okay with that,” said Williamson. “Churches in Crimea are tense right now, and their unity is compromised. We have the opportunity to encourage and enrich tired, confused, and uncertain people, and we couldn’t ask for anything more.”
Team Ukraine’s focus is in worship, and they plan to lead a worship conference for the first half of their service. The second portion of the trip will be a 10 day camp for local youth and young adults, comprised of counseling, team leading, games, and spiritual lessons. As for the team’s safety, Williamson does not see it as a large enough issue to postpone the trip.
“We trust our hosts for information on the true state of their countries, and we would never purposely put our team members in danger,” said Williamson “There are hotspots of violence within Kiev, but all of the other areas are going about their everyday lives.”
Sophomore team member, Victoria Sibingo, has been following the daily updates from the Ukraine as she prepares to visit this summer, and although she is saddened by the conflict, she is not fearful of the travel plans.
“I think that more than anything this political instability will change our approach as a team,” said Sibingo. “We can in essence be an encouragement to the Ukrainians by emphasizing the light of Jesus Christ in the midst of this dark situation. This prospect excites me even more.”
The team is preparing for the trip by coming up with worship sets and doing team-bonding activities.