I was born in the Donbas region what is now the war zone in eastern Ukraine. I found out about the seminary from Sasha, our student dean, often came to our church to teach and told us about the seminary and that lots of people were coming here to study. I became a Christian in 2001 while I was in prison. I was sentenced to prison for 20 years and after 13 of those years, I found out about the Lord. In 1991, missionaries came to the penitentiary and taught me about Him, but it wasn’t until 2001 that I became a Christian.
I am studying at RITE because I want to teach the Bible. I came to the seminary to make my understanding of the Bible clearer. I use balloons in my teaching the gospel to children. If they are able to listen well and answer questions, I give them a balloon as a prize. Sometimes I may be speaking the gospel on the street and it is cold, no one wants to stop. But when the children see the balloons and want one, they start to cry and then the parents listen and take a balloon for the child.
I started at RITE in September 2018. My parents (Anna and Sergei) and several others from my church in Makeevka were students here. My pastor also recommended that I come. Because of the war, I have now moved from Makeevka and live in western Ukraine.
I was raised in the church. I serve in my home church teaching children and helping in children’s camp. Raised in a Christian family, I don’t remember a day when I didn’t follow Jesus. Of course, it has been a process for a long while. I graduated from the university last year in fine arts. I am a painter. But when I finished at the university I wanted to study theology, which is very important for me. In addition to serving the Lord with my painting, I want to teach children and others about Jesus. It’s very important to be correct in what you teach.
One of our brightest students, Bogdan Maisuradze, is from a small village in the northeast of Ukraine, but is now living in Makarov in the Kiev region. He has been a RITE student since September 2015. Before Bogdan came to Christ four years ago, he had been addicted to drugs and was in a rehabilitation facility where Christian counselors witnessed to him about the Savior. After a lengthy period of 4 to 6 months, Bogdan repented of his sins and came to faith in Christ.
In his family, only Bogdan’s father is a Christian. Although he has a brother and sister, they remain unbelievers. He learned of RITE seminary from his pastor who told him, “I’m tired of all your questions! Go study at RITE!” (Bogdan does ask lots of good questions!) He has no concrete plans for the future at this juncture, but he does serve his church by preaching occasionally, leading a home Bible group, and has gone back to the rehab facility— this time to teach classes and tell others about Christ and His victory over sin.
Back at home, Bogdan is engaged to Valeria. They plan to be married soon, in March or April of this year. Bogdan’s favorite verse is Romans 8:28: “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.” We are all so thankful that God’s purpose included bringing Bogdan to RITE.
Bogdan with Professor Bob Beasley
Vlad and Nida
Vlad and Lida come to us from Dnipro, Ukraine and have been at RITE since September 2016. Vlad has been a Christian for a little over 6 years now, and Lida came to Christ when she was 14 years old. They were married in July 2014. Vlad heard of the Seminary from graduate and now Dean Sasha, (Tall Sasha), after he had been invited to preach at a youth service in their church in Dnipro. “Sasha saw how I had conducted the meeting and asked me, ‘Would you like to study more.’ I thought about it, and my brother said he would help us financially, so here we are. He is still helping us."
Vlad believes God has given him the gift of teaching. When he speaks, he finds that people listen. Lida believes her gifts are more in the area of supporting and patience. Vlad believes he is to be an elder in their church, a goal which the study at RITE is directing him. Lida enjoys participating in the worship service, and helping the ministry of the church in other ways. The study at RITE has helped her to grow spiritually in Christ. We are so thankful to have Vlad and Nida with us.
I first learned about Jesus when a missionary came to my city in Eastern Ukraine in 1999. But it wasn’t until four years later in 2003 that the Holy Spirit captured my heart and I was saved and baptized. When the war broke out, I was captured by Russian soldiers. I was told that I would be killed, but by God’s grace, they released me and I came west.
Being in an Arminian church in the east, questions about losing my salvation tortured me. But after I moved west I heard about the Reformed faith and began to study Calvinism under my new pastor. I knew RITE students Sergei and Anna who got me interested in the seminary and who encouraged me to attend. Also, my boss at work agreed for me to come. At first, I disagreed with much of what was taught here, but since those first days in 2016, my mind has changed and I am in total agreement with the issues of God’s sovereignty and grace.
My wife, Alisa, and I were married in 2013 and have three small daughters. I am active in our music ministry and am teaching children at church and at special camps. Sometimes I am asked to preach. I don’t know what God has for me in the future, but I have a heart for the Polish people and we may go there to help them.
My coming to Christ has taken some strange trajectories. I was invited to a charismatic church in Kiev back in 1993. I believed the message, but wasn’t really converted, and I didn’t stay very long. There were lots of strange things going on, like speaking in tongues, and that sort of thing. In 1996, I was invited to a Church of Christ. I was baptized on February 8, 1997 and began my life in the Lord. I became very active in the church, as I was young and was burning for Jesus. I adopted the big dream of fulfilling the Great Commission in our generation, and began to witness to unbelievers every day. If I missed a day, I was convicted of sin and would confess my shortcoming to the Lord. It was a very legalistic church. I had developed spiritual depression at the Church of Christ, because I couldn’t do everything I needed to do for my salvation.
One day, a brother in the church I attended began to teach a different view, and we studied together outside of the church for six months. I learned it was the Reformed view. I began attending the Holy Trinity Presbyterian Church in downtown Kiev in 2009, and became a member in 2011. Sensing my desire to learn more of the Reformed faith, my pastor, Ivan, suggested I apply to RITE Seminary. I am not certain what God has for my future, but I am trusting in His providential care to lead me in the way He has ordained.
I met my wife, Victoria, in 2002 and we were married in 2003. She is a member with me at Holy Trinity, and we have a son who was born in 2004. Victoria is from Odessa and had an older daughter from a previous marriage who has a child two years old. So I am a grandfather! My brother and I have our own business where I work when I am not studying at RITE. I am so thankful that God has brought me out of unbelief to faith in Christ, then brought me out of legalism to the knowledge that I have been saved by Christ’s work alone, and not by anythingthat I do. To the praise of His glory!
VALERY & NATASHA
Valery and Natasha began their studies at RITE seminary in September 2013 while we were still in the Donets’k area. Their Reformed pastor in Makeevka got them interested in RITE and they’ve been with us since then. Valery is on schedule to graduate next year, while Natasha will graduate in 2019. A drug addict for 19 years, Valery had a dramatic salvation experience which led him to begin serving in the church and witnessing for Christ. One of those to whom Valery witnessed was a young woman named Natasha, who subsequently became a Christian. The couple were married one year later and have now been married for 16 years.
When the war broke out in their homeland, Valery and Natasha were forced to move far to the west to Belgrod-Dnestrovskiy near Odessa, Ukraine. As they searched for a new church, someone told them about a Presbyterian church in the town. They met the pastor and have been members there for the past two years. Natasha is involved in women’s ministry and Valery teaches a home Bible study of 12 people, a study which includes their pastor.
Valery is unsure about God’s plan for his future ministry. Their pastor has talked to him about being an elder or even an associate pastor. He believes his former life as an addict will have some impact on what the future holds, but exactly how that will play out is uncertain at the moment. Whatever God’s plans are for them, we can be certain that Valery and Natasha will have an impact upon many lives in Ukraine.
I never knew my parents, as I was left at the hospital as an baby. I grew up in the Karpathian region and was in three different orphanages until I was 15, when I was given a passport and shoved out on the street to fend for myself.
For some years I lived on the streets and in railway stations, begging for money and food and finding work where I could. One day, I took some strong sleeping pills and tried to kill myself. Some people saw me and took me to a hospital where I was revived. A nurse there told me about God and Jesus and that suicide was a sin. But I didn’t want any part of a God who would hurt me so much. I went back out on the streets.
Later, I was admitted to a mental hospital, but hated it there. But then I met the same nurse who had witnessed to me earlier. She took me into her home, but I soon left. Then I began to think, “I’ve tried everything else, why not try this Jesus?” At a train station, I prayed for God to help me. That was 18 years ago. God helped me then and He is still helping me.
I am a member of a wonderful church in Vinogradov. I preach on the streets to the homeless, telling them that “I was just like you, but God helped me.” My pastor told me about RITE Seminary, but with only 3 years of formal schooling, I was in doubt. But God is still my Helper and I’m doing well here.
I have a dream to build a home for the street people in my hometown where they can hear the gospel and be helped in a physical way just as I have been. I want to spread the gospel wherever I can. Please pray for us as we testify to God’s love to the homeless in Vinogradov.
I came to know the Lord in 1995 at 18 years of age. My mother was a Baptist and a great influence on my life. After I was saved, I thought that theological education would be a good thing, so in 2001, after I had been a Christian for only a few years, I enrolled at ITEM, the seminary that preceded RITE in the Donets’k area. I was particularly interested in homiletics and hermeneutics as I was preaching occasionally in my church in the Luhansk region. I studied at ITEM for two years, but was not able to continue.
In 2010, I began to continue my studies at RITE. I asked Natasha whether I could use the credits I had received at ITEM at RITE, but she said, “No,” so I had to start all over. I came to RITE as a “one point” Calvinist. I did not believe that once saved, a person could lose their salvation, but I didn’t believe the other four points of TULIP. Since those early days, however, I have seen the biblical support for the other points and now I believe them all! My biggest hurdle was the first point, Total Depravity. I didn’t think I was “dead in trespasses and sins.” But when Van Lees taught us Romans, I was able to see and understand God’s grace like never before.
I will graduate in June with a Master’s degree, and I plan to return to my home church in Luhansk to teach and to preach. If the war grows and we have to leave Bryanka and the region, I don’t know what I will do, but I am certain that our sovereign God has a plan for me and He will fulfill that plan.
VICTOR & SVETA DIDYCH
Victor and Sveta are from the Luhansk region of Ukraine, an area now in territory occupied by the Russian insurgents. Victor says that his coming to the Lord was not by accident. A friend was visiting and they were talking around the table. Another friend was to come with a cake. I had no Christian friends, in fact, I didn’t know one Christian. One of the friends told Sveta about a church in the area, so she decided to go one Sunday. She heard the sermon and came back all excited, speaking of Christ.
I told her, “Stop! You went once and now you are a believer?” I didn’t understand that something supernatural had happened to her. The pastor then invited Sveta over to his home where she met new Christian friends. At first she went by herself, then I began going with her. We read and discussed Scripture. We formed a circle and prayed. When my turn came to pray, the only words that came out were “Forgive me!” My ultimate repentance and coming to faith was a week later on February 11, 2001. We were baptized on July 1 of that year.
We have been married for 25 years and have a daughter, Julia, who is 23 years old. We now live more in the central part of the country. Bujanka, in the Cherkasy region, is a small and poor town of about 1,500 people. There are only two churches, one Adventist and one Baptist. We are members of the Baptist church where I help with the preaching of God’s Word and teaching people to understand God's wonderful grace. Our great desire is to evangelize and to plant a Reformed church somewhere in that area. We thank God for the opportunity to study at RITE and to grow in the knowledge of our God.
My parents were Baptists and as a young man I went to Sunday school and church, but then as I grew up, I stopped. Faith in Christ didn’t mean anything to me personally. I played sports and studied. I was easy-going and didn’t think much about the future. But when I turned 18, I began to feel depressed. There was an emptiness in me that I could not fill. I had a bad romance and asked myself, “Why does life have so much pain?” I had more questions about human suffering and death.
In the university, I studied philosophy. I heard the lectures and I did the reading about wisdom, and I remembered the Sunday school lessons I had as a child that human wisdom is nothing compared with God’s wisdom. I made friends with a pastor’s son and his family. They showed me the Gospel and God entered my life at age 21.
I am now 24 years old and am from Charkov in the Luhansk region. My family is still there. I heard about the seminary from Sasha, our dean of students, and was delighted to enroll. I don’t have any specific ministry plans right now, but will wait for God to guide me to whatever He wants me to do.
Hi! My name is Dima. I was born in Odessa, but almost my whole life I lived in a small town called Ovidiopol. That is 40 km from Odessa. My father was a TV set master and my mother worked in a music school. I have a brother and sister who are twins and are 15 years older than I am. Officially I repented in June 1998, but a few years ago, when I was thinking about when I really came to the Lord, I remembered an interesting episode in my life. In 1993 or 1994 I was watching a children’s program on TV that showed the Christian cartoon “Super Book.” Near the end of the program there was a call for repentance and I repented and asked God to help me. He answered. So as I said my official repentance was in 1998. Once my mother’s friend, who was believer, said that she wanted to talk with her. She came during a time we were doing a renovation in our house. So the only room that was good for talking was mine. While my mother’s Christian friend was talking, I listened to the Gospel too. After my mother’s friend finished talking, she asked me to repent and I agreed to do so.
After that, I grew in the Lord and had a great desire to serve Him and to preach Gospel. But because I was shy person, it was difficult for me to do this, so I prayed and asked Lord help me. Two years later, during the winter, a few ministers from England visited our church and ministered at the home group that met in our house. During the meeting, they started to pray for people, including me. The minister said that Lord had showed him that I have a strong backbone and a lion’s heart and that some day I would minister for Him. In my mind I told the Lord I didn’t know how I could do this. But I though of Isaiah and said: “Here I am; take me Lord.”
After this time, many things happened. At the end of August 2003, a couple from South Africa came to our church. At the end of the service, the wife of the minister came to me and asked what my education was. At that time, I had just finished at a computer academy. She asked me to come to their mission about 40 km from my town. She was a poet and had written some poems that I typed into the computer and put in book form. This was the job she gave me. Some time in 2004, this couple from South Africa sent their interpreters to study in South Africa. So, there was nobody to interpret for them. One day, Leon, the husband, was invited to the city of Nikolaev to minister. The day before he went he told me that Paul never travelled and ministered alone and that he always had people (prayer warriors) with him. So Leon asked it I would go with him. When I looked through the window of the house, I saw a lot of snow. It was really cold. So, I told him that I did not want to go with him.
After some time, Leon approached me again and repeated the same words that I wrote above and asked me to go with him again. Again I refused. He then said that God told him to take me with him. This I couldn’t reject, but I said that I would not interpret; I would just be his prayer warrior. He said that would be fine. In February 2005 I went to the city of Nikolaev with him. On Saturday, a service was organized. There were about 150—200 people. The service started with praise and worship. Before Leon was going to come on a stage, the pastor came to Leon and said that they had heard that he had come with an interpreter so they had not called their own interpreter. Leon looked at me and said that that he had come with his interpreter.
When the service was finished, people started to say that I had interpreted very well. Leon said that I would interpret for him at the Sunday service. The hall was packed with about 1,200 people. I wanted to withdraw, but I thought that because God had brought these people, I could not do that. I went to the stage. I spent 2/3 of my energy hiding my trembling, but nevertheless the people and Leon liked my translation. I hope God liked it too. So after this, I was an interpreter for 10 years and ministered a lot. So, my dream to preach to people was fulfilled. Leon is now 70 years old and he spends more time in South Africa and other countries in Africa. He was also invited to Israel, Pakistan, Turkey, England and the USA to minister. He now very seldom comes to Ukraine.
I want to keep myself spiritually strong and constantly grow in the Lord. That is why I decided to enter the RITE seminary. I also did this because I want to be able to teach my children in a right way and to serve to the Lord better. My wife’s name is Katya (Kate). Our children’s names are Anya (11), Liza (9), David (5), Daniel (2). I have added some pictures of our family. I hope you like them.
Dima, Katya, and Their Family Out for a Stroll.
Anya and Liza in Traditional Ukrainian Costumes
Dima and Katya by the Black Sea