Interview with Oleksander Ukhnal, second-year non-resident student of applied theology and youth minister.
How did you come to know God?
I came to know the Lord in 1993 when I was 16. Once, my friends and I happened to be at an evangelism event. I heard there that everyone who would come to a church will receive a Bible. Though I did not believe in God I knew that the Bible was a very valuable book. But when we came to the church, we were told that in order to receive a desired book we needed to come up to a platform and say a prayer. So I did it, but without realizing what exactly I did. Having got a Bible, I brought it home and forgot about it.
However, in two or three years some of my friends converted into Christianity. Unlike them, I was interested in occultism, in particular fortune-telling. At that time, my grandmother died and it prompted me to think about the purpose of human life.
Moreover, I was experiencing a great tension in my family as I thought that my older brother, who was helping my mother raise me instead of my missing father, hated me. I felt like nobody needed me. It was at night on March 3 when I fell on my knees and burst into tears. I prayed, ‘God, if you really are as my friend told me, solve the problem in my relationship with my brother. If you do it, I will serve you till the end of my life.” It took me 3 months to come to a church.
What ministry are you currently involved in?
Today, I am a church deacon responsible for ministry to teens, conferences, camps and other events. As I am a member of our church council, I also preach at the church.
What challenges do you face in your life and ministry?
There are many difficulties, but the most often I have to struggle with myself, saying that we need to move on. Also, I would refer to the lack of time to put into effect all ideas I have. Moreover, as I live in a small town which many people leave in search of a better life. People along whom you serve often become students in bigger cities or labor migrants.
What impact does your ministry have on other people?
It is difficult to write about oneself on behalf of a third person. However, I know people whose lives underwent drastic changes after talking to me. For example, recently I got a call from a mother whose son had been with us a 30 kilometer hiking trip during which we talked about life principles, values, parents, etc. She said that her son had changed for better. I know that it is God’s work, not mine. Or, for example, some time ago a gypsy teenager around 12-13 years old started attending our events. We took him first to a children’s camp, then a camp for teens. Today he is a member of our team as a well as a worship team. As I was his mentor at a camp, I believe I also contributed into his growth. I influence lives of teenagers as much as the Lord lets me do it. At the same time, I learn something from them.
How do your seminary studies help you in your ministry?
My enrollment in the program is a culmination of the way I have been pursuing for several years. I could not even imagine how my studying at the seminary would influence me. It has expanded my perception of God, His Word and vision in my life. I am already able to use the knowledge and skills gained here in my ministry. My fellow ministers say that the quality of my sermons has significantly grown. It helps me to convey thought the Lord gives me. This is an important step in my spiritual growth.
Do you have any prayer requests related to your life and ministry?
The most relevant prayer requests include needs related to building up a team and holding a summer camp for teenagers. Also, I would appreciate prayers about health of my wife’s brother who is struggling with an acute illness.