For at least 20 years, believers in the Odessa region have been praying about establishing an evangelical church in the town of Petrovka, a place known to have many problems including alcoholism and high suicide rates among students.
In the spring of 2011, TEAM missionary Denise Carter sensed that the Lord was ready to move her some place new after spending five years at an Odessa church. The Lord spoke to her one day through the words from Isaiah 43:18-19: “Forget about what’s happened. Don’t keep going over old history. Be alert, be present. I’m about to do something brand new. It’s bursting out, don’t you see it?” Carter began praying about where the Lord wanted her to go.
A week later, Luda, who had come to know the Lord in the Odessa church plant, visited the church. After the worship service, she approached Carter crying and upset about her son's health and Carter asked Luda if she had a church in her town where she could receive prayer support and encouragement. Luda told her that there were no evangelical churches in Petrovka. Carter realized that this was her answer from God about where to start a new ministry.
In the fall of 2011, Carter formed a team of Russian and Ukrainian students from the Odessa Theological Seminary who began to pray regularly and work toward a church plant in Petrovka. After four months with no success of finding a place because no one wanted to rent to a religious organization, the church plant team decided to purchase a building. Many people told them they should just give up and move on to a different town in the Odessa region, but they waited on the Lord.
Finally, in May of 2012, God answered their prayers when they received a call from a man who wanted to sell his house that was in just the right location in town. God had already provided the funds, so they purchased the house in June and began a remodeling project that was completed in November of 2012. They began their new ministry by having a day of thanksgiving where they invited people who had helped with the remodeling project, all of whom were non-believers.
God continues to open doors through a relationship with the mayor of Petrovka, who has given the church permission to host a medical clinic by Ukrainian doctors at the local hospital. A team from the church teaches social issues at the Technical College, and recently the public school director invited them to teach the same classes to students who face issues such as alcohol, smoking, and drugs. The physical education teacher at the public school has asked the church to play sports with her students after school using their gymnasium and playground, and the English teacher invited Carter to a Valentine’s celebration and wants to have a summer English club.
There is much happening in Petrovka worth celebrating, including a young girl in their youth fellowship who recently came to know Jesus and a young worker from the remodeling team who attended his first youth meeting. He commented afterwards that it was the best day of his life. The following week, he came to the church service and said that he felt good in his soul. The Lord is answering all those years of prayer by Odessa believers for the town of Petrovka!
-Written by Denise Carter, TEAM missionary in Ukraine
-Photos provided by Denise Carter