I was born in California in 1974 to unsaved parents but God in His mercy did not let us go our own way. In my early childhood, both of my parents, my younger brother and me were all born again.
It was a Sunday afternoon in March 1981. My mom and I were having a quiet talk after church about why Jesus died on the cross. Mom had gotten saved several months earlier and was burdened for my soul. I had already felt myself to be a sinner, but that was the day when I really believed on the Lord Jesus Christ as my Savior. Although only six and a half years old at the time, I have never doubted the fact that God saved me at that hour and has kept me ever since.
My parents taught my brother and me at home for the majority of our school years and we started each day reading a chapter of the Bible and a chapter of a missionary book. Further, we frequently had missionaries stay in our home. So, from my earliest years, missionaries were my heroes and role models. I used to dream of going to some far-off land to spread the gospel.
As a teenager and young adult I got involved in every ministry of our church that I could. I taught Sunday School, worked in other children’s ministries, helped in the nursing home ministry, went on visitation and street meetings, and was very involved in the music department (piano accompaniment and singing). After graduating from high school, I started teaching piano and soon had more students than I could handle. My life was full.
In 1997, everything changed. A missionary family on their way to Ukraine for a short-term project came through our church. They invited anyone who had a desire to join them for the 5-month evangelistic outreach. I cried through the whole slide presentation and felt very drawn to go. However, I hesitated to commit myself, because of not wanting to miss my brother’s visit home that year (he had been gone for quite some time, serving the Lord as a missionary in southeast Asia and I’d missed him terribly). Feeling pulled in two directions, I sought my dad’s counsel. Dad didn’t push me to go, he simply said, “Wendy, growing up sometimes means that you won’t always get to be with your family”. Around that same time, the thought came to me that here was something I could sacrifice for the Lord. So, in June of that year, I joined the missionary family with a group of nine other young people.
Arriving in Ukraine, I immediately fell in love with the country. The people seemed to be my own and I found myself losing all interest in going back to my successful piano teaching business. I just wanted to continue in missions work. The five months we spent in Ukraine were full of ministry opportunities and I was not eager to leave at the end of the project. I prayed a lot about what I should do next, but I was convinced that going back to America to “pick up where I’d left off” was not the answer.
Our language teacher and coordinator of the whole project was a young Ukrainian named Yura. Although only a year older than I, we did not get very well acquainted during that trip since he was in a leadership position. However, it was obvious to all that he was a very godly and zealous Christian, as well as very talented. Without him, the project would not have succeeded as it did.
While still in Ukraine, my brother invited me to come and work with him in his field. I was overjoyed! I had ‘sacrificed’ spending time with my brother on his 6-week visit to America, but the Lord gave me over a year to live and minister with him in his field. What a return on my ‘investment’!
The year I spent in southeast Asia was tremendous, yet I was not sure whether I should stay on there or perhaps return to Ukraine with the same missionary family I had worked with before (they were planning to return in ’99 for an extended project). It was on Fathers’ Day 1998 that things reached a climax. In anguish of uncertainty over my future, I at last prayed, “God, it doesn’t matter where I’m at or what I’m doing as long as You are with me and I can get closer to You.” Within 24 hours I KNEW I was going back to Ukraine. I emailed my dad to see what he thought and he was all for it.
Upon our return to Ukraine, Yura was again our language teacher but with the smaller group and a different type of ministry, Yura and I got better acquainted. The groups’ time in Kyiv was fairly brief and I moved on to work with a Ukrainian pastor’s family in the village of Bakymivka. These months were a time of incredible progress in the language and appreciation of the Ukrainian culture, as well as understanding the believers of this part of the world.
Unbeknownst to me, the whole time that I had been away from Ukraine (from November ’97 to September ’99), Yura had been praying that I would come back. In the spring of 2000, Yura revealed his desire that we spend our lives together serving the Lord. Yura and I were married on September 30, 2000. The Lord has given us four sons: Sashko, Yurko, Andriy and Matviy, and blessed us beyond measure in our life together.