Upon hearing they would be landing in Odessa instead of Budapest, Hungary, some of the Americans on the RevivEE 1.0 mission team decided to type “Odessa” into a search engine (read more about that here). Odessa, Texas was the first thing that popped up on the screen, but after tweaking the search, a different place was revealed. Pictures and descriptions of the port city that sits on the Black Sea in southern Ukraine emerged. And now, eight months later, the city that was once just a search result became home in the hearts and lives of the members of the RevivEE 1.0 team.
The city of Odessa is home to about one million people and from the city’s beginnings it has welcomed people from many cultures, making it a multiethnic region. You can even see this characteristic in the architecture of the city, with many buildings flaunting a mixture of architectural styles such as Italian, German, and French.
The church here was planted in July of 1993 by a multinational team of 12 disciples who were from places such as Moscow, Kiev, St. Petersburg and America. The team was led by David and Angela Hooper and the first service, preached by Gregg Marutzky, had more than 1,000 guests in attendance. Masha Lyashenko, who is currently leading the church in Warsaw, Poland was the first convert in the Odessa church. There are also disciples leading the church in Tel Aviv, Israel and Limassol, Cyprus who were converted in Odessa. Indeed from the very start, the Odessa church has been in the business of welcoming, growing, and sending out disciples.
It’s been a joy for the RevivEE team to be welcomed by the disciples here! The church is currently led by Sasha and Maya Telyatnikov. Maya was converted here in Odessa when the church was about 30 people. The church has around 340 disciples with about 35 of that number being the youth ministry, made up of teens, campus and young professionals. “Odessans love being Odessan and take great pride in their city,” said Maya. “The Odessa church is creative, talented, and really eager to help. We love family and we love worship!” These are some of the strengths and qualities that she and Sasha are hoping to pass on and infuse into the next generation. Sasha added, “We hope to be able to help establish an Eastern Europe school of missions. We want to be able to multiply faith and vision throughout the rest of Ukraine and Eastern Europe. My dream is to see everyone serve and dream for the kingdom…just like the RevivEE team.”
The RevivEE 1.0 mission team has one month left before returning back to their respective homes around the world, though more than half of the current team will be gearing up to launch with the RevivEE 2.0 team that’s praying to land in Zagreb, Croatia this fall.
But as they anticipate returning home to their families, they haven’t stopped building family with one another and the lost. Just this past week, team member Carlos Fuentez from Chicago, Illinois, became a “spiritual grandfather” to one of our newborn Christians, Pasha! A couple of months ago, a guy named Misha was met on the street by one of the mission team shepherds, Chris Efstathion. One night, Misha went home after a late shift at work only to realize he didn’t have his keys and was locked out of his home. He went to a local 24-hour cafe to wait until morning, but since he had just finished doing the discipleship study, he decided to put it into practice and use the time to share with the cafe worker on shift. This worker was Pasha, and a couple of days later, Pasha came out to church with Misha and decided to also start studying the Bible. About a month ago Misha was baptized, and this week, we saw Pasha get baptized as well!
God loves family; and as the Odessa Church and RevivEE team have come together as family, God has added to it. Please continue to pray for the Odessa Church, the young Christians, and the RevivEE mission teams!