The Power of One

Roma left his home in Ukraine to reach Russian students for Christ.

Roma Goncharenko with help from Katie Croft, translation Chris Knutzen

I came to know Christ at a camp at age 14. My parents are still not believers. The decision happened at the camp, but for years before that, my grandmother would pray with me and we would have discussions.

I think that relationship was the key that prepared me for camp.  For me, accepting Christ was a very logical decision. I knew that I was corrupt but I finally put it all together with the gospel at the camp. Looking back, it was probably a gradual awareness of my need for Jesus.

As I grew up, several friends and I would get together for prayer and Bible study. When we were eighteen, my friend Jena and I were trying to find more ways to share our faith with students.

We went to the same church and noticed that there was not a lot of evangelism going on. We both felt it would be good to share our faith with other people. So we decided to focus on students, partly because Jena was a student at the time.

Someone suggested that we contact Cru. And that is how we got hooked up with staff members in Ukraine, specifically the catalytic branch called “Link.”

Jena and I connected with two staff members that lived in Kiev. We began to get training and discipleship from them. They would call regularly to help us plan out the ministry and think through the why’s behind what we were doing.

Every 3-6 months, the team in Kiev would host a retreat for encouragement and training. I got to know mission-minded people from other cities that way.

In 2006, my Russian wife, Alena, and I moved to her hometown. We were both attending a Bible college at the time and we met through a short-term mission project in Russia.

I always thought we would return to Ukraine but I was praying and the Lord showed me that Russia was in need of missionaries.

I was thinking, how I could serve God in this new setting? Immediately I thought of students because that was already familiar to me. That is what I already felt God calling me to in the Ukraine.

Now I wanted to do that in Russia as well. Students are a very accessible and open group of people so it was a good fit to be able to start with them.

I now serve as the assistant Pastor in the church. Before I took the job I made sure that I would be free to continue working toward reaching the University with the gospel.

The church agreed. Alena and I knew our time limitations, so our team committed to two days a week. We are very committed to those days. We alternate activities between dorm ministry one week and a student café the next.

As a team we go to the dorms and invite the students to the café for the following week.

The café events are where we talk with students and try to build relationships for future evangelistic conversations. We also do that through a podcast.

In the podcast I take a subject that is current and relevant to students like finances, food, student life and then use that subject to highlight the subject of the café. It’s a teaser to attend the café where that subject will be explored further.

I met Yura, a third-year engineering student through Twitter ®. We started chatting about our common interests and then I invited him to attend a student café. Alena and I were able to share the gospel with him after a café one night.

He is spiritually open and warm to Christians. He did not accept Christ at that time, but he is thinking a lot about it. He even started helping organize café events and he co-anchors the podcast with me.


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