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Reaching Ukraine For Christ Through Sports

Published on August 06, 2013

by Chad Bonham
Andriy Kravtsov
Andriy Kravtsov

When Andriy Kravtsov was a college basketball player in Ukraine, a close friend showed him God’s love and then invited him to a Christian camp. It wasn’t a sports camp, but there were plenty of sports played that week. And as the camp leaders poured into Kravtsov’s life, he found himself on a basketball court with a broken heart, ready to accept Christ as his Lord and Savior.

“I’m a product of sports ministry,” Kravtsov declares. “That’s why I wanted to give back. I want to go back to the sports community and share the good news with the rest of the athletes and coaches.”

Kravtsov didn’t wait long to live out that dream. After college, he started coaching basketball and ministering to the sports community in Rivne, a city located about 300 miles west of Kiev. Kravtsov eventually married and found a partner with whom he could share his calling. By 2007, they were working with an organization that was partnering with the Fellowship of Christian Athletes. When FCA representatives Dan Britton and Shane Williamson came to Ukraine on a mission trip, it was Kravtsov’s first introduction to the FCA ministry.

“God made that happen,” he says.

Kravtsov didn’t begin working with FCA right away. In fact, for the next two years, he simply maintained a friendship with Britton and Williamson. The two stayed in touch with Kravtsov and simply encouraged him and challenged him to stay rooted in God’s Word.

“They weren’t coming at me as an organization trying to tell me what to do,” Kravtsov says. “They just cared about me and my family, and they cared about my walk with God.”

In 2009, Kravtsov felt called to join the FCA team and joined staff as the Director of FCA Ukraine. Since then, he has taken full advantage of the emotional, spiritual and practical support provided.

“FCA has so many great resources,” Kravtsov says. “Why recreate the ministry when I can just culturally adapt what FCA already has to the work here in Ukraine. Sports is a universal language. FCA’s structure helps me be successful in the ministry. I don’t have to spend time creating something that’s already been created. Those resources have been beneficial as we’ve grown.”

Britton, FCA’s executive vice president of international ministry and training, has enjoyed watching Kravtsov and his seven-person staff make significant progress for the Kingdom.

“Andriy is an amazing leader who God has raised up as an ambassador for the coaches and athletes in Ukraine,” Britton says. “He is investing in the young leaders of his country and we are seeing God use FCA to impact entire cities. He has a burden to see his country impacted for Christ through the powerful platform of sports.”

FCA Ukraine
FCA Ukraine

That investment paid off this past summer with five successful events including a coaches clinic, a Power Camp, a multi-sport team camp, a basketball tournament and a street ball tournament. All told, FCA Ukraine impacted 1,309 athletes and 68 coaches.

Kravtsov has also found a unique ministry platform thanks to the nation’s burgeoning love for baseball. This past spring, FCA Ukraine organized meetings with area baseball coaches and also worked with an orphanage baseball team. A group of American missionaries traveled to Rivne with some much needed equipment and shared the Gospel with a local softball team.

“Baseball has become very strong in our region,” Kravtsov says. “We lack a lot of resources. We don’t have many fields. That’s our biggest need. Right now, we play on the corner of the soccer field. But good things are happening and our ministry to the baseball community is growing really fast.”

And as FCA Ukraine continues to spread its wings, Kravtsov remains most thankful for the support he and his staff receive from FCA’s National Support Center in Kansas City.

“International ministry has become an FCA priority,” he says. “Ukraine is so much different from the States. So we have been empowered to build and grow our ministry to coaches and athletes. FCA trusts us, they love us and they’re always there for us. It’s been unbelievable. It’s been an amazing journey.”

Britton concurs with Kravtsov’s assessment.

“FCA Ukraine is one of our most established international fields,” Britton says. “Andriy and his staff are developing sports ministry to a whole new level through camps, clinics and leagues. Additionally, they are translating many resources into Ukrainian so that they can minister more effectively to the heart of the competitor. It is exciting to see how God is using FCA in Ukraine.”

As FCA Ukraine expands, Kravtsov is already making plans to replicate the work in Rivne and plant FCA ministry hubs in 10 regions across the country. He and his wife will move to one of those regions within a year while other staff members will do likewise. Kravtsov is hopeful that this expansion will set into motion a powerful wave of evangelism within the nation’s fervent sports community.

“When people think about FCA Ukraine, my vision is that they’ll think about the coaches,” he says. “We believe that coaches can capture the hearts of their athletes. They have great influence. We want to see unity within the coaches’ hearts and show them the same support and encouragement that we’ve received from FCA.”