FCA Ukraine West Director Liosha Yukhymchuk has a quiet strength with calm, clear eyes that hold the peace of God. But there is also a sparkle in the blue, as if he’s in on a secret he wants the rest of the world to know, too—Jesus comes to the world through sports.
He and his fellow FCA teammates have been ministering to the athletic world in Ukraine through relationships and intentionally focusing on coaches. There are also street basketball leagues, and sports tournaments, camps and clinics.
Liosha loves basketball. Since childhood, sports had spun its passion around him. He began to attend a local youth group and in 2005 went to a basketball camp hosted by FCA Ukraine Director Andriy Kravstov.
Something in his soul clicked, and Liosha understood that everything—the relationship with Andriy, the basketball camp, his love of sports—was set in motion so God could come near. “I went home and prayed, ‘If You exist I’m ready to trust You.’”
And trust Him he did, though the initial get-to-know-you phase was riddled with doubt.
“It was a rough first year,” he admitted about his new faith, “I was questioning everything. I didn’t trust the Bible, I was so eager for the facts, but through the years God humbled me and kept confirming it all.”
Liosha played basketball in college and got involved in a sport ministry, and as he prayed about life after graduation, he took a step of faith and went into fulltime ministry with FCA in 2011.
“I love sports and I love Christ, and wanted to combine these things,” he said.
Three years later, he became western director in 2014 and stepped into his strength of assessing potential in individuals and developing them to best embrace and utilize their gifts and talents in the right areas. He loves to see staff find their vision and calling, where their passions meet needs.
Relationships are integral, and FCA Ukraine has intentionally grafted camaraderie into the DNA of their ministry.
“First you do something you know God wants you to do. Then be in the process of building relationship with your team,” Liosha explained. “God called us to be relational.”
Western Ukraine has an overall population of 13.5 million people, with a majority of Orthodox background. A performance driven coaching method is still the accustomed way for coaches, but Liosha hopes that by sharpening focus on chaplains and coaches, continuing to invest personally into their lives in practical ways and with unconditional encouragement, actions will speak and pique an interest to search the spiritual.
“Our hearts rejoice when we see an athlete or coach who has a personal relationship with Christ and knows his true purpose on earth,” said Liosha.
Over recent years, God has expanded His vision for FCA Ukraine’s ministry plan to reach 80,000 coaches for Christ. This, Liosha says with conviction, is not a challenge, but a certainty. He believes God can do that easily, and his team can take part by giving a Coaches Bible to every coach, sharing the gospel, and plugging them into coaches Huddles.
Right now, it starts with planting seeds in the hearts of coaches and athletes at camp and in connection.
“The things we do right now through FCA, we may not see the results,” he admitted. “Lots of times children or coaches come to Christ after the programs.”
What he asks for now is workers for the harvest. Volunteers, churches, chaplains—whoever is called and would love to be a part of God’s plan for sports in Ukraine.
Liosha lives for the Lord to move in magnificent ways through sports ministry, keeping prayer on the forefront for what comes next. He and wife Yana, who volunteers with FCA translating resources, hope to move to another part of Western Ukraine to begin new ministry, but for now he continues to look through open eyes and heart for God’s nudge and the country’s need. “Where is God at work?” he asks, “what is going to be better for the kingdom?”
Whether that’s reaching the desired 80,000 coaches, or planting seeds at power camp, not a moment working towards God’s kingdom is wasted.
As Liosha reminds us, “God calls us to be obedient, not successful.”
To get involved and learn more about FCA Ukraine, click here.
To support Liosha and his ministry, click here.