Recently, while engaged in a casual conversation with a friend, he asked, “What’s new in Ukraine?” My answer was immediate and enthusiastic. “Coaching, “ I said. “That’s what’s new!”

Coaching in its many different forms today is not only new as an industry in America and even around the world, but it’s new as a ministry for SMU.

I first heard about coaching a number of years ago from my nephew, Dr. J. Val Hastings. After serving as a successful pastor, he became a coach and started travelling around the world helping other pastors and churches become more effective in their calling. After reading his book, “Change Your Questions, Change your Church,” Nancy and I became convinced that SMU could benefit from his expertise and so we invited him to do a series of training sessions with our staff in Ukraine.

That was a year ago.
This last year, Val returned with his friend and co-worker, Don Eisenhower. The two not only met with our staff and our widows, but with community leaders, business people and members of the medical and academic community. The results could not been more satisfying.

Waldemar Proprochuck, the local Baptist pastor and chaplain at the Widow’s House in Pulin, who shared in Don’s End of Life coaching, found the sessions to be life-changing. He said, “I used to tell my grieving parishioners, ‘Don’t cry,’ when they lost a loved one. I now realize that people need to express their feelings and that even Jesus cried at the death of his friend, Lazarus.”

Some of the doctors, who attended the sessions, told Don, “You need to come back All of our colleagues need to hear this.” Even our aged widows benefited from the end-of-life sessions as Don talked to them about the reality of facing their own mortality. Nadia, director of the Widow’s House, said, “Even though it was a hard subject, the widows left with a smile on their face and hope in their hearts.”

While in Ukraine, Val had an opportunity to meet with representatives of the University in Zhitomir as a consultant. They are interested in offering a degree program in coaching. It will be the first of such a groundbreaking academic program in all of Eastern Europe.
Clearly, Val has put something significant and life-changing in motion.

Denys Lymarev, one of the leaders of our Rehab program in Vigoda, who shared in Val’s coaching sessions, recently testified as to the difference coaching has made in his ministry. “Before I took the training,” he said, “I used tell my team what to do, not without resentment on their part and lack of effectiveness. But when I started using questions, instead of commands, I noticed that their ownership, involvement and commitment substantially improved.”

Obviously, there is a difference between coaching and counseling. Coaching is primarily concerned with the present in helping people to clarify their goals and be the best they can be, while counseling and therapy, which Vika does, is focused more on the healing of past hurts. One is about recovery while the other is more about discovery.
Both are important and have their place.

Donald N. Miller