“I was only nine, but I remember my classmates laughing at me when they found out I had attended church,” said Katia Lavrenchuk.

In Ukraine few children attend church. It is mostly older people. Katia soon told her neighbors that she no longer wanted to go even though she loved the music in church.

During her recent visit to the US, Katia visited churches that were full of young people. “They are not afraid to talk about their relationship with God and how important it is to them. That’s very encouraging and powerful to me. They made me wonder why it is so different in Ukraine.”

“Participating in the Leadership School for Youth at Pulyn Community Center run by Nadiya Siryk, was a turning point for me. Nadiya supported and believed in me.” Katia is now assistant to Nadiya, Vika, and Alex, Core SMU Staff in Ukraine.

Over the three weeks spent in Oregon with Don and Nancy Miller, founders of SMU, Katia experienced many new things – she met with SMU supporters and shared her story, saw the Pacific Ocean, flew through a sunset in a small plane (“Amazing!”), ate salmon with mustard and onions and so much more.

She also attended Christianity 101 classes led by Don and Nancy each day. Foundational teachings and history of Christianity were covered as well as developing an intimate relationship with God. “The classes made me think a lot about my life and how I will apply what I learned.”

“Don and Nancy are so special to me. They love me. The work they do through Samaritan Ministries Ukraine changes lives. My life has been changed. I am so grateful,” said Katia.