Jon Carlson - This is the first time Forest Hills Mennonite Church has had the opportunity to partner with MCC through IVEP. When we learned about Alex Kachkovskyi's background in congregational ministry and training in Biblical studies, we were excited to bring him on board as a pastoral intern.

Alex’s experiences are diverse and varied, ranging from working in kids’ activities during the week to visiting the elderly and those recovering from illness. Alex has also taken on a significant role in our church’s media ministry, helping to post videos to our social media pages.

As we continue to find our way out of the complexities of COVID-19, there will be new opportunities for Alex to serve and minister in the congregation. In April, he will have the opportunity to bring the Sunday morning message. This can be challenging enough for those of us who grew up speaking the language, so I am inspired by Alex’s courage to take on this challenge across language barriers.

Alex and I have also had many enriching conversations about Christian faith and Anabaptist theology. Given the tragedy unfolding in Alex’s home country of Ukraine, the question of how we build peace in the midst of violence has taken on a new urgency. When we build relationships across cultural differences, transformation happens. Connections like these help us to grow into the likeness and image of Christ, teaching us to expand our definition of "neighbor." We are thankful for the gifts Alex has brought to our congregation.

Eugene Weaver - My supervisor at Fairmount Homes approached me last July and asked if I would be willing to work with Alex Kachkovskyi, an IVEP participant from Ukraine. I thought of the times in bygone years while I was serving as a missionary when pastors came to visit our ministry. As a young pastor, I so enjoyed learning from the experiences of these pastors in serving people. It reminded me of the account in the Bible of the apostle Paul ministering to and training Timothy. So, when asked if I was willing to work with Alex as a trainee for ministry, my response was "Yes!"

I met Alex on Aug. 30, 2021, for the first time. Since then, he has very faithfully worked with me two days a week. I have enjoyed being a mentor to Alex. He is quiet, pleasant to work with and willing to help in all the chaplaincy tasks at Fairmount Homes, which include a lot of visitation with the elderly residents, reading Bible verses to them, having one-on-one conversations, listening to them and then offering a prayer for them. On the days he is at Fairmount, we have several group devotionals and Bible studies. Alex always comes well-prepared when he is leading the Bible study.

There have been times Alex and I would take time to visit with someone who was working on a puzzle, other times we were asked to help with a carpetball game. There were other times spent sitting at a table with food and coffee and rich fellowship. On a few occasions, Alex had the opportunity to assist in ministering to a person who was dying. In those times we stood on holy ground, reading Scripture, praying with the one who was dying and praying for the family members who were present.

As our time together has progressed, I have seen Alex become more comfortable in conversations when we meet residents throughout the campus. The residents have an interest in getting to know Alex. I have enjoyed getting to know him and about his life and culture at home in Ukraine. The residents who meet Alex are eager to hear him share his testimony of his spiritual journey and how he came to the saving knowledge of Jesus Christ. More recently, with the unrest in Ukraine, many of the residents who know Alex ask him, "How are things at home? Are your family members in a safe place?" Many residents assure him they are praying for him, his family and the situation in his homeland.

At Christmas time, Alex offered an interesting presentation of a Ukrainian Christmas celebration. One of our residents is teaching Alex how to knit caps. Another resident has "adopted" him as a son and loves to spend all the time he can with Alex.

Alex has expressed his appreciation for the friendly atmosphere and the support he has experienced here at Fairmount Homes. He has greatly appreciated the care and the prayers he sensed coming from staff and residents for him and his family. We have truly enjoyed having him on our team. What a blessing it has been to serve the Fairmount community alongside Alex this past year. I continually remind him that I believe God has bigger plans for him in the future. He loves the Lord Jesus and desires to serve him.


Photo: IVEPer Alex Kachkovskyi from Ukraine (right) visiting residents at Fairmount Homes in Ephrata, Pa. Fairmount Homes photo/Carol Swailes