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FBC Tuscaloosa couple build long-term bond with Ukrainianscomment (0)

June 18, 2009

By Sammie Jo Barstow

In 1999, Rosalind and Jim Holloman traveled to Belgorod-Dnestrovsky, Ukraine, for what they thought would be a one-time missions trip.

Since then, the couple have made 18 trips to the same area and have developed a strong ministry of discipling, teaching, mentoring and distributing Bibles and warm clothing through their relationship with First Baptist Church of Belgorod-Dnestrovsky.

On their first trip, the Hollomans, members of First Baptist Church, Tuscaloosa, in Tuscaloosa Baptist Association, were assigned to work with Pastor Pavel Rymskyi and his small congregation, none of whom spoke English. Although they had a translator during the day, evenings at the pastor’s home “involved a lot of sign language and a lot of laughter over our attempts to communicate,” Rosalind said.

That first trip not only marked the beginning of the couple’s precious relationship with the Ukrainian people but also with their “adopted grandson,” Pavel’s son Viacheslav, known as Slavic. While staying with the Rymskyi family, the Hollomans were impressed with then 11-year-old Slavic’s desire to learn English.

As the trips continued so did Slavic’s interest in the English language. “After the evening meal, Slavic and his brother Andrei would come and say, ‘Jim, vocabulary?’ So we would spend time every evening going over new words and pronunciation,” Jim said.

Slavic jokingly said he knows his English has a “Southern accent” as a result of his visits to Alabama and conversations with the Hollomans. Now 21, he serves as youth minister to more than 40 young people, including many from surrounding villages that do not have youth services.

But that doesn’t surprise the Hollomans.

“Pastor Pavel always involved his sons in the ministry of the church,” Rosalind noted.

Slavic’s youth group is involved in two primary ministries: weekend camping trips, which include Bible teaching and Christian fellowship, and the Willing Servants ministry, through which the youth help elderly people with minor repairs and yard chores.

Another major activity is street evangelism.

“We go out in the villages on our bicycles and go along the streets just knocking on doors,” Slavic said. “People come out and we have some conversation. We offer printed cards or brochures about our church, and when they attend church, we greet them warmly and treat them very nice. Why would they not want to return? Then we can tell them about Jesus.”

Slavic, who will soon complete his master’s degree in philology — the study of language in texts — and speaks five languages fluently, combines his occupation as a social service worker for the Ukrainian government with his Christian ministry and witness.

He recently spent a month with the Hollomans in Tuscaloosa and visited several social services agencies, gathering ideas that could be incorporated into his job in Ukraine. He also attended the college and youth groups at First, Tuscaloosa.

“Our culture is different, of course, but I learned many things I can use in ministry,” Slavic said.

As the partnership between the Hollomans and the Ukrainian church has grown over the years, ministry opportunities have developed. Jim, a recovering alcoholic for 22 years, assisted in establishing a Christian 12-step recovery program and now spends much of his time during visits teaching about addiction. With the help of others at First, Tuscaloosa, the couple were able to purchase buildings for rehab services for addicts.

They also have helped build what are called “prayer houses,” with congregations between 10 and 25 people, in four small villages.

One of the Hollomans’ primary goals over the years has been to teach and encourage church members to do outreach in their community.

In 2000, most of the members moved to a new, larger church when it was dedicated. Pavel remained with a handful of members who wanted to stay at First, Belgorod-Dnestrovsky, and saw the membership increase from about 35 members to 124 by January 2008. Since that time, the church has added 37 new believers. 

“We try to attract people to show them, not us but, Christ,” Slavic said.    

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