By Laura McKillip Wood
For Valentin and Luba Siney, ministry is a family tradition. Valentin grew up in Kherson, Ukraine and comes from a long line of Ukrainian ministers. His grandparents ministered during the difficult years of the Soviet Union. His father started a church in Kherson in the late 1990s. His father’s invitation to work with the youth at the church prompted Valentin to consider going into ministry himself.
After the fall of the Soviet Union, difficult economic and political times prompted people to seek spiritual significance. Many new churches opened, and by 1997 those churches began to see the need for more formal training for their leaders. The churches in Kherson started Tavriski Christian Institute (TCI), and Valentin began studying for the ministry there.
During this time, Valentin met Luba, who began as his English tutor but eventually became his wife. They served together at their church and had two children. By 2003 Valentin was traveling to the country of Georgia on mission trips and teaching a class at the college. Soon he began teaching full-time, and when the president of TCI stepped down in 2006, Valentin assumed the role.
Work at Home and Abroad
Tavriski Christian Institute began in partnership with several American Christian colleges, including Hope International University and Cincinnati Christian University. TCM International, which provides leadership training and higher Christian education to people living in eastern Europe, helped many of TCI’s faculty continue their education. TCI currently works with Johnson University and has established an online missions course with them. The school has also worked in conjunction with several missions organizations over the years, including Pioneer Bible Translators, IDES, FAME, READ Ministry, and Publish4all.
TCI has always had a focus on missions as well as on training leaders for Ukraine. According to the Sineys, “TCI is more than just a school that trains ministers. We help churches in the development of various kinds of ministries: in cross-cultural work, in community transformation projects, and in training for church leaders in areas with limited access to Christian education.” Since the year 2000, TCI has ministered in Uzbekistan, Georgia, and Tajikistan. The underground churches in some of the regions they serve have limited access to Christian education. Police have even disrupted some of their training sessions in the past, and working there grows harder. TCI graduates have worked with nationals to start churches in these countries despite the difficulty.
Life in Central Asia is difficult, and Christians especially face hardships. For those who want to work in ministry, providing for a family from ministry alone can present financial problems. Because of that, TCI has worked to find creative ways for ministers to support themselves. TCI has equipped local pastors in Central Asia to start their own businesses, thus helping them become self-sufficient and free from Western support. TCI has also helped provide sewing machines and training to young women in danger of falling prey to sex trafficking, enabling them to support themselves financially as well.
In 2014 about 200 traditional students attended the college and about 200 more participated in various short-term training sessions or conferences. Most of TCI’s 20 professors still work in ministry in their churches and teach part-time at the college, giving students the benefit of the professors’ firsthand ministry experience. TCI students use their classroom knowledge to work in church camps and minister in local churches. Some have even begun literacy classes for the Roma (commonly known as Gypsy) community. Graduates of the institute have started successful churches in villages in Ukraine in addition to those in Central Asia.
Ministry During War
Lately the institute has helped Ukrainian Christians through a difficult time. After Russian forces moved into Ukraine, many people became refugees. TCI has helped several families who were forced to leave regions affected by the war, offering them places to stay and jobs. One former TCI student even joined the Ukrainian army, working as a chaplain until he was killed in the war in August 2015.
Although leadership is challenging, Valentin loves his ministry. “I can dream about the future or about the development of future projects and new partnerships.” The Siney children have even participated in that dream, accompanying their parents on international trips and continuing that family focus on ministry like their parents, grandparents, and great-grandparents before them.
If you’re interested in learning more about Valentin and Luba or TCI, contact them: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Laura McKillip Wood formerly taught missionary children in Ukraine and now works in the academic office of Nebraska Christian College in Papillion, Nebraska. She and her husband, Andrew, have three children (lauramckillipwood.com).