I’m Joel Swanson, and I’ve been called by Mission to the World (MTW) to work in Ukraine with the MTW Kyiv team in music ministry, evangelism, and discipleship.
So who am I and why am I living in Kyiv, Ukraine? I’m a follower of Jesus, gripped by the goodness and beauty of grace and longing to more fully enjoy and embody truth. I’m fascinated by languages, cross-cultural experiences, how ideas shape culture, and how Christ can transform people and their cultures. In 2007, while teaching English in Ukraine, my cousin and her Ukrainian husband challenged me to consider the need for workers to strengthen the church in Ukraine. With the encouragement of friends, I pursued a calling in missions, visiting Ukraine twice more over the next two years. In October 2009 the MTW Kyiv team called me to serve in music ministry, evangelism, and discipleship.
I grew up in a Christian home in New Jersey, trusting Christ in kindergarten. In high school I played piano for church, served as a camp counselor and camp music director, and learned guitar for a MTW missions trip to Northern Ireland. I began praying for Ukraine in the mid-1990s when a cousin went there as a missionary. A college semester in China reminded me of God’s unchanging faithfulness when surrounded by an unfamiliar culture; a later semester in Scotland opened my eyes to Europe’s spiritual darkness.
I graduated in 2003 from Covenant College and Georgia Tech with degrees in natural science and civil engineering, and worked over ten years in transportation engineering. I hope to use my science and professional engineering background to network with civil engineers and to build up believers who work in these fields by helping them see connections between their faith and work. Our MTW Kyiv team helps run a seminary to train pastors from all over Ukraine, and I hope to interact with some of those students on science and faith issues. I’m currently using my familiarity with spreadsheets and numbers from the engineering world to serve at our team treasurer.
While I lived in Chattanooga, I served in music ministry within my local church, taught Sunday school, enjoyed befriending artists, and facilitated a classic literature book club at a local independent bookstore and coffee shop. I also met weekly with a small group of guys to pray together and encourage one another in our walk with Christ. Many of the ways I’m ministered there are ways I hope to serve here, in Kyiv, where there are far fewer believers than in Chattanooga.
I long to see a vibrant Church in Ukraine. Please consider partnering with me by praying and giving to build the church in Kyiv, so that Jesus’ gospel would transform and renew the people and culture of Ukraine.