From Ukraine with Love

Jessi and Chris are two newlyweds who are also new global workers. There are a lot of uncertainties in life but the one thing Jessi and Chris know is they can be certain of God and His plan for them.

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Jessi and Chris Nelder

Jessi and Chris are both pastors’ kids and growing up they were both exposed to recognising God as a real presence and guide in their lives. “Being a pastor’s kid in small town Northern Ontario, I was able to experience God’s miraculous provision many times and developed a strong trust in His ability and desire to take care of my family and me,” Chris shares, “When I was six years old at Spring Bay Camp, I accepted Jesus Christ as my personal savior on my own.”

Jessi has a similar story to Chris, “I was raised in a very healthy Christian home, where my parents taught me to first love and trust God, with and in everything. Life as a PK (pastor’s kid) hasn’t always been the easiest, but it’s all I’ve ever known, and I believe it uniquely prepared me for the life God has me living now.”

Jessi continues, “I was four years old when I ‘invited Jesus into my heart’ but when I was thirteen, my faith and understanding of God had matured for me to make a real commitment to having a genuine relationship with Jesus. Every day I am learning to live in step with His will, trusting the Holy Spirit and doing my best to be obedient in every decision.”

Missions was also part of how Jessi and Chris were raised. They both participated in separate missions trips to Ukraine when they were both in their teens.

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Jessi and Chis on separate missions trips to Ukraine in their teens.

For Chris, his connection to Ukraine came while he was on a short-term mission trip during while attending Master’s College & Seminary in Peterborough. “I had a classmate tell me that he felt God was calling me to the former USSR to do mission work. I thought ‘Well, that’s cool but I think we’ve talked before about how I had Ukraine on my heart' because I had been there before when I was a teen. My inner cynic tried to shrug it off but when I was thanking a local Dominican Pastor for his hospitality that evening, he grabbed my arm just said “Ukraine”. I couldn’t shrug off that encounter and I began to seek God and plan.”

Jessi also attended Master’s College & Seminary where in her last year they formed a real friendship. But both of them assume this wasn’t their first encounter with each other, “Jessi and I, being both PKs, have crossed paths way more times than either of us can recount. Often we are telling a story about something and the other says “...wait, I remember that too!”’ Jessi adds, “With the various district youth conferences and camps over the years it’s hard to imagine we didn’t officially meet any of those times.”

Their friendship grew quickly and evolved into a romantic relationship. For Chris, he says it was close to being in love at first sight but Jessi made him work for it. Jessi says, “I don’t know if I could say it was love at first sight, but I can say this for certain, I couldn’t help but fall in love with him.”

Jessi and Chris were dating for four months when Chris decided to see what God's calling to Ukraine meant for him.  “That four months apart was difficult, but it brought us closer than ever and, when Chris returned, we knew without a doubt that we wanted to get married and spend the rest of our lives together,” confirms Jessi. “When I said she made me work for it, it’s because me going to Ukraine for missions twice was a hurdle early on in our relationship, but I’m glad I could go with her support”.

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Chris wouldn’t have to go to Ukraine alone again. Jessi and Chris married on June 4, 2016, and missions was always part of that plan. “Knowing that Chris feels called to missions was something that weighed heavily on any decisions we made as we entered into marriage. But the call that God has placed on my life and the call He has placed on our lives together is very clear.” Jessi and Chris actually spent time planning for their wedding and marriage while preparing for their current mission trip to Ukraine.

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Jessi's heart was also stirred for Ukraine because of her past experiences there, “We both knew that getting married meant we were going to be involved in missions together in some capacity. We knew there was a reason we had both been involved in missions to Ukraine in the past. We both were actually involved in missions, in the same city at different times growing up. That city is the same that we are now living in together!”

Jessi and Chris have been in Ukraine since the beginning of 2017, they work together with a ministry called Loads of Love Int. ministering to people with disabilities who have lived their whole lives in government institutions, orphaned and disenfranchised children and patients at tuberculosis centres.

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For Jessi and Chris, it has been an ambitious, stressful, stretching time but a joyful, blessed and wonderful experience to be on the mission field together. God's mission is something they both believe in so it will always be part of their marriage.

Jessi shares how this experience has brought them closer together as husband and wife and it is slowing growing and changing them to become more Christ-like. “We both have no idea where God is going to take us, but we are both filled with an unexplainable peace about where he has us right now together.”

Chris adds, “It’s also amazing to see the person you love ministering to and connecting with people, that you know, you would have no ability to reach on your own…we both feel at peace about coming to Ukraine and ministering here. We continue to pray and seek God’s call for what to do next and are open for whatever He reveals to us.”

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