Changed Dreams: Syava’s Story
Amy Nickerson | December 2014
Syava Garvas, a Ukrainian from Lviv, thought he had his life planned out. At 16 years old, he wanted to finish high school, attend university, and get a job that would make him rich. In a country known for its corruption, the people with the wealth held the power, so who wouldn’t want to be a successful businessman? Syava’s dreams changed though, when he decided to work for his local church for a year. Now, 14 years later, Syava is in full-time youth ministry with Josiah Venture, pursuing God and what lasts forever.
Q: How did you first encounter God?
A: I accepted Christ around 14 years ago when I was almost 17. I didn’t know about Josiah Venture at that time at all. My friend accepted Christ. I was thinking he was crazy, but he invited me to come to church. I said I would come for one reason: to find out what was wrong there.
I wasn’t interested in the clubs or hanging out with the youth. I was more interested in the preaching. But later on, I met a lot of the youth. I wanted to spend time with them so I started going to more events than just Sunday. But I went to church every Sunday.
Q: What made you interested in continuing to go to church?
A: It was probably people’s actions. They acted differently than I knew before. They loved each other and were encouraging. When they saw imperfect things in people they tried to help them. It was not what I was used to seeing between my friends.
I started to work with Christians. It was a big part of my life. I didn’t go to university. I decided to work for one year in construction for the church and then go to university. In the middle of that year I accepted Christ and my plans completely changed.
Q: How did your plans change?
A: I dreamed of becoming an economist with a business and making a lot of money. Ukraine is really corrupt and I knew I needed to make money before I could pay for university, so that’s why I took the job
But when I accepted Christ I started serving in the church and then I went to a Christian university and became a part of the youth team. God changed all my dreams about making money to some bigger purpose and what would stay forever.
After a few years, my pastor asked me to lead the youth ministry.
At first, I wanted to work with youth because I was young and it was fun. But later I realized that this was the generation that could change the church. I started to believe that youth could become a better generation. I see now that when the youth change, the older generation changes too.
Q: How did you get connected with Josiah Venture?
A: I met Jay Hughes, who used to be the team leader. He came and served with us at my youth group. Then Ben and Kristy Williams came and they started going to our church. After two years in our church they proposed that I help them do English camps. My role in the beginning was to help them find new churches that would want to do camps.
I started to help them. Then I was invited to the JV fall training conference in 2008. I started to know Josiah Venture well and then Ben asked me a few years ago if I would work with JV full-time and I said yes.
I was leading JV’s outdoor ministry for three years in Ukraine. Right now, I will still do outdoor camps, but during the year I will be training and teaching Walk 2:6, JV’s disciple-making material, in churches and with teams.”
Q: What have you learned about God through doing ministry?
A: To live is Christ. I’m learning to wake up everyday and look for God’s will. That’s what I’m learning right now. Sometimes I feel sadness that I’m still on this earth when I wake up, but at the same time I feel joy because God has prepared something new for me to do this day. I know if I’m still here, God has prepared something big for me and that’s exciting.
Q: What do you want to see God do in Ukraine?
A: I just want to see peace and the church unite around Christ, because right now the west and east don’t have unity. I would like to see churches unite in Ukraine and have the same purpose, even in this complicated time.
And I want to see the young kids, 13 to 17 year olds, in my church and other churches become God’s servants in the church. I dream of seeing them become great servants in the future with healthy families and examples for the next generation.
As you hear stories of the political unrest in Ukraine, Syava asks that you would pray for peace and unity not only for the people of his country, but also within the church and the JV team as they continue to put aside this world’s dreams for the sake of God’s amazing plan of hope and a future.