In 1997, HOPE International, a network of Christ-centered microfinance institutions based in Lancaster, PA., was seeking a director to begin its microfinance operations in Ukraine. Paul and Cindy Marty, then living a typical suburban American life, heard about HOPE’s mission and sensed God was calling them to this ministry. Within a short time, Paul and Cindy had packed up their three youngest children along with the family dog and moved to Zaporozhye, Ukraine to launch HOPE International’s first program.
Once on the ground in Ukraine, it didn’t take long to see that children, especially in the small towns and villages, had little hope and often no opportunity to hear about Jesus and the relationship they could have with Him. If there was an evangelical church in their town, it was likely that their parents, out of fear propagated by Communism and the Orthodox Church, would not let them go near it. Another striking observation was that the evangelical churches in these small communities were mostly filled with older women and, with so few young people, seemed headed for extinction. They began to understand that a bridge was needed – something to draw the kids, introduce them to the gospel and, through nurturing relationships, integrate them into the local churches. Cindy thought of the impact that Bible clubs had had on her own children and began to sense that God was leading her to start something similar for the kids of Ukraine – weekly Bible clubs where children could hear the Gospel, learn new skills, have some fun, and build relationships with Christ-following mentors.
When the Marty’s, along with volunteers from a local church, started the first club more than 10 years ago, only God knew that the Tomorrow Clubs would grow into the largest children’s ministry in Ukraine!
Today, the Tomorrow Clubs are run completely by a local staff. The ministry is impacting nearly 16,000 children each week, 70 – 80% of which come from unchurched families, often in remote villages where there is little if any opportunity hear the gospel. The Tomorrow Clubs are staffed by more than 2,400 committed volunteer workers and are now working in nine Eastern European countries: Ukraine, Russia, Moldova, Romania, Armenia, Georgia, Hungary, Bosnia, and Belarus with about 600 clubs meeting every week. The Tomorrow Clubs have had tremendous success in partnering with local churches to support and operate these clubs. The Tomorrow Clubs’ volunteers are channeled through the local churches, and when children and their parents become interested in attending church services, Tomorrow Club leaders connect them to local congregations.