Slavic Rymskyi has been known to call them “Pa” and “Nana.”
For the ministry leader of First Baptist Church in Belgorod-Dnestrovsky, Ukraine, Rymskyi sees Jim and Rosalind Holloman as family, as his “adopted parents.” The retired couple, members of First Baptist Church in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, met Rymskyi on a volunteer missions trip to Ukraine in 1999 when he was 11 years old. On that trip, they began working with his father, Pavel, who is pastor of the Belgorod church — and the couple has been faithfully returning and supporting ministry in that area for more than 20 years.
It’s that dedication, Rymskyi said, that has impacted not only him and his church but also many other ministry partners in the Odessa region and beyond.
“They first came when we were teenagers and Miss Rosalind taught Vacation Bible School,” recalled Rymskyi, now 33, married with two children, and a deacon and youth leader at FBC Belgorod. “Some of those [leaders] still remember the lessons that Miss Rosalind taught and they still have the Bibles they received.”
Next spring the Hollomans plan to return to Ukraine for the dedication of the church’s new ministry facility, which they and their church helped fund. It’s the latest contribution on a long list of ministry projects and ways the Hollomans have helped ministries in the area.
Expanded reach and influence
Through their faithful support, prayers and encouragement, Rymskyi said, the Hollomans have “revolutionized our outlook on ministry” and helped spark outreach efforts involving everything from clothes for the needy, mentorship opportunities for young leaders and orphan care, to Jim helping start a 12-step program for locals struggling with alcoholism, and providing facilities for that and other ministries.
As the church in Belgorod has expanded its reach and influence, Rymskyi has traveled to the U.S. numerous times to visit the Hollomans, receive training and build more relationships with churches.
“They sacrificed their time and personal funds to come to Ukraine as many as two or three times a year,” he noted. “They focused a lot of their time and efforts to train young people like me.
“We all are the products of the dedication of one couple who were willing to go back and serve a place over and over, and over again,” Rymskyi continued. “I will be forever grateful because they trained me, they taught me what youth ministry was about. They helped me go to school and receive a higher education.”
In 2017, the Hollomans helped provide travel and coordinate accommodations for 10 Ukrainian youth ministry leaders to visit Alabama, and shadow church leaders for ministry training.
As a result of that commitment and connection, Rymskyi and FBC Belgorod have been able to establish other key partnerships with churches in Alabama and North Carolina. Some of the churches in Alabama are First Baptist in Robertsdale, which continues to send missions teams to Ukraine; and Coaling Baptist near Tuscaloosa, which has been a key partner in ministry efforts among orphans.
In 2020, the Hollomans’ church officially launched a new partnership with FBC Belgorod and helped provide funding for the new ministry center. Because of that partnership, Rymskyi said, the church has been able to expedite the construction that initially wasn’t expected to be complete for about 10 years. But now it could be finished in the next few months, he noted.
Meanwhile, a church member from FBC Tuscaloosa recently covered the cost to repair a damaged road that threatened access to the Belgorod church.
All of these partnerships and support have allowed Rymskyi and fellow church leaders to dream big — and the church’s new ministry facility will be a big part of those dreams.
“We want it to be like a life community center, not just where people come to worship on Sunday,” he explained, “but a place where young people hang out, where they do sports, where they eat their lunch, where they have fun, do schoolwork and make friends and meet Jesus. So it’s like an everyday part of their life.”
For the Hollomans, now in their 80s, the commitment to Ukraine has been about one thing — going where God leads.
“You don’t have to be a full-time missionary to go,” Rosalind said. “You just have to get over your fears of getting out of your comfort zone.”
It’s a commitment she said is “all about relationships,” and a lot of “communication, communication.”
“I really took to heart what [author and speaker Henry Blackaby] was saying: ‘See where God is working and join Him in His work and keep on doing that until He leads you somewhere else,” Rosalind said. “We kept coming back.
“My philosophy is just let God lead. If He sees a way, He’ll find a way for you.”