After the fall of Communism in the mid-1990s, a tremendous wave of revival broke out in the former Soviet Union. Among the many salvations were Jewish believers desperately in need of Biblically sound, Messianic-based discipleship and training.
To help answer this need, Dr. Wayne and Bonnie Wilks were sent out to Ukraine from Shady Grove Church to begin the first Messianic Jewish Bible Institute school. Valentin and Tatyana Sviontek were called to go as well and moved back to their native Ukraine from Texas to assist the Wilks'.
Valentin and Tatyana were well equipped for the task. Prior to immigrating to the U.S. and attending Bible school, both were raised under Communism in the former Soviet-controlled Ukraine. Both came from Jewish families, and both professed faith in Yeshua as teenagers. They met at a youth camp for believers shortly after coming to faith, which ironically was located in the very city that MJBI would have its start outside of Odessa in 1996!
When MJBI began expanding internationally, the Sviontek's ministry did as well, especially in Asia, Europe, Africa, and Israel. Still they remained the key overseers for the flagship school in Odessa.
In 2003, Val and Tatyana felt led to plant a Messianic congregation in Odessa, Or HaMashiach (Light of Messiah) to help meet the growing needs of the Messianic community. Today Congregation Or HaMashiach has grown to over 400 weekly attendees, most of whom are Jewish, with a vibrant outreach to the city.
Early in 2020, when MJBI transitioned into the Gateway Center for Israel, the responsibility of the MJBI Odessa school was transferred over to Val and Tatyana's care. This successful training center has now been renamed the School of Messianic Leadership (SML).
The city of Odessa has a Jewish population of over 100,000, but most are still unfamiliar with their Messiah Yeshua. But through the ongoing ministries of Or HaMashiach and the School of Messianic Leadership, Val and Tatyana will continue to raise up leaders who will minister to this Jewish community and beyond in Yeshua's name.