Pavlo (Pasha) Kakurin is literally on a mission.
The 25-year-old (he’ll turn 26 in July) Ukrainian recently spent three months in the United States to learn building techniques that he’s now using to build churches in his homeland.
Kakurin’s visit to the United States was sponsored by Dwayne Borkholder, president of Borkholder Buildings in Nappanee, Indiana, along with International Networx, a Texas-based mission work organization.
“I’m here to study church design,” Kakurin said in an interview a few days before he returned to the Ukraine. “I’m working with Borkholder’s engineers to learn the technology and the codes.”
Kakurin was involved in mission work for several years, working with a Christian institute in Ukraine in an administrative role.
“One day our director invited Becky Ruland, the director of International Networx to speak and tell us what they do,” Kakurin explains. “She shared what they did. I was amazed that she was able to do this work to have churches built.”
Inspired by Ruland’s talk and how the mission’s work fell in line with his own personal beliefs, Kakurin offered to help out.
“It was perfect timing,” he says. “They needed an administrator, so I began to work with them more.”
Taking this mission to heart
Borkholder Buildings had been sponsoring the construction work on the Ukrainian churches for three years. Kakurin was brought to Indiana so that he could learn the skills to oversee the church construction.
“I learned each step of how to design and create a building,” he says, “but my job will be more organizing people and making sure everything is going well.”
Until Kakurin came to the United States, blueprints used to build churches in Ukraine were developed by engineers in the States and sent overseas. Now the goal is for Kakurin’s mission to design the new worship buildings themselves.
Over the past three years, the ministry has built seven churches or church-related buildings. There is a serious shortage of church structures in the region.
“Under the Soviet Union, no churches were allowed,” Kakurin says. “After the Soviet Union no longer existed, churches returned.” Kakurin estimates that of the established congregation in Ukraine, only between five and 10 percent of them actually have church buildings. With religious freedoms intact, the faithful are meeting in places like theaters and schools.
However, the churches are in a midst of a crisis, Kakurin explains. Because space is in such high demand, rents are increasing. Church members realize they need buildings to call their own.
This is where Kakurin’s training with Borkholder Buildings comes into play.
A new concept
Before he joined the mission, he had a little building experience, working with concrete. Post-frame building is a relatively new concept in the Ukraine, one introduced by Borkholder and International Networx.
“In the first years, people would walk into our buildings and be amazed that we could build with wood,” Kakurin says. “They weren’t sure it would be able to stand for a long time. But once they looked around, they were happy with the wooden buildings.”
The wood frame church buildings have garnered a lot of interest in the Ukraine, as other groups and companies approach Kakurin’s group to ask questions. As word spreads about the quality and durability of wood construction, it is gaining attention in the media, too.
“The idea is growing and developing,” says Kakurin.
When a church group wants to construct a building, the church leaders approach Kakurin, who serves as International Networx’s administrator in the Ukraine. It is the church’s responsibility to provide land and funds for the buildings. An administrative fee paid to Kakurin’s group covers the cost of labor.
The mission prefers to build post- frame buildings rather than concrete or brick for two reasons: it is less expensive and it is quicker to construct, both major considerations for the churches’ members.
Building the structure is similar to a Habitat for Humanity construction project here in the United States. The occupants of the building are expected to volunteer their time on the construction crew. Kakurin says the mission usually requests a dozen or so parishioners for volunteers.
“We do the preparations,” he explains. The mission takes care of pouring the concrete foundation, but they use the volunteer labor force to help erect the building’s frame.
“Then we show them how to do the inside work, the walls and windows and everything. They can then do the work themselves. We handle the American technology that they do not know.”
Attitude is important
In addition to taking his new building techniques back to his homeland, Kakurin says he’ll also be sharing a different business attitude with his countrymen.
“Americans have a much better attitude toward work than we do in the former Soviet Union,” he says. “In the Soviet Union, it didn’t matter how well you worked or the quality, everyone was paid the same salary. People don’t enjoy work. But in the United States, the people I met seemed to enjoy their jobs. Work is done quicker. People care more about the quality.”
He feels that by showing fellow Ukrainians that the customer is someone who needs to be valued and that work can be an enjoyable experience, he can help build better business relationships. And that, he says, can only help his mission work.
While Kakurin was the only person from the Ukraine to come to Indiana on this trip, there are plans to bring more people for building training in the near future.
And the results?
Kakurin will get to test his new skills immediately. There are seven projects scheduled for this year, doubling the output of the first three years of the mission. Many of the churches he works with are small, with 200 or so parishioners, but there are mega-churches looking to add on more branches around the Ukraine.
The mission doesn’t discriminate, building for any Christian denomination.
“Not only do we work with churches,” he adds, “but this year we’re working with an orphanage.”
New in the Ukraine is the idea of Christian Youth Camps.
“One of our pastors wants to build the youth camp and have facilities for conventions,” Kakurin says.
It’s an exciting time, he adds.
“I’m happy to live in this historical moment.”