When faced with personal hardships or significant decisions, many of us seek wise counsel from friends, family members, or pastors. But have you ever considered taking your problems to your local bank? In Ukraine and Russia, several clients are doing just that—turning to what may seem an unusual source of support: their loan officers.
When Tetiana Zalokots’ka’s marriage was unraveling, for example, she turned to her HOPE Ukraine loan officer, Bogdan, for advice on whether to get a divorce or stay for the sake of her 10-year-old daughter. In addition to praying with her, Bogdan recommended the movie Fireproof, which tells the story of a man trying to rebuild his failing marriage. Skeptical, Tetiana asked, “Do you really think that a movie can save my marriage, which is hanging by a thread?”
“Not the movie,” he answered, “but there is nothing impossible to God.”
For several months, Bogdan and the rest of the staff continued to pray for Tetiana’s marriage. Then one day, Tetiana entered the office full of joy. She and her husband had watched the movie and, touched by the message, had begun finding small ways to serve each other. While she knew it would take time to fully heal their marriage, Tetiana was encouraged by the improvement they had already noticed.
In Russia, Vera Lazavskaya had been divorced for several years, but when her ex-husband was having financial problems, she allowed him to stay in her home. One day, he became drunk and beat her badly. Shocked and scared, Vera’s first call was to her loan officer, Andrey, who advised her to go to the hospital and has continued to provide emotional support long after her physical bruises have healed. As she has begun to find strength and healing, Vera is in turn supporting a friend who is also experiencing abuse from her alcoholic husband.
Seeking personal counsel from bankers may seem unusual, but Ludmila Polonchak, HOPE Ukraine’s operations manager, has a simple explanation for clients’ willingness to turn to their loan officers with problems: “It's because they trust our employees. They see that we live out what we preach.” HOPE Ukraine and Russia recently implemented a new spiritual integration strategy that builds on this model of living out the Gospel with clients. Based on Jesus’ example of discipleship, this strategy focuses on building deeper relationships with a few clients, developing trust that will open the door to sharing the Gospel.
As part of the new structure, Bogdan has been promoted to spiritual integration field facilitator, drawing on the strengths he’s already shown in discipling clients. “It is nice to realize that the Lord can use me to reveal Himself to people, to support and comfort them,” he says. “Each time [we meet] we bless our clients and pray for them, and they know about it.”