Ukraine Lacrosse Recognized as 62nd Member Country by Federation of International Lacrosse
Ukraine Lacrosse President and Fellowship of Christian Athletes Ukraine Lacrosse Director Overcame Great Personal Tragedy to Bring the Sport of Lacrosse to His Country
KANSAS CITY, Mo.—The Federation of International Lacrosse has announced that Ukraine Lacrosse is now the 62nd FIL member nation. Ecuador was also recently named to the ranks.
Ukraine joins several other eastern European nations, such as Bulgaria, Estonia, Latvia, Serbia, Slovakia, Russia and Turkey in the FIL. Ecuador adds another South American country besides four others.
The president of Ukraine Lacrosse, Vova Demediuk, also serves as the Lacrosse Director of Fellowship of Christian Athletes (FCA, www.fca.org) Ukraine and has worked closely with FCA to strengthen his faith and bring lacrosse to his country—even in times of great personal tragedy, including the death of his young wife.
The first steps in Demediuk’s journey took place in 2010, when he met FCA Ukraine director Andriy Kravtsov at an FCA Camp hosted at Kravtsov’s church. Demediuk, a new Christian, was growing in his faith. He had a great job in Rivne, Ukraine, as an engineer at a nuclear power plant and was also newly married to Sveta. Something, however, was missing. Demediuk knew God had more in store for his life.
“I didn’t feel like the power plant was what God wanted for me,” Demediuk said. “I wanted to do something more. I wanted to work with FCA. It was so great to speak about God to coaches and athletes.”
What brought about that change, ironically, was a burgeoning relationship with FCA and an unexpected love for a sport he barely knew existed—lacrosse. That sent him down a winding road that, at the end, revealed God’s redeeming nature.
Demediuk and Kravtsov were having coffee one day when Demediuk arrived at a pivotal moment. He exclaimed, “I want to be part of FCA! I want to start a lacrosse ministry!”
Why lacrosse? There were no lacrosse players in Ukraine that Demediuk knew of, but he saw the sport on YouTube and was hooked. He learned everything he could and looked for places to play, without much success. Eventually, he found someone to coach him so he could become a better player, and in turn, be able to coach others.
Demediuk’s dream grew, and by 2014, he hosted the first lacrosse tournament in Ukraine. Three teams from Kiev participated, although none were able to field a full squad. Demediuk played for one team and served as a referee for other games. Most importantly, the event served as an evangelism opportunity.
“Our team could openly share the love of Christ,” Demediuk said. “This tournament was a real breakthrough in Ukrainian lacrosse as a whole. Some teams were lacking in equipment, but thanks to Dan Britton [FCA Executive Director of International Ministry] and the whole FCA Lacrosse ministry, we could share our gloves, helmets and sticks with them. It was a historic moment for lacrosse in Ukraine.”
Demediuk’s love for lacrosse, however, was put on hold when a pregnant Sveta was diagnosed with leukemia. The Ukraine church community, as well as the FCA lacrosse community, rallied around the Demediuks with financial contributions, love and prayers. Ultimately, Vova and Sveta’s baby, Nicole, was born prematurely, and after a short time of remission, Sveta passed away.
“Vova is one of my heroes of the faith,” said Britton, who is also serving as the Ukraine Lacrosse National Coach. “Even though he has been through so many trials, he has grown in his faith as a result and continues to shine for Jesus. Vova always has the joy of the Lord in his heart, and his big smile always gives you the assurance that God is in control of his life. His vision to spread lacrosse throughout Ukraine and impact coaches and athletes has given him a foundation of purpose and hope to overcome the trials.”
That’s what Demediuk is counting on. He knows better than most what it takes to trust in God and rely on Him for everything.
“Faith can do anything,” he said. “There is faith when it seems like you’ve lost everything you’re standing on—the faith that can take you through the hardships of life, the faith of that person is stronger than the faith that can move the mountains.”
Britton, who has been coaching and playing lacrosse for more than 40 years, both at the collegiate and professional levels, said he never thought he would see a time when lacrosse would become an official sport in Ukraine. Besides working to make a difference in Ukraine through lacrosse, Britton also helped establish the Ukraine Lacrosse Federation with Demediuk six years ago and has traveled to the country many times over the years, often with lacrosse equipment to leave behind.
“It would be amazing to see other high-level lacrosse players here in the U.S. take their expertise and skills to more countries and leverage their talent for others,” Britton said. “We are blessed to be able to launch new opportunities in nations that would never be impacted by lacrosse if it weren’t for people who are drawn to serve others around the world, and in turn, be a great benefit to both people and entire countries through the sport of lacrosse.”
Britton added that the Ukraine Lacrosse Federal will conduct trainings in this summer, working closely with FCA Lacrosse, which now has over 100 lacrosse teams at every level competing around the United States and the world in an effort to fulfill FCA’s vision to see the world transformed for Jesus Christ through the influence of coaches and athletes.
FIL’s member nation growth from 2002 to 2018 has been 233 percent. FIL began in 1972 with just five member nations, and the July World Championships in Israel saw a record 46 countries compete. The United States defeated Canada on a last-second goal to win the 2018 World Championship.
FCA International is also making incredible strides internationally, now having a presence in 84 countries and working through 242 international leaders such as Demediuk. Additionally, FCA International is reaching even more coaches and athletes in Ukraine, many of whom may have been impacted by Demediuk’s lacrosse program, through the 2018 Strong Sports Bible Handbook, which was translated into eight languages, including Ukrainian.
Reading Vova Demediuk’s story from FCA Magazine here.
Read more about Fellowship of Christian Athletes here, visit FCA’s website at www.fca.org, its Facebook page at www.facebook.com/fcafans or its Twitter feed @fcanews.