Explore Article Categories


A Motivation for Missions

By Ryan Klinker, September 20, 2022

Alumnus who called Ukraine home for many years mobilizes missions For IMB in eastern Europe

Mick Stockwell (’82) learned how to enact a vision while he was a student at Liberty University and has now spent the last 28 years working with missions partners in Eastern Europe and beyond to shine the light of the Gospel in some of the darkest places, including during the current hardships in Ukraine. 

Mick Stockwell (’82)

While struggling with injuries during his senior year of high school football in Baton Rouge, La., Stockwell recalled he had no real direction or idea of what to pursue outside of the gridiron. That’s when his older brother David, an evangelist, told him about a new college in Lynchburg, Va.

“I grew up in a football family; my dad was a very successful coach and then a high school principal. He died when I was a sophomore in high school, and I was just… lost,” Stockwell said. “Then my brother called me and said, ‘I just spoke at a chapel at this new school called Liberty Baptist College. They have a football program, and they are on fire for Jesus.’”

Stockwell sent in some films and was offered a scholarship to join the upstart Flames Football program in its fourth year. In the fall of 1976, he moved onto Treasure Island, a renovated church camp on the James River that served as student housing and also an athletic facility. While he quipped that the place wasn’t much to look at, Stockwell said he quickly bought into the vision of the university and its founder, Dr. Jerry Falwell.

“When I first came to the football team, my first day was helping a coach build and paint spaces to make a makeshift locker room on the island,” he said. “To be able to go in and take a kids camp and turn it into a football facility, live in substandard facilities, but do that all with a vision in mind … that’s what we were agreeing to do.” 

“I don’t know if I had the vision to exactly see what Liberty University has become, because no one had seen anything like it, but I saw the goals,” he added. “I went up on Liberty Mountain and was there for some of those famous telecasts when there was nothing there (on the land), but we could see it. In my junior year, I was in the first group to live in the dorms on Liberty Mountain, and I was in the first-ever class on Liberty Mountain at 8 a.m. on a Monday.”

Stockwell (#60) playing against St. Paul for the Liberty Baptist College football team.

The university’s humble beginnings and its phenomenal growth have been a motivation for his own work in Eastern Europe. Stockwell currently serves as the European Globalization Strategist for the International Mission Board (IMB). 

“To be in the middle of (Liberty) starting in a (modest) place, and then to have it move onto the mountain and be watching the vision come to fruition, that has a lot of parallels to what we do with missions,” Stockwell said. “Watching Jerry Falwell and my professors believe in something, take what they had, and make it better, helped me see how to work toward a vision and a goal.”

Stockwell’s calling for missions came during a chapel message at Liberty by Vernon Brewer (’74), Liberty’s first graduate and the founder and president of World Help. Stockwell learned that most trained ministers in the world at the time served in the Western world. But having grown up in the generation that consistently heard about the hardships in the Soviet Union, Stockwell developed a passion for reaching those in the East.

“From my childhood I heard the testimonies of Russian-speaking immigrants who had come out of the Soviet Union, I had learned how to hide under my desk at school in case of a nuclear war, and all of the other things,” he said. “I also read a couple of books about men who had come from behind the Iron Curtain and had been persecuted for their faith there, and I learned all about the people who had died for their faith and were unable to even have and read a Bible. It set a real burden on my heart for the Soviet Union.”

Stockwell studied business administration but used every elective slot remaining to take courses in mission work. 

While working on staff at a church in northwest Houston after graduation, he was able to visit the intact Soviet Union for an evangelistic rally at one of the capitals, Kishinev Moldova, in 1990. He was inspired to work there and joined the IMB a couple years later.

Mick Stockwell and his family in 1998 in Kharkiv, Ukraine.

Stockwell, his wife, Dalese, and their three sons moved to Ukraine’s capital, Kyiv, in 1994 to begin serving the country’s sizable Baptist community and plant churches in an environment that he said is an unusual mission field. 

“People tend to think that missionaries go into the jungle and live in mud huts or are out in Range Rovers, but we were doing our work in a concrete jungle,” he said. “The people of Ukraine were broken and bankrupt, and they knew they needed something. We went into a place that was falling apart, and the people there were frustrated because they found out they’d grown up in a lie (from communist propaganda).”

“Watching Jerry Falwell and my professors believe in something, take what they had, and make it better, helped me see how to work toward a vision and a goal.”
 Mick Stockwell

Stockwell was soon asked to oversee IMB’s work in the satellite countries once under the Soviet Union, and he spent 15 years living in Kyiv and Kharkiv with seven to eight countries being served at a time.

In his current role, Stockwell identifies and mobilizes missionary partners to support ongoing work in the former Soviet Union’s countries and beyond, reaching as far as Brazil, Kenya, Uganda, India, Thailand, Nepal, and Papua New Guinea.

Stockwell with Send Relief volunteers In Romania

The Russian invasion of Ukraine in early 2022 has shifted much of Stockwell’s focus to ministering to refugees  — some of whom are his longtime partners — and continuing to support the Ukrainian Baptist Union despite funding difficulties.

“All of our people were moved out of Ukraine, Russia, and Belarus,” he said. “It’s important to note that our missionaries are also refugees. They had to leave in a hurry unexpectedly with two suitcases apiece and didn’t know what’s going to happen next.”

“I have very dear friends in Russia who I’m still very involved with, and it’s hard on them too,” he added. “We cannot get money legally into Russia, so we’re not able to financially support our missions partners there. These people are also innocents as their country is caught up in a war that they cannot control.”

Stockwell has been able to assist partners through IMB’s Send Relief program, which deploys teams and provides grants to help care for people in the aftermath of natural disasters or other crises. Stockwell has worked at the leadership level to obtain grants for partners in Romania and Moldova, but he has also gone to the borders firsthand.

In April, he joined IMB President Paul Chitwood at the Polish and Romanian borders to talk with refugees and churches at a station providing information on services and ways for refugees to hear or read the Gospel in their language. While they were in Romania, the Ukrainian city of Mariupol was being hit especially hard. An estimated 300 people were killed at a children’s theater. About a week later, while they stood at the IMB welcome center, Stockwell and Chitwood were approached by a woman who had been an actress on the theater’s staff. 

She said she knew many of the people who died, and she said, ‘These aren’t things I’ve heard about, these are things I’ve seen with my own eyes,’” Stockwell said. “She also told us about how bullets were hitting the cars and they drove away, with the women and children in the car screaming.”

Dalese Stockwell prays with refugees at the Romanian border

Despite not being able to enter Ukraine, Stockwell said he has seen and felt the damage being done to his former home. He received a video from a friend in Ukraine that shows the friend eating dinner in his kitchen right before a shell comes through the roof and explodes in the next room over. Another video, which he has seen circulate on the news, shows an obscured view of the Kharkiv Region State Administration Building as a massive fireball from a missile erupted in front of it.

“I sat in that same room last November, and I’ve eaten in that kitchen many times,” Stockwell said. “These are people that I raised my children with, that I went on vacations with, that we are now going to the ends of the earth with. (The Kharkiv Region State Administration Building) is on Freedom Square, and that is where I would rollerblade with my boys when they were kids. It’s only a few hundred yards from the apartment where we raised our kids. This is real to us.”

The Russian-speaking church that Stockwell attends in the Czech Republic has opened its doors to refugees as well, and he and his wife have worked in hostels and hotels to help mothers and children. One of the church’s pastors has as many as 20 refugees living in his small home.

Stockwell spoke at an IMB panel during the Southern Baptist Convention in Anaheim, Calif., in June. (IMB Photo)

“I believe that through the way I’d grown up thinking and praying about (Eastern Europe), the way God put it on my heart, and how I’d gone on that mission trip in 1990, I knew that this was the place for me,” Stockwell said. “I knew it deep in my heart back then, and I feel that God has uniquely gifted me for it. In these years since, I’ve seen the Lord work. I’ve seen Him use my mission partners (and myself), put us in contact with the people who need help the most, and allow us to serve Him by serving them.”  

Get the e-magazine straight to your inbox!

It only takes a click to unsubscribe.