Bio

Phil was born and raised in northern Minnesota, where he learned to appreciate fresh vegetables from the garden and the beauty of the north woods. He graduated from the 
University of Minnesota, Duluth in the mid-1980's with a major in computer science and minors in mathematics and accounting. While working as an accountant for a company in Iowa for a couple of years, he met and married Denise. For the next 20+ years, he worked as a computer programmer for two different companies. Phil loves music, books, fishing, and helping people learn to love for God. 

Denise tells people that she is a Midwest girl. She was born in South Dakota (because that was the hospital closest to their Nebraska home), raised in Iowa, and lived in Minnesota most of her married life. She studied early childhood education at North Central University until she met Phil (her Dad introduced us). She loves crafts, sewing, and being with people.


We were married in 1988 and have two daughters. Our oldest daughter is living in Minnesota adapting to life post-university. Our youngest daughter is in 11th grade and attends high school online. We left our home in Minnesota in 2010 to live in Ukraine for two years, spent time back in America to raise support, and returned to Ukraine in 2014. We love being back in Ukraine at this time in history!

You may ask, "Of all the places in the world, why did you choose Ukraine?" That is a great question! The short answer is that we did not choose Ukraine. God did, and we are just following His leading. Here is the longer answer, including how we got to where we are today.

Being missionaries was really not on our radar 12 years ago. Phil loved his programming job (and still did when he left in 2010). We were content living the American dream, always living in cities of 25,000 or less.

In 1996, God was dealing with Phil about something - and finally we understood that it was time for a job change. We took a 30% cut in pay to move from his home town to another city, where we did not know anyone. It was less than two years and his salary was much larger than the one we left behind. Only God could have taken care of us in that way.

In 2002, we switched churches and started attending Waseca (MN) Christian Assembly (an Assemblies of God church), where Brad Wickersheim was the pastor.  In 2005, he went to Ukraine, and specifically to Krivoy Rog, with his best friend from college. When he got back from that trip, he told Phil that he needed to go with him the next year. Surprisingly, Phil agreed. He had never been on a missions trip anywhere and really disliked public speaking, but he prepared to go and preach anyway.

Honestly, there were things about the trip that Phil did not enjoy, but there were a whole lot more things that he loved. However, he wrote in his journal on the flight home (as he caught up from the last few days of the trip), "I had a great time, but don't think I'll ever go back." Same airplane, but away from Phil, Pastor Brad told one of the other guys with us that he thought we would serve as missionaries in Ukraine someday. (That remained a secret for a few years!)  Phil actually returned in 2007, with Denise in 2008, and in 2009.  Not returning was not an option!

In the months that followed, Phil realized that God was calling us to be missionaries.  And not just to "somewhere", but to the people of Ukraine. Phil tried to argue with God, telling Him that there was not much that he could do, because "I am not a pastor or a preacher." (He is still not a pastor, but he has not only accepted the role of preacher, but enjoys it. There are many who preach better than he does, but he knows how God has specifically gifted him, and he runs with that).  Because you cannot win an argument with God, Phil agreed - and told Denise that God was calling us to be missionaries. She simply said, "OK." And then told God that He needed to call her as well. God is faithful - and He called her also.

We started the application process with Assemblies of God World Missions late in 2007, but when Phil's Mom got very sick and died February 4, 2008, he took time to grieve. But in the fall of 2008, we once again got serious about pursuing appointment as Missionary Associates (because I was not a pastor) - and received approval from AGWM in the spring of 2009. Phil told the people above him at work about our plans at the beginning of 2009, so that they heard it from him and not somewhere else. They were disappointed, but were glad to use his skills for as long as he would be able to work (which ended up being almost 1.5 years).

We moved to Krivoy Rog in June, 2010, living and serving there until March, 2012. At that time we moved to Simferopol, Crimea just until the end of May, 2012. We expected that the Krivoy Rog chapter of our lives was finished. While we were home itinerating for two years, Russia took Crimea in February 2014, and it became impossible for us to return and serve there. In June, 2014, we decided to return to Ukraine and to live in Kiev until we determined a plan for the future. We moved to Kiev in August, 2014. There Phil studied Russian the first six months.

The next six months, he worked on a project for our Area Director, researching population. This was difficult because there last census was 2001 and the war in the East means many refugees now live in a different place, without any way to account for them that he could find. He attempted to report on population by location, by ethnicity, and by age, as well as where the church was working.  This too was difficult for a number of reasons. But the end result was good. At best, the number of evangelical born again believers are just 2.5% of the population. And the largest ethnic group that needs to hear the gospel is the Slavic people - those who are Ukrainian or Russian. As a result, God opened our eyes and showed us that we should partner with the Churches of Praise in Krivoy Rog, to encourage them in their church planting endeavors. Our leadership agreed, and in September, 2015, we moved back to Krivoy Rog again.

We immediately saw that God was in this move and started reaping benefits from the relationships we built the first two years we were in Ukraine. Those relationships have deepened and multiplied. We continue to be amazed at God's hand in all of this process and are excited about all that we have seen God do in and through us during our entire lives, but especially the last 2+ years, much more than we had ever dreamed or imagined. Jeremiah 29:11 (NLT) says, "For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope." His plans are always BEST!

We look forward to all the great things that God has in store for the people of Ukraine - and to be a small part in what He is going to do!