By Abigail Roberts | Echo
When Flown all the way from Ukraine, missionary couple Richard and Marilyn Perhai make Taylor their home for this academic year.
In 2001, the Perhais moved from Auburn Hills, Michigan to Kiev, Ukraine with SEND International. At the time, Richard Perhai had a good job, a home close to family and young kids whom he and his wife were homeschooling. Many of the Perhais' friends asked them, "Why would you want to leave this perfect life?"
Yet both Richard and Marilyn sensed a call to missions. Marilyn said she was apprehensive at first, praying that God would change her husband's heart.
"God had to do some foundation work on us," said Marilyn.
God provided multiple signs of conformation, including bringing two dear friends, the Burketts, to work alongside them at the beginning as kindred spirits.
"It had to have been God orchestrating all the pieces," said Richard Perhai.
The Perhais and the Burketts have been serving in Ukraine ever since with the same company, SEND, for over sixteen years now, along with senior Joseph Mosse's family who live and work in Odessa, Ukraine. "It's cool to see a familiar face," said Mosse.
Part of SEND's mission strategy includes an emphasis on language learning. They have all their missionaries spend their first 2-3 years immersed in the culture with their primary focus being language study. This is where Mosse first met the Perhais.
Taylor has partnered with missionaries in the past, particularly in the Computer Science department, where missionaries have come and worked on linguistic software.
This program, however, is unique.
"I would love to see this as a pilot, where (in the future) we routinely have this program," said Provost Jeff Moshier, a contact for the program.
Richard and Marilyn are currently living in a Taylor-owned home across the street from campus. In Ukraine, Richard Perhai serves as an academic dean at Kiev Theological Seminary. Here at Taylor, he seeks to cross-pollinate; gathering concepts and programs to take back to Ukraine and sharing the gifts and knowledge he has with Taylor faculty and students.
"We could tell the Perhais were a good fit by the humility and adaptability they bring," said Moshier.
Through teaching multiple courses within the Bible Department, New Testament, Contemporary Christian beliefs, and next semester, a new course: Eastern Orthodoxy, students will have a chance to connect with Richard Perhai, interacting with his biblical and intercultural views.
"It's super cool to hear his perspective," said junior Lydia Mooney. Junior Caleb Crowder said that Richard Perhai adds another flavor and brings differences in culture to the class which he likes a lot.
"I like it how he wants to talk about the culture he's experienced . . . and relates his experiences in a fun way," said junior Jordan Hardesty.
"For me, being in the classroom is not separate from being a missionary in residence," said Richard Perhai.
The goal of this pilot program is not to have a missionary just hanging out at the DC. Taylor wants to have someone on site partnering with specific departments, interpreting intercultural stereotypes, encouraging Mu Kappa (the on-campus club for missionary kids) and giving a fresh look on the impact missions is having across the world. Moshier hopes this will be one of the many ways intercultural awareness can be brought into the classroom.
Former Mu Kappa president Joseph Mosse said, "They will be a great asset to the Mu Kappa community. They have raised mks themselves, so they know them inside and out."
Another one of the reasons the Perhais have come to Taylor is to encourage students toward a call to missions.
In some Christian circles, missions has become a loaded word filled with the past mistakes of colonial and imperial missionaries. However, the world is still in need of the Gospel.
"If we look from Genesis to Revelation the whole story is about the mission of God," said Richard Perhai. "We need every student and faculty to discern what mission field God has called them to."
Currently, Taylor is working on forming a robust missions major that can easily be paired with any major. The hope is to help students see how God can use their vocation for his Kingdom's sake.
"I am all for it. I know God has given students a heart for the world and have even come from around the world," said Jenny Collins, associate professor of missions.
Whether called a missions or world Christianity major, Collins would like the program to be focused on how Taylor students and faculty can partner with the global church. "(God) will involve them in what He's doing," said Collins.
There is an evident need for long term missionaries to rise up and answer the Great Commission. "I think a lot of people get intimidated by long term missions," said senior Joseph Mosse. "However, we should just as much be encouraging long term missions as well as vocational (or short-term) missions."
Called to missions himself,specifically in an Islamic community, Mosse spent this past summer working as a teacher in Lebanon. "We especially need more guys (on the field)," said Mosse.
For those who feel called to missions, Richard Perhai advises students don't think that going across a large body of water will make you a missionary. The Perhais agree that it is essential to Bloom where you are planted.
Richard and Marilyn Perhai would love to have students come and talk to them about missions, Ukraine and more.