After two years of interacting with Russian refugees in his city of Greensboro, NC, Mark Koehler made a contact in Odessa Ukraine late in 2000. Through communication with his contact, he became aware of the poverty and hard life that faced the children of Odessa. At this time, God put a deep burden upon his heart for these children. In fact, he believed that God was calling him to move to Ukraine as a missionary to care for the children.
Over a period of two years, Mark investigated how he would go about becoming a missionary. At the same time, already deeply committed to the ‘calling’, he was tying up the loose ends of his life in America. In March of 2001, he visited Odessa, Ukraine for ten days. Upon his return, he was convinced of the hard life and poverty that was an everyday part of life in Ukraine. He was also convinced that he had to do something about it. See his story in his own words
In May of 2002, Mark moved to Odessa Ukraine. He was taken to the city of Marganets, about 320 miles east, where his first outreach program began at the Number 3 Orphanage/Boarding School for children with mental and physical disabilities. By the end of June, Mark was taken to the city of Chornomorsk, southwest of Odessa, where he encountered the Emmaus Christian Club. The local Baptist church ran a food program for children from difficult homes (extreme poverty, alcoholism, and drug use). This was the second outreach program with which Mark became involved.
After living in Chornomorsk for one year, Mark looked for a massage therapist to relieve the tension in his neck due to the stress of his first year-and-a half living in this foreign country. After great results, Mark continued treatment, but now focused upon his own disability. After three months of treatment, he had an amazing breakthrough. At this time, God put it upon his heart to begin a massage clinic for children with disabilities. That was the beginning of the Massage Clinic in Chornomorsk.
Soon after this, Mark’s mother began researching how to start a non-profit public charity to further support his three outreach programs in Ukraine. By August of 2004, Mission Ukraine Children’s Hope was established and recognized by the IRS as a 501(c) 3 non-profit organization.
Mark’s family and friends have rallied around his cause for the children of Ukraine. Mark looks to God as the true Director of his work. As founder of MUCH, he acknowledges that MUCH is a big team, both in America and in Ukraine, and he is only a part of it.
In January 2012, Mark married Sveta, a Ukrainian woman with a passion for the children equal to his own. MUCH now serves two orphanages and school in two cities, a transition home, and four massage programs in two cities.