The founders of YWAM Alternatives Network (AN), Jari & Tanya Koivu, have been involved in Slavic and Jewish Ministries during their years in YWAM, joining the mission in 1987. Pioneering new works and mission bases has been a part of their YWAM journey. That journey has taken them to Finland, Austria, Russia, Cyprus and Canada.
Jari’s YWAM journey began 1987 in Finland where he did the basic mission training and then worked in the Slavic Ministries department, helping with semi-underground training programs in the Soviet Estonia (when the country was still under KGB control).
After taking a Slavic School of Missions in Switzerland, in 1989 Jari relocated to Austria where thousands of Soviet Jewish and evangelical Christian emigrants were arriving on a daily basis, by the train load. Jari established a Soviet Jewish outreach ministry in Vienna. This is also where he met Tanya, who then began to help the missionaries in their outreach. She was one of the Soviet Pentecostal emigrants.
In 1991 Jari & Tanya moved to Canada and established a Jewish ministry in Toronto, where Jari was invited to be a Leadership Council member for YWAM Toronto. Most of the missionary staff were South Korean.
Jari & Tanya started YWAM in the magnificent city of St. Petersburg, Russia, in 1995. That work included a Discipleship Training School (school of ministry), Street Kids Ministry (with a day centre and night shelter), refugee ministry among Muslims, Jewish Ministry, Train Ministry (evangelism in the local trains!). Pro-Life work in the form of a crisis pregnancy centre became a department of that YWAM base in 1997. In 2003 a similar ministry was pioneered in Nicosia, the divided capital of Cyprus, where the Koivus had moved from Russia in the end of 2001. Many other believers were mobilized to take part in Pro-Life work both in Russia and Cyprus. The centre in Nicosia is called the Pregnancy Care Centre.
Another aspect of the work in Cyprus was “Touch of Light”, a ministry to victims of sex trafficking. The Koivus also saw the pioneering of a Russian Church, and Jari started the Nicosia Healing Rooms in 2006.
Ministry to Spiritual Seekers became a part of the AN vision in Cyprus. One of our volunteer leaders came from a New Age background. There was a sense that YWAM and other Christians ought to do “something” about the growing presence of Psychics and New Age fairs. Some steps were taken in 2005-2006, like going to some fairs to pray. Jari Koivu went to Basel, Switzerland, where Jeff Fountain (YWAM’s European director) and Hope for Europe held a consultation called “Evangelism in a New Age”.
“This was a defining moment for us as a ministry. We understood that the Lord was calling Christians to a more radical, and contextualized, way of evangelizing Western spiritual seekers. Many in the West are turning to neo-paganism!
By the summer of 2006 we knew that Alternatives Network should move to a region where there are more opportunities for missions mobilization. Toronto began to loom large in the “horizon”, and the AN ministry relocated from Cyprus to Toronto in the summer of 2007.
Love for Israel and ministry to Jewish people have been an important part of our work in different nations. Our main focus has always been on Russian-speaking Jews, but here in Toronto our ministry (Healing Centre) is located in the heart of the larger Jewish community. Our desire is to be an “incarnational” presence here, and reach out through friendship evangelism and pursuing spiritual gifts in evangelism (incl. healing & the prophetic).”
Justice and Freedom Alliance (JAFA) is our ministry that deals with human trafficking issues.
Ministry to Spiritual Seekers goes to New Age and Holistic Expos with a prophetic healing booth, with lots of trained volunteers from local churches. Follow-up is also part of this work.