Usually, people do not talk a lot about legacies until someone has died and people begin to think about the deceased’s contribution to the lives of those left behind. As we prepare for the Summer Ministry trips, however, we (Chris & Mary Malone) want to celebrate the legacy left by our organization founders, Gus & Warthanell Downing.
When Gus was 62, God called him to begin a new season of ministry in Ukraine. Most people, at his age, are thinking about retirement, but Gus said yes to God and began traveling to Ukraine several times a year. In the beginnings of the ministry, there was a desperate need for pastor and ministry leader training in Ukraine. When the soviet union crumbled, there were suddenly new freedoms and believers began meeting together openly (as churches) but there were no trained people to lead them. Ukraine Ministries of Oklahoma began training young men and women through seminars, conferences, and camps. Since 1995, hundreds of leaders have been trained and encouraged through the ministry of UMO under Gus’s leadership. Many, many churches have been planted. Countless children, youth, and adults have begun a relationship with God through Jesus Christ.
For the first several years of UMO’s work, Warthanell continued working, but when she retired from Moore Public Schools, she began traveling with Gus. She taught and encouraged minister’s wives and hundreds of young ladies. She poured her passion for living for Christ into these women and made lifelong impact on them.
The ministry has changed a little over the years and UMO is now working with families (mostly single moms) who have children with special needs and church planting. God continues to provide opportunities to minister and He continues to provide the resources needed.
Today, Mary and I celebrate the faithfulness of Gus & Warthanell. Through good and really hard time, alike, they have served the beautiful people of Ukraine and they continue to serve in the ministry. At this time, they are not able to travel to Ukraine, but they are still such a valuable part of the work. They have left (and are leaving) a wonderful legacy of faith, obedience, and selfless service. We praise God for them and love them deeply.
As we prayed together today for the upcoming summer ministry, Gus, Warthanell, and I spent a lot of time recounting the great faithfulness of God in the ministry of UMO. It is simply amazing the way He was provided, led, and revealed Himself. We sat in awe as we talked about all He has done and we look forward to all He still has to do!
Here’s to Gus and Warthanell. We love you! We hope to be as faithful as you have been and still are. I heard this song as I was returning home from Gus and Warthanell’s house today and it really put in to words, what we had just been talking about. Gus and Wartha – I hope you are blessed by the words of this song as I was!
Blessed be the Name of the Lord!