The current events in Eastern Europe have been all over the news, for all the wrong reasons. I have been asked the question numerous times “How has the conflict affected your work in the church there?” I decided to give an update on what is happening and the ways God is moving through local churches and ministries despite the difficult times.
We have done community outreaches exclusively through local ministries in 4 countries; Belarus, Moldova, Crimea, and Ukraine. Starting in June, there have been 12 children’s “camps” completed and have already ministering to over 1,500 children from many backgrounds. 12 more camps will take place in the coming months. In the past, we have been able to minister to several hundred children every summer through 3 to 4 camps in Kerch, Crimea, which was a part of Ukraine before March 2014. Obviously, we have had to shift our focus and have done so with phenomenal results.
Our regional coordinator, Igor Grishajev, identified 5 major benefits from this shift in focus:
- Many more troubled children are receiving loving guidance where they live. Many of the boys and girls at camps are without parents and there is nobody who can’t—or won’t—care for them properly. At camps, they receive the love and attention of young Christian leaders who listen to them and care for their needs. These children want to be loved!
- The doors for evangelism and discipleship are wide open. Summer camps have become the bridge for evangelism to entire communities where Christians have traditionally been unwelcome. In addition, leaders are not stopping with the initial camps; they continue building relationships through sports camps, Sunday Schools, and other discipleship opportunities.
- Entire families are impacted through these children. Children with families are returning home from camps full of what they've seen and done, and with a Bible or other Christian literature in their hands. Many families become curious and connect with local churches affiliated with the camps as a result of their children’s enthusiasm.
- More leaders are developed within the local churches as they are exposed to hands-on ministry. Summer camps are opportunities for local leaders to use their gifts in a practical way. It is a stepping-stone to finding a permanent place for ministry in their churches. We help give pastors an avenue to disciple their people.
- We are helping to spread the joy of the Lord in this nation of bad news. These children are having some serious fun in the context of “church.” Every camp’s activities and message were carefully personalized for the age of the campers and their cultural background. Whether they were children traumatized by warfare in the Eastern Ukraine, Roma (Gypsy) boys and girls, or youth struggling with poverty, the counselors introduced them to the love of Christ in a way that’s both fun and meaningful and life lasting!
Please continue to pray for protection for our brothers and sisters in Ukraine. Pray that this vision will catch fire among the whole church and encourage them to go forward boldly to reach their nation for God.