Eastern European Report
by Igor Grishajev
Before the crisis we used to use an old soviet pioneer camp in the Crimea to provide 10-day holiday camps for orphans and needy children, where these children heard about God’s love for them. During this time, we discussed again and again how we could encourage the Ukrainian church to become more committed to helping the needy in their community. But we were never able to make this transition. Then the Russians invaded. Overnight our centre in the Crimea became impossible to reach. As a result we had to quickly change our ministry plan.
Last summer, for the first time, we held children’s camps through local churches all over the country, as well as in Belarus and Moldova – two countries in great need of help. For many of these churches, this was the first time they realised the need for God’s people to serve refugees and street children. All these camps were led by Global Action graduates. In all, 1,535 children attended 15 different week-long ‘kid’s camps’. Most of the children attending these camps were either orphans or children of refugees from the recent war. These children received the love and attention of young Christian leaders who listened to them and cared for their needs. The children returned ‘home’ from camps full of excitement about what they’d seen and done, with a Bible in their hands and with a local church to follow them up. In some situations where the children had families, the parents or guardians were curious about their children’s excitement, and were able to connect with local churches associated with the camps.
In addition to serving the needy, the church in Ukraine is growing in number and maturity. The local churches are beginning to fathom the vast needs present within their local communities. We are noticing a sea-change in our graduates, who are beginning to initiate help for abandoned children as well as refugee children and their families. This focus on helping local people was rarely seen within the church, even 10 years ago. We have many reports of ongoing ministry to marginalised people who are being cared for and coming to Christ as a result.
This new commitment to helping local people is having knock-on effects. Existing churches are planting new house churches, built on the spiritual awakening resulting from last year’s summer camps. Many of these are starting up in areas where there had previously been no Christian presence. Over the last year, as a result of the summer camps and church plants we believe over 3,000 people have heard the gospel for the first time. The Bible camps have gone beyond just impacting the children, to impacting friends, relatives, families, neighbours, caretakers and many others within the community.
“We were truly excited when our first teacher from Minnesota visited even though the political situation was uncertain and dangerous”
Because of the conflict within Ukraine, many western church organisations have cancelled their programmes and events. So we were truly excited when our first teacher from Minnesota visited even though the political situation was uncertain and dangerous. By starting in the midst of all this turmoil, the students were encouraged to be bold in the Lord and trust Him. Because we pressed forward, 34 new leaders were trained and are now able to minister effectively. As a result, new churches and ministries have been established.
We believe that we must care for the physical needs of those affected by the crisis and war in Ukraine. While we appreciate the great example that has been set for us by the Western church, we are training our national leaders to sow financially into our own summer Bible camps, Christmas events for needy children in orphanages and activities for refugees from the war. We are encouraged that both national believers and even non-believers are contributing sacrificially towards this need. The Gospel is being shared and we are reaching our nation!