Tatyana, who lived in Gorlovka, Ukraine with her husband, Vitaly, and their two daughters, never dreamed that war would ever come to her homeland. After the fighting broke out in Ukraine, Vitaly felt called to defend his country, so he joined the army and left to serve in the war zone. Two weeks later, Tatyana learned that her husband had been killed in the fighting. She was shocked and couldn’t bear to break the news to her children, Nadya and Alina.
After receiving the news about Vitaly’s death, Tatyana and her daughters fled to the village of Granitnoye in the Donetsk region, where Tatyana’s mother lived. For the first four months after the move, Tatyana couldn’t find work, so she helped her mother with the household chores. Her family only survived because of the help they received from School Without Walls (SWW) students, who brought them humanitarian aid and warm clothing for the winter.
“Realizing that my life was falling into an abyss of hopelessness, I decided to read the New Testament that the SWW students gave me,” shared Tatyana. “I got so caught up in what I was reading, that I couldn’t stop! I also started praying for peace for my country, and prosperity, not only for my family, but throughout the world. And then God started communicating with me through the positive changes He brought about in my life. I believe that He will take care of us.”
After a while, Tatyana’s family started adjusting to their new home, and Tatyana got a job at a local shop. As of right now, they aren’t planning to return to Gorlovka until the war is over. “I am not the kind of person who is content with the bare minimum,” Tatyana shared. “I value freedom, and I want to be able to talk with anyone that I want whenever I want. I feel good where I am free, where my family is safe, and where there is no war. Many people from Gorlovka weren’t able to leave, and it makes me sad to remember that they are trapped there. But, I still want to say thank you for not forgetting about the people who are suffering and struggling to survive because of the war. In times like this, it is so necessary to preach the gospel to those in need, and it is especially important that young people like you keep doing this.”
As Russia continues to escalate religious freedom restrictions in the country, our young Next Generation Christian leaders in Russia and the rest of Eurasia are becoming more creative and strategic in how they share the Good News.
Just last week, the Russian Supreme Court rejected an appeal of a previous ruling that labeled Jehovah’s Witnesses an “extremist group” and banned their activity. This is part of a larger trend of the Russian government cracking down on religious minorities in the country, particularly evangelical Christians. However, when we talk to our School Without Walls (SWW) students and graduates and national Mission Eurasia staff, they are sober-minded about the growing threats to religious freedom, but they are also resolute and filled with a passion for sharing the love of Christ despite increasing challenges. “We serve God and not men,” many young believers are saying.
Our Next Generation leaders are always on the lookout for innovative ministry opportunities outside the walls of the church. Already, they are preparing special Scripture resources and outreach initiatives for summer 2018, when the FIFA World Cup will be held in Russia. The FIFA World Cup is the largest single-event sporting competition in the world and attracts millions of spectators. Our national Mission Eurasia staff and leaders see this event as an exciting opportunity to share God’s Word with thousands of hurting people. Russia’s religious freedom restrictions are creating challenges, but they are also inspiring many new opportunities for ministry.
In light of increasing challenges to traditional evangelism in Russia, and other countries of Eurasia, our Next Generation leaders have found that personal friendships and connections with classmates, coworkers, family, and neighbors are the most effective way to share the gospel. This is why initiatives like School Without Walls and the Next Generation Professional Leaders Initiative (NGPLI) have never been more vital or more timely. The informal, flexible structuring of the SWW program is designed to train and equip young Christians for creative, strategic ministry in any context: workplaces, universities, neighborhoods, schools, rehab centers, war zones, and of course, churches. And our NGPLI events bring together thousands of Christian leaders from hundreds of vocations and empower young professionals to be an example in their workplaces so that others may learn about their faith and be open to the gospel message. Many of these professional leaders are in positions of great influence—doctors, lawyers, teachers, engineers—and they are able to model the Christian life in contexts where the church alone cannot reach.
Please continue to keep our SWW students and graduates and national Mission Eurasia staff in your prayers, particularly as they plan for their outreach at the FIFA World Cup next year. We are taking these new challenges very seriously, but we have also been amazed at all the doors God has opened in the midst of these restrictions. We eagerly anticipate the great things He will do through the faithful witness of believers in Russia and Eurasia in the coming months and years!
Mission Trips to Ukraine
In mid-July, two teams of dedicated believers from the US and Canada traveled to Ukraine for short-term service trips with Mission Eurasia. One team was led by Wally Kulakoff, Mission Eurasia’s vice president of ministries & church relations, and the other was led by Nick Tishenko, the executive director of Mission Eurasia Canada. Each team served at a summer Bible camp and helped construct two playgrounds in impoverished villages–one near Korosten and the other near Zaporozhye. Working alongside national Mission Eurasia teams and School Without Walls (SWW) students and graduates, these teams sacrificially served the local communities with the love of Jesus and helped support the outreach efforts of nearby churches.
Over 250 children and their parents–plus city officials from the town–attended the dedication of the playground in Korosten, which will provide a fun, safe place for children to play and a gathering site for the local church to conduct outreach and connect with hurting families. At the playground dedication, the team handed out copies of Scripture and Christian resources to the children and families and invited the children to attend a summer Bible camp happening later this summer. Several parents signed up their children for summer Bible camps, and others are planning to send their children to Sunday school at a local church.
After the playground dedication event, many parents from the village shared with our team their gratitude and excitement about the new playground and what a blessing it will be to their families. Even the city officials expressed their gratitude to our team for their service. One mother shared, “We have never seen our children so happy! You have done something absolutely unbelievable for our village.” During the dedication, a local news team arrived to film and broadcast the event and interview members of the mission team, providing them an opportunity to share the love of Christ, whose message of salvation is the reason they traveled to Ukraine to serve on this trip.”
Please join us in praying for each of the children and families who came to visit the playgrounds and received Scripture or an invitation to church or Bible camp—may God continue to water the seeds of faith planted in their hearts! And may He continue to use these playgrounds to His glory for many years to come. We are so grateful for these dedicated, faithful teams from the US and Canada who served alongside our national staff members, local churches, and Next Generation leaders to share the love of Jesus with these children and families in desperate need of the Good News.
ShareWord Global Trip to Moldova
This July for the third year in a row, a team of Next Generation leaders from our dedicated, faithful ministry partner ShareWord Global in Canada traveled to Moldova to serve at summer Bible camp alongside our School Without Walls (SWW) students and graduates. ShareWord Global provides hundreds of thousands of copies of God’s Word for outreach in the countries of Eurasia, and on this trip the ShareWord Global team distributed Scripture, prayed and cared for the children at camp, and shared the love of Jesus with many young lives. Together with our SWW students and leaders, they impacted nearly 1,000 children and youth who came from some of the most vulnerable and challenging circumstances. It was such a blessing for us to see these young Christian leaders from Canada use their vacation for an eternal purpose: sharing the Good News with a hurting world!
At one of the camps, the team served a group of 100 at-risk girls, many of whom were orphans or affected by human trafficking, which is a major threat to vulnerable children and youth in Moldova. During camp, the ShareWord Global team and our SWW students shared their testimonies of faith and led the girls in Bible lessons, worship, fun games, and relay races. Each girl was also given her own copy of Hope magazine, a beautiful evangelistic resource we designed and printed in partnership with ShareWord Global.
The whole team was deeply touched by meeting these girls at camp. “I remember the girls’ eyes very clearly, because it looked like they were constantly searching for attention and care,” shared Nona, one of the members of the ShareWord Global team. “We could tell that they were hearing everything we taught from the Bible for the first time.”
One of the young girls at camp named Marina shared her story with the Bible camp leaders: “My father died when I was 4 years old, and after his death, my mother forgot about God and started drinking and smoking. This was very difficult, but I know that God helped me get through it. I’m so glad I could come to camp! I want to say thank you to everyone who made it possible for me to receive God’s Word. I’m so happy to finally have my very own Bible to read!”
Travel With Mission Eurasia
We would love to bring you or your church on a short-term mission trip with Mission Eurasia! This January, we are taking a team to Moldova to help distribute Gift of Hope Christmas boxes to children in orphanages, hospitals, schools, and more. Come enjoy fellowship with Christians from across the world and help us share the love of Jesus and the true message of Christmas with hundreds of children in need. You can learn more about the Moldova trip and other upcoming trips here.
Mission Eurasia is proud to announce the selection of our 2017 Next Generation Christian Leaders Scholarship recipients! The Next Generation Christian Leaders Scholarship (NGCLS) is an annual scholarship awarded to full-time college undergraduates or high-school seniors planning to attend college. The scholarship is intended to encourage recipients to pursue ministry in Eurasia and develop innovative ministry initiatives in the region, and applicants must have experience with Slavic culture and speak Russian or Ukrainian at a conversational level.
This year Mission Eurasia will award a total of $32,500 in scholarships to seven recipients. The NGCLS has already had a positive impact on the academic studies and ministry initiatives of our past recipients. We are so excited to see how this year’s scholarship recipients use their talents, educations, and abilities to further God’s Kingdom in Eurasia and beyond.
These seven bright young men and women are each dedicated to Christ and His church and committed to a future of serving the people of Eurasia through practical, gospel-based ministry. We are pleased to introduce you to this year’s outstanding NGCLS recipients:
1. Joanna Bantseev—Joanna is a second-year NGCLS recipient currently majoring in nursing at Liberty University. Her family originally hails from Russia, where they were involved in ministry through their home church in Siberia. During school breaks, Joanna regularly returns to Russia, where she serves on both the youth leadership team and evangelism team at her home church. After her college graduation in 2020, Joanna plans to return to Russia and use her nursing degree at a local hospital to “help those who are broken and hopeless find hope through Jesus Christ.”
2. Lyubov Draga—Lyubov will attend Central Piedmont Community College in the fall as a freshman where she will major in music. She grew up in a Slavic family that has been extensively involved in ministry to the Slavic people. Lyubov has experience in missions to Ukraine and has worked with Ukrainian refugees in Italy. After graduation she would like to work with children in the Slavic Christian community using her music degree.
3. Aleksandr Glavnik—Aleksandr will be a junior this fall at Wheaton College, where he is majoring in computer science. He is a third-year NGCLS recipient. After graduation, Aleks plans to use his degree as a communication tool that can help spread the gospel effectively in the former Soviet Union/Eurasia. Click here to watch Aleks describe how the NGCLS has impacted his studies.
4. Emile Rose Petruk—Emile will be attending Moody Bible Institute in the fall where she is majoring in Bible and pre-counseling. She has been involved in evangelism to Russian-Jewish immigrants in her community, volunteered with Jews for Jesus in Israel, and traveled on mission trips to Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan. After she graduates in December 2018, Emile would like to use her counseling degree to help suffering people in Eurasia find healing and guidance.
5. Mark Kapran—Mark will be attending Temple University in the fall as a freshman majoring in biology. He is involved in a number of different ministries, including translating church services from Ukrainian and Russian to English at his home church. After he graduates in 2021, Mark hopes to attend medical school, eventually returning to Ukraine to help the country heal physically and spiritually.
6. Vitaly Sukhanov—Vitaly will be a junior this year at Wheaton College where he is majoring in biology and minoring in chemistry. He serves as one of the leaders at a local Russian church in Villa Park, IL, where he helps with youth ministry, teaching, and evangelism. After his undergraduate work, Vitaly hopes to attend medical school and become involved in medical missions in Eurasia.
7. Ashley Edwards—Ashley will return to Wheaton College as a senior this fall, where she has majored in philosophy and biblical studies and theology. She spent much of her childhood and youth in Russia and Ukraine with her missionary parents. As a result, she is fluent in Russian and comfortable with the Slavic culture. After graduation, she plans to return to Eurasia to write apologetic works in philosophy and theology while evangelizing the unreached and helping disciple new believers.
Congratulations to the 2017 Next Generation Christian Leaders Scholarship Recipients! May God continue to guide them and bless their lives and ministries.
Check out our interview with Aleksandr Glavnik about the NGCLS:
Thank you for keeping our ministry in your prayers this month!
1. Please pray for an upcoming three-day evangelistic event that Church Without Walls (CWW) in Pinsk, Belarus is hosting at a local university.
2. Praise God for 15,000 copies of the Gospel Without Borders New Testament that our School Without Walls (SWW) students in Russia recently received and are planning to distribute during their various ministry efforts!
3. Pray for God to be at work in Avdeyevka, Ukraine, where the recent escalation of violence has left thousands of people with limited access to food, water, heat, and electricity in the midst of freezing temperatures.
4. Pray for CWW in Pinsk and Reconciliation Church in Bobruisk, Belarus, as they are still trying to register with the local authorities.
5. Please pray for our various ministry initiatives in Vladivostok, Russia, including a local youth center, outreach to students at local schools, summer Bible camps, and SWW.
6. Pray for our ministry efforts in Container Town, a very poor area in Armenia, where our SWW students are sharing the hope of the gospel with those in need.
7. Praise God for the Christian Education Resource Network, which Ray and Cindy, our missionary partners in Ukraine, are using to encourage and develop Christian education in the nation!
8. Please pray that God would provide for the various needs of God’s Family Church in Minsk, Belarus, including a new person to lead their youth ministry and a building in which they can hold services and conduct ministry.
9. Pray for our SWW coordinators in Russia’s North Caucasus as they find the balance between ministry work and family time.
10. Pray for Venya, a pastor with Living Israel, our ministry partner in Israel, as he and his family feel called to move to the city of Beer Yaakov and plant the city’s first church.
11. Please pray that Ukraine’s Minister of Education would implement much-needed education reforms that will benefit Christian schools in the nation. Several Christian school directors have been invited to participate in government-level discussions about this very topic, which is very exciting!
12. Pray that the young people who participated in recent evangelistic events in Kazakhstan would continue to pursue the Lord.
13. Praise God for a group of young people from Reconciliation Church in Bobruisk, Belarus who will be participating in a short-term mission trip to Kenya!
14. Pray for our ministry team in Vladivostok, Russia to continue growing their relationships with unreached people through our Grace Café and other ministry initiatives.
15. Please pray for three upcoming SWW sessions in Khovd, Ulangom, and Ulistai, Mongolia.
16. Pray for Alex, our international director for SWW, and Denis, our director of NGPLI, as they travel to Uzbekistan for a roundtable event for young Christian professionals.
17. Pray for our international SWW coordinators as they participate in a ministry-planning meeting on March 17-18 in Irpin, Ukraine.
18. Pray for an English as a Second Language program that CWW in Pinsk, Belarus is using to share the gospel with non-Christians.
19. Please pray for upcoming Next Generation Professional Leaders Initiative (NGPLI) events that we will be hosting in Russia.
20. Pray for several of our ministry leaders in Armenia who are also serving in their churches and pursuing advanced degrees.
21. Praise God for our ministry team in Russia’s North Caucasus as they expand our SWW program and form new partnerships with local schools!
22. Pray for Christian teachers in Ukraine who will be completing the third session of a four-part Christian Education Resource Network training program in late March.
23. Please pray for the leaders of Reconciliation Church in Bobruisk, Belarus as they continue planning new ministry initiatives, while also supporting their congregation.
24. Pray for two upcoming NGPLI events in Tajikistan that will help young Christian professionals learn about sharing the gospel with Muslims.
25. Pray for our ministry team in Russia’s North Caucasus as they continue sharing the gospel with the unreached, despite the challenges they face.
26. Pray that our SWW students from Armenia would be able to reschedule their trip to Georgia, where they hope to conduct musical outreach, after having to cancel their original trip.
27. Praise God for a new church that is being planted in the village of Ardon in North Ossetia, Russia!
28. Please pray for SWW students in Kazakhstan who are working with the deaf community, as they are experiencing challenges with local police.
29. Pray for Hafis, one of our SWW coordinators in Russia’s North Caucasus, as he is trying to register his home church with the local authorities.
30. Pray for Christian schools and teachers in Russia who are facing challenges due to the anti-missionary laws that were passed in July.
31. Please continue praying for our “I Care” Refugee Assistance Program in Ukraine, where millions of people are in desperate need of humanitarian assistance.
Olenka graduated from School Without Walls (SWW) in Rovno, Ukraine in 2009 and is now using what she learned as a SWW student to minister to orphans through an organization called Circle of Friends. She organizes a team of 100 volunteers from around Ukraine to reach 1,000 orphans on a monthly basis.
“SWW had a big impact on me as a young Christian,” shares Olenka. “It was SWW that made me want to get involved in ministry to orphans. Without SWW, my life path would look completely different.”
Olenka and her team visit orphanages in the Kiev area on a weekly basis and travel to orphanages all over Ukraine 3-4 times a month. “For me, it’s important to build long-term relationships with the children. Continuity and consistency are important to me in my ministry. You can’t expect to make a difference in the life of a child you only see once or twice a year. My goal is to become family to them. We fight to find a place in their lives and hearts.”
Circle of Friends also helps provide medical care for orphans, find adoptive families, and assist orphanage graduates in applying to college and in finding jobs. Orphanage directors and staff are also extremely grateful for the help they offer.
This ministry has started to show long-term results. Andrei grew up in an orphanage, and he came to Christ thanks to the influence of young Next Generation Christian leaders who regularly visited him and the other children. Now he is 26 years old, and he is active in ministry to the homeless.
“My personal mission is to help orphans discover their God-given potential,” shares Olenka. “With each visit, we tell the kids that God made them special and has a calling for each of them. The Great Commission is my greatest motivation to serve, and I see my work with orphans as a fulfillment of it.”
If you would like to help train and equip other enthusiastic young Next Generation Christian leaders like Olenka to transform their communities throughout Eurasia, you can give online to School Without Walls here:
In Belarus, School Without Walls (SWW) students in two cities chose to focus their efforts for last year’s Gift of Hope project on chidren with special needs. Young Next Generation Christian leaders in Baranovichi visited an orphanage for children with special needs, while young Christians from Minsk invited children with disabilities and their families to a special Christmas celebration in their church.
“We have spent years building a trusting relationship with these families, visiting them in their homes,” shares Pastor Valery from Minsk. “And it was thanks to that trust that these children and their families were willing to attend an event in our church. And while they were overjoyed to receive our specially-prepared Gifts of Hope, we could see that they were even more touched by the gospel message that we shared. Some of them chose to pray prayers of salvation, while many thanked us for sacrificing our time and energy to share God’s love with them.
“I see this project as an embodiment of the core tenets of SWW,” continued Pastor Valery. “The goal of SWW is to make the church accessible to the community, and this project was the perfect example of that.”
SWW students in Baranovichi were thrilled that students from two local universities chose to join with them in collecting gifts and distributing them to children at the orphanage. Unfortunately, there is a lot of stigma regarding children with disabilities in the countries of the former Soviet Union, and and many of the children in the orphanage were probably given up by their parents at birth, as they did not think they would be able to cope with the difficulties and shame of raising such a child. These children have very few resources and opportunities available to them, and are in desperate need of attention and love. Therefore this project was an opportunity for the SWW students to shower these children with the love they need and crave, introducing them to the God of love who is with them always, and to help change the perspectives of the university students who accompanied them, by demonstrating God’s unconditional love for these children and their intrinsic value.
These are just two examples of the way the Gift of Hope project is transforming lives in Eurasia by sharing God’s love and a message of salvation, changing perspectives, building relationships, and bridging the gap between the Church and a world in need. However, we need the help of generous friends and supporters to prepare and transport these gifts to thousands of children throughout Eurasia this Christmas season! And this Giving Tuesday, November 29th, each gift given towards this project will be tripled, thanks to a matching gift offer from faithful donors. Therefore each $25 given will not provide just one gift, as it normally would, but THREE life changing Gifts of Hope! And, as long as supplies last, we will send a beautifully-crafted Russian Christmas ornament to everyone who gives a gift of $25 or more. Therefore please consider joining in God’s work and giving towards this project this Giving Tuesday!
Sadly, even though he is still very young, 12-year-old Ivan and his five siblings have endured a lot. Their parents are always drunk, and there is never enough food on the table. After the war broke out where they live in eastern Ukraine, things only got worse, and Ivan and his siblings struggled to survive.
Thankfully, about a year ago, Ivan’s neighbors noticed how poorly he and his siblings were being treated, so they invited them to their church, which happened to be one of our many local partners. Ivan loved the church, where he made many new friends and accepted Christ as his Savior! Ivan’s siblings still go to church with him, but he is the only one that never misses a service, and now he wants to get baptized!
After learning about Ivan’s difficult home life, the church leaders gave him MannaPack rice meals, which we provided in partnership with Feed My Starving Children. Now, Ivan and his siblings receive MannaPack meals on a regular basis, and local believers can see how these meals have lifted their spirits. A woman from Ivan’s church taught him how to cook the meals, and now he enjoys coming up with new recipes. We are continuing to pray for Ivan’s family, and we trust that God will be at work in his parents’ hearts as He continues using the MannaPack meals to bring them hope, even in the midst of darkness.
If you would like to help bring hope in the midst of darkness to others in need in war-torn eastern Ukraine, you can give online to our “I Care” project, which covers the cost of shipping of containers of MannaPack rice meals, wheelchairs, clothes and more, as well as providing local churches with Scriptures to give to members of their community.