Olenka’s Testimony: Serving Orphans in Ukraine

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:

Give the Gift of Hope on Giving Tuesday

belarus-baranovichi-9In 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.

belarus-baranovichi-8“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.”

belarus-baranovichi-14SWW 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.

givingtuesdaycollageThese 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!

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Physical and Spiritual Food in Eastern Ukraine

ivanSadly, 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.

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A New Family for Alexey

img_1934Alexey is 90 years old and lives in Kiev, Ukraine. After serving as a lieutenant in WWII, he worked several other jobs. When he finally retired, he was in very poor health. Alexey’s health has continued to decline in recent years, and his limited use of his legs makes it impossible for him to leave the house on his own.

While receiving treatment at a Christian rehabilitation center, Alexey met a family from a local church: Alexander and Larissa and their two children, Angelina and Maxim. Alexander and Larissa had been forced to abandon their family home due to the ongoing war in eastern Ukraine, and they had been living for the past few months in a friend’s home. Alexander and Larissa took good care of Alexey at the rehabilitation center and formed a friendship with him. When it was time for Aleimg_1951xey to return home, he invited Alexander and Larissa and their children to live with him!

Now, Alexander, Larissa, Angelina, and Maxim have a new home–and Alexey has found a loving family to take care of him. For several years, Alexey had felt so alone in his apartment, but now he has found new joy, hope, and strength.

School Without Walls (SWW) students in Zaporozhye recently visited Alexey and his new family, bringing food packs, Scripture pieces, and a brand new wheelchair for Alexey. With Alexander and Larissa’s help and his new wheelchair, Alexey is finally able to go outside and enjoy the fresh air again! Alexey and Alexander’s family are so thankful for the goods our SWW students brought, and they were even more encouraged by the SWW students’ prayers, which reminded them they are not alone or forgotten–they are loved by God and loved by their Christian family.

 

Help us continue to meet the urgent physical and spiritual needs of those suffering from the conflict in Ukraine: 

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Bread of Life Bakery Update

bol6The village of Maryinka, Ukraine is situated right on the front line of the fighting taking place in the eastern part of the country. Shelling and bombing are still a daily reality, and many are surviving in homes that have been damaged by bombs, with unstable electricity and water supply, forced to hide in their cold and dark basements many nights. The town has no jobs, no future, limited medical care, and children and adults are have been traumatized by the war. Day-to-day life is about survival, with a small but desperate hope that one day things will get better.

 

bol7It was in this context that the Bread of Life Bakery opened in Maryinka this past spring. Since then it has produced well over 300,000 loaves of bread, over 50,000 of which have been distributed for free. The rest are sold at affordable prices, helping ensure that local residents have the bare minimum they need to survive. The bakery has also provided 25 people with jobs.

 
bol4However not only has the bakery provided local residents with physical food, but over the last seven months over 2,000 people have heard the gospel and around 400 people received Jesus as a result of this ministry. The local church, which started with two people before the war, has grown to 70 regular church goers. This church celebrated this summer when 20 people got baptized.

 

bol3Preparations are also underway to open bakeries in the towns of Selidovo, Dobropolye, Mirnograd, and Avdeevka, which have a combined population of over 125,000. The model in each town will be the same as that in Maryinka – baking 2,000 loaves of bread daily and selling them at affordable prices, and giving away 300 loaves daily to those in the greatest need. In addition to helping meet basic physical needs, these bakeries would meet spiritual needs by introducing people to God and His Word, as well as providing much-needed jobs in a region with high unemployment. A few of these towns already have small churches, and our hope is that through this project these churches will grow and have the opportunity to reach a much larger segment of the local population with the gospel.

 

bol8Please pray for our young Next Generation Christian leaders in the region who are working tirelessly to make this vision a reality in more towns. And if you would like to give towards the cost of equipment and supplies for additional bakeries, you can give online here:

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Ambassadors for Christ

dsc06171Mission Eurasia’s School Without Walls (SWW) program is a flexible leadership and ministry training program that trains and equips young Christian leaders in Eurasia and Israel to transform their communities from within. Some of our SWW graduates go on to traditional ministry roles after graduation, like church planting, pastoring, and full-time evangelism—all God-honoring vocations that are crucial to the body of Christ. But many of our graduates emerge from School Without Walls with the vision that their personal mission field is their own schools, neighborhoods, and workplaces. They put the tools that they’ve received from the SWW program to use as they share the gospel within their unique circles of influence and live their everyday lives as a testament to the transforming power of the gospel.

Veronica, one of our 2013 SWW graduates from Belarus, recently shared with us how her SWW training gave her a new perspective on how to be an ambassador for Christ—both inside and outside the walls of the church.

In Veronica’s own words:

“I studied at School Without Walls (SWW) from 2011 to 2013. Not long before then, most of the high-level people at my job had left their roles, and I was struggling to continue our programs on my own. I felt completely helpless. During this difficult time, my church started hosting SWW classes, and the very first lesson was about leadership. Before SWW, I thought that leaders were always in control and never showed weakness. But through this program, I learned that every leader faces challenges, and I realized that I could draw strength and comfort from God during difficult times. This was such an encouraging realization for me.

“Last September, I took a step of faith and left my former job, where I made good money, to follow God’s call to work at the Good Prospects youth ministry center. I know that I’m moving in the right direction, and I believe that our work will lead to powerful results. Before SWW, I thought that ministry happened only when people came to church, but during my training, I learned that the church must go out into the community. I also learned about Christian values and how to lead evangelistic events for young people, as well as how to encourage them to invite their non-Christian friends to these events.

“Along with SWW, I’ve also attended Next Generation Professional Leaders Initiative seminars, where I learned that work is an opportunity for ministry. I used to think that it was most important for God to be discussed in church, but now I realize that we can also glorify Him and grow His Kingdom in our workplaces.”dsc06596

Each year, School Without Walls equips over 2,500 young Next Generation Christians, like Veronica, to be strong leaders and gospel messengers who are serving God, transforming their communities, and ministering to others—no matter their location or vocation. These grounded, passionate national Christian leaders are the best way to infiltrate the darkness, despair, and sin that pervades their surrounding culture and transform it with the message of hope and salvation that only Jesus can provide.

Give today to support the training and equipping of Next Generation leaders in Eurasia who are impacting their nations for Christ:

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Sharing the Gospel in Difficult Regions

“I used to believe that I was living a sinful life, because I could never follow all of Allah’s commandments,” shares a School Without Walls student from Azerbaijan, who asked to remain anonymous for security reasons. “I wanted to change my life, but I didn’t know how. I had no peace in my heart and I couldn’t find emotional or spiritual satisfaction in Islam. I was looking for a way to live according to God’s will, but I didn’t know where to find Him.

jesus_film“One night, after my family had gone to bed, I turned on the TV and started watching a movie called ‘Jesus.’ The first words I heard were, ‘He suffered for our sins, and by His stripes we are healed.’ This immediately caught my attention, so I decided to watch the whole movie. It ended with a call to repentance, and I realized that Jesus had to suffer on the cross because of my sin. I started weeping, and I wondered why God would send His Son to die for someone like me, but I was so thankful that He had helped me find the truth that I had been looking for in Jesus Christ!

“Not long after this experience, a Christian woman who worked with my wife visited us. We had a long conversation about Christianity, and she gave us a copy of the Injil (New Testament). When I read it, I was convicted by John 14:6, where Jesus said, ‘I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.’ With this verse, God once again showed me that Jesus is the Truth and the only way to Heaven. I am happy to say that I have now been a Christian for three years!

“During the last three years, I have learned that it is not enough to just believe in Jesus, but rather, my faith also needs to be reflected in my actions. I am a carpenter, and I make sure that everything I build is of the highest quality possible. I also want my work ethic to be pleasing to God. A local School Without Walls leader is mentoring me, and I am learning a lot from him. He has also encouraged me to get involved in ministry work in my city.”

If you would like to support young Next Generation Christian leaders who are sharing the Gospel in difficult regions, you can give online here:

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Knowledge Day

Today is known as Knowledge Day in Russia, Ukraine, and other countries of the former Soviet Union. It marks the end of summer and the beginning of the new school year. The 15,800 children impacted by our summer Bible camps ministry are returning to school today across Eurasia. And now is the perfect time to continue watering the seeds of faith that were planted in many young hearts by our Next Generation leaders at summer Bible camps.

This summer, our leaders wevMR9NzrFWwere amazed at the hunger for God’s Word that so many children demonstrated at camp. Countless young lives were transformed by the power of Scripture as they encountered first-hand the love of God through the pages of His Word.  For many of them, it was their first encounter with the message of Jesus.

And today, the window of opportunity is open to continue ministering to these children—and thousands more children across Eurasia who have yet to hear or respond to the gospel—with the transformative power of God’s Word. Our Next Generation leaders are distributing specially designed children’s Bibles to kids in their schools, orphanages, hospitals, community centers, and neighborhoods. The impact of these Bibles is infinite, as these children share their Bibles and the lessons they’ve learned with friends, families, teachers, and neighbors.

It costs just $5 to print a beautiful children’s Bible, designed to be culturally relevant and translated to be easy-to-understand for young readers. These special Bibles are personally placed in the hands of thousands of children by our School Without Walls (SWW) students and graduates. The cost of each Bible is small, but its impact is priceless.

Here are just a few of the many testimonies of young lives transformed through the reading of God’s Word:

IMG_3957Alex* from Russia

After receiving a children’s Bible at summer camp, Alex was so intrigued by this new book that he started reading it at every chance he got—even during lunch breaks. When the SWW students noticed that he wasn’t eating and brought him food, he held the book in one hand so he could keep reading while he ate! Our camp leaders were so touched by Alex’s dedication to God’s Word, they told us he was a living example of the verse, “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God” (Matthew 4:4, ESV).

Katya* from Azerbaijan

From our SWW leader Stephanie*:

Nine-year-old Katya came from a very poor family, and it was obvious that she had already faced many hardships in her young life. The first day of camp she was quiet and withdrawn and didn’t interact with any of the other children. But after receivin1888g a haircut and a fun hairstyle from one of the camp leaders, she was all smiles. And after starting to read her Bible, she began to open up. During Bible class, she asked the most questions. She was very bold, and it was clear that she was very seriously considering the lessons she was learning from the Bible. When we read the gospel narrative about Jesus’ resurrection, Katya became so excited. She immediately wanted to go and tell all of the other children in camp about this good news! During the rest of camp, we watched as she treated the other children with kindness and jumped in to support kids who were feeling shy. At the end of camp, she told us that she wanted to become a Christian and help others to know the love of Jesus.

It only costs $5 to print a life-changing children’s Bible—like the ones that touched Alex’s and Katya’s lives so profoundly. Consider providing a Bible today for our Next Generation leaders to place in the hands of precious children throughout Eurasia.

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*Note: all names in this post have been changed