One of the world’s most inspiring pillars of Christian faith went to be with his beloved Heavenly Father today. The passing of the Reverend Billy Graham moved us at Mission Eurasia to reflect with immense gratitude on his rich life of service to God’s Kingdom and the ways in which his ministry and ours intersected by God’s grace over the years.
Mission Eurasia’s president, Sergey Rakhuba, remembers first meeting Billy Graham in 1987, during the height of the Soviet Union, at a dinner for evangelical pastors in Russia. Sergey shares the memory of this inspiring meeting with Rev. Graham in Moscow and the impact it had on Sergey’s future ministry and the ministry of Mission Eurasia:
“For pastors who had to faithfully lead their churches under the pressures and challenges of the Soviet regime, this dinner with Rev. Graham in Moscow was an encouraging and faith-building night in the midst of a fearful and uncertain time,” says Sergey. “It foreshadowed the growing gospel movement that would spread across Eurasia when the Soviet Union fell a few years later . . .
“My closest colleague, Dr. Michael Cherenkov (Mission Eurasia’s executive director of field ministries), was also impacted forever by an encounter with Billy Graham in Russia. In 1992, a year after the fall of the Soviet Union, Michael remembers traveling as a young man and brand-new Christian from faraway Donetsk, Ukraine to the Red Square in Moscow in order to hear the great Rev. Graham preach to a crowd of thousands. Michael called this an ‘unbelievable miracle,’ writing, ‘In the center of Moscow, not far from the Kremlin, the most famous evangelist in history preached the gospel to thousands, and everyone who wished could freely obtain a formerly forbidden Bible. A revival had started, which promised reformation and renewal.’
“Inspired and captivated by what he had seen and heard that day, Michael returned to his village in Ukraine under the influence of Billy Graham’s message. Feeling the promptings of God’s call and seeing a colossal need for the gospel in post-Soviet society, Michael made a decision. He would be a preacher, an evangelist, and a catalyst for reformation and renewal in the post-Soviet sphere. And so Michael began working with Mission Eurasia (then Russian Ministries) to continue this gospel movement across Eurasia, where it blossoms and flourishes to this day as we train and equip thousands of young Christian leaders for strategic ministry.
“Like Michael and myself, many of the men and women who heard Rev. Graham preach in Russia on that miraculous day in 1992 went on to be trained as church-planters and evangelists, working with Mission Eurasia and other ministries to plant churches, serve the lost, train new Christian leaders, and deliver God’s Word and the message of Jesus to a broken and hurting post-Soviet world.
“The incredible legacy of Billy Graham is still being felt in the heart of Eurasia today and in the hearts of those who serve with Mission Eurasia. We grieve his passing from this world, but we rejoice that Rev. Graham is united with his beloved Savior and hope for the day when we, too, will be united with our Savior and every tear will be wiped away.”
1. Praise God for a team of young people from the US who participated in a short-term mission trip to Moldova in January! In partnership with our School Without Walls (SWW) students, they distributed 1,500 Gift of Hope boxes to children living in poverty.
2. Pray for SWW coordinators in Central Asia as they participate in ministry-planning meetings in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan on February 1-2.
3. Please pray for Next Generation Professional Leaders Initiative (NGPLI) roundtable events that are taking place in Almaty and Astana, Kazakhstan on February 3-4.
4. Continue praying for Reconciliation Church in Bobruisk, Belarus as the pastors grow their mentoring program, youth ministry, and missions-related efforts.
5. Praise God that more than 120 churches throughout Russia’s North Caucasus participated in our Gift of Hope and other Christmas-related outreach efforts in January! By partnering with these churches, our SWW students were able to reach orphans and disabled children from all different walks of life.
6. Please pray for our SWW students in Israel as they continue partnering with Living Israel, a local ministry, to plant new churches and proclaim the gospel in the Holy Land.
7. Pray for safety for the SWW students from God’s Family Church in Minsk, Belarus who will be traveling to Chisinau, Moldova to participate in an upcoming training conference.
8. Pray for the development and growth of several new SWW groups that were started in Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Russia’s North Caucasus this year.
9. Please pray for an NGPLI training seminar that is taking place during the Campus Crusade Conference in Kiev, Ukraine on February 9-10.
10. Pray for a SWW conference that is taking place at the Mission Eurasia ministry center in Russia’s North Caucasus on February 9-11.
11. Praise God for Joy Club, a youth ministry program, through which Church Without Walls (CWW) in Pinsk, Belarus is encouraging spiritual healing and growth in young people!
12. Please pray that God would provide good jobs for our SWW coordinators in Tajikistan, where work is hard to find.
13. Pray for our ministry leaders in Russia’s North Caucasus as they begin preparations for an Empower training conference and NGPLI forums that will take place this spring.
14. Pray for SWW leaders and students in Moldova as they begin preparing for a large youth conference that will take place this spring. Around 350 people from 30 different churches are involved in this project.
15. Please pray for an upcoming NGPLI conference that will equip young Christian professionals in Belarus to bring the gospel into their workplaces and spheres of influence.
16. Praise God for a Christian youth club in Vladikavkaz, Russia that is growing thanks to the dedicated efforts of SWW students!
17. Continue praying for our brothers and sisters throughout Central Asia as they faithfully share the gospel in the midst of escalating persecution.
18. Please pray for SWW students from Pure Heart Church in Brest, Belarus as they host an outreach event at a local orphanage and launch a mentorship program for non-Christians.
19. Pray for a new church in Yelizavetinskaya, Russia that Valeriy, one of our SWW coordinators, recently helped to plant.
20. Praise God for our SWW students’ ministry to the Udi people in Azerbaijan! Thanks to their efforts, unreached children and their parents are learning about Jesus for the very first time.
21. Pray for CWW in Pinsk, Belarus as the leaders expand NGPLI training efforts in their city to prepare even more young Christian professionals to grow God’s Kingdom.
22. Please pray that God would bless our SWW students’ children’s ministry efforts in orphanages, hospitals, and schools throughout Russia’s North Caucasus.
23. Continue praying that God would use our humanitarian aid and Scripture for Ukraine to bless those whose lives have been thrown into turmoil by the ongoing conflict in the nation’s eastern regions.
24. Pray for renewed strength and vision for the leaders of God’s Family Church in Minsk, Belarus as they seek to draw more young people to church.
25. Pray that God would grow SWW in Russia’s most remote and unreached regions, where many people have never heard the gospel.
26. Please pray for our SWW students in Mongolia as they continue growing their ministry efforts and sharing the hope of Christ with their unreached neighbors.
27. Praise God for our successful church-planting ministry among unreached people in many different regions in Russia’s North Caucasus!
28. Pray that God would grant us wisdom as we continue developing and expanding our many ministry efforts all throughout Eurasia.
Thank you for supporting our ministry in prayer in the new year!
1. Praise God for two Next Generation Professional Leaders Initiative (NGPLI) conferences that recently took place in Belarus! About 1,000 young professionals participated in these events.
2. Please pray for 30 School Without Walls (SWW) students from Russia who will be participating in a mission trip to the North Caucasus to distribute Gifts of Hope to children in need on January 2-5.
3. Pray for Clean Heart Church in Brest, Belarus, as they are hosting an outreach event for 20-25 young families at the beginning of the month.
4. Pray for our SWW students as they bring Gifts of Hope to 78,000 children throughout Eurasia during the Orthodox Christmas season. Please also pray that the children who receive these gifts would find new hope and joy in Christ.
5. Praise God that, after four years of submitting applications, Church Without Walls (CWW) in Pinsk, Belarus is finally registered with the government! This is such an amazing answer to prayer and a powerful reminder of God’s faithfulness.
6. Please pray for a team of Mission Eurasia staff and volunteers from the US who will be participating in a mission trip to Moldova, where they will partner with SWW students to distribute Gifts of Hope on January 5-9.
7. Pray for special Christmas outreach events that our partner churches will be hosting throughout Eurasia this month.
8. Pray for a youth training club in Russia’s North Caucasus, where our SWW coordinators and ministry partners are reaching young people for Christ.
9. Please pray for a winter Bible camp that our SWW students in Azerbaijan will be hosting in the village of Nidzh, which is home to the Udi people group.
10. Pray for unity among the leaders of God’s Family Church in Minsk, Belarus as they expand their ministry efforts, particularly youth ministry.
11. Praise God for our strong partnerships with many churches and ministry organizations in Russia’s North Caucasus, through which we are expanding our ministry scope and planting new churches!
12. Pray for our SWW coordinators and teachers in Armenia as they lead several SWW sessions for about 30 students this month.
13. Please pray for Valeriy, our SWW coordinator in Kropotkin, Russia, who is trying to put together a church-planting team to launch a new church in Yelizavetinskaya.
14. Continue praying for our brothers and sisters in Central Asia who are fearlessly sharing the gospel in spite of escalating religious persecution.
15. Pray for an NGPLI conference that will take place in Lviv, Ukraine on January 15-16.
16. Pray for our many missionary partners in Russia’s North Caucasus who are faithfully developing and leading new ministry initiatives in their communities.
17. Please pray for an International Alliance for the Development of Christian Education (IADCE) conference that will take place in Ukraine on January 17-19. The Ukrainian Minister of Education is expected to attend.
18. Praise God that Reconciliation Church in Bobruisk, Belarus received the funds they needed to prepare their building for the cold winter weather!
19. Pray for several of our SWW leaders in Baku, Azerbaijan who have sacrificially committed to expanding SWW in their nation during the next three years.
20. Praise God for opening doors for our SWW students to host outreach events at local schools in Russia’s North Caucasus!
21. Please pray for Ray and Cindy, our missionaries in Ukraine, as they work with the IADCE team to distribute 1,500 copies of John Comenius: Visionary Reformer of Schools, by David Smith, to several different schools and universities in their nation.
22. Pray for Reconciliation Church in Bobruisk, Belarus as the church leaders expand their mentorship and youth ministry efforts.
23. Praise God for a recent SWW church-planting forum that took place in Kropotkin, Russia!
24. Continue praying that our containers of humanitarian aid for Ukraine would clear customs as quickly as possible so we can bring this aid to those in need.
25. Please pray for missionaries and church leaders throughout Russia who remain committed to proclaiming the gospel, even in the face of persecution.
26. Pray for the preparations for an upcoming NGPLI conference that will take place in Belarus.
27. Continue praying for Georgiy, one of our SWW coordinators in Russia, as his family is still trying to obtain Russian citizenship.
28. Pray for Khafiz, Lala, Shirvan, and Zaura, our SWW coordinators in Azerbaijan, as they pursue spiritual growth.
29. Please pray for Aleksandr, one of our SWW teachers in Russia’s North Caucasus, and his family, as they are planning to move to St. Petersburg this year to start a new SWW group.
30. Praise God for the fruitful ministry of the Living Israel rehabilitation center in Haifa, Israel!
31. Pray for the preparations for our Empower conferences, which will provide training for the SWW students and graduates who will be developing and leading our 2018 summer Bible camps.
- Please pray that God would use our Gift of Hope boxes, which School Without Walls (SWW) students will distribute throughout Eurasia during the Christmas season, to bring the eternal hope of Christ to hurting children.
- Praise God for a SWW seminar that recently took place at a newly planted church in Krasnodar, Russia! During this seminar, 28 new SWW students received practical ministry training, which they are now using to bring the gospel to their city.
- Church Without Walls (CWW) in Moldova is starting to rebuild their worship hall, which collapsed this past spring after a heavy snowfall. Please pray that this process would go smoothly.
- Pray for a team of missionaries from Novosibirsk, Russia, with whom we are partnering to share the gospel in some of the most volatile regions in the North Caucasus.
- Continue praying for CWW in Pinsk, Belarus, as they are still trying to register with local authorities while also expanding their various ministry efforts.
- Praise God for our strong partnerships with churches, organizations, and missionaries in Russia’s North Caucasus, which allow us to share the gospel throughout the region!
- Please pray for a group of SWW students in Israel who are leading a class to help Russian-speaking immigrants learn Hebrew.
- Continue praying for Hafiz, our SWW coordinator in Azerbaijan, as he faithfully shares the gospel in the midst of religious persecution.
- Pray for a Next Generation Professional Leaders Initiative (NGPLI) conference that will take place in Vinnitsa, Ukraine on December 10.
- Pray for SWW students in Yamal, Russia who are inviting youth from the Khanty and Mansi people groups to join our special missionary school.
- Praise God for several evangelistic events, including youth group meetings and a soccer tournament, that CWW in Pinsk, Belarus will be leading during the Christmas season!
- Please pray for a team of SWW students from Krasnodar, Russia who will be traveling to Tel Aviv, Israel to share the gospel with people who are receiving treatment at a rehabilitation center run by our partners at Living Israel.
- Continue praying that our containers of humanitarian aid goods for the hurting people of Ukraine would clear customs as quickly as possible.
- Pray for Mikhail, a SWW student from Moldova, who started new youth groups in three villages near his home. Mikhail has to walk to these villages, so please pray that God would protect him and give him strength.
- Please pray for two SWW seminars that will take place in Salekhard, Russia in mid-December. One of these seminars will be for young people in the city, and the other will be for youth from unreached people groups in the surrounding tundra.
- Praise God that four young girls were baptized at Reconciliation Church in Bobruisk, Belarus last month!
- Pray for SWW students who are helping to plant a new church in Stanitsa, Russia.
- Pray that God would provide a space where CWW in Pinsk, Belarus can hold evangelistic events.
- Please pray for an NGPLI roundtable and conference that will take place in Armenia this month.
- Pray for Chermen and Valeriy, two of our SWW coordinators in Russia, as they are facing personal struggles with health and finances.
- Continue praying for our brothers and sisters in Central Asia, who are boldly sharing the gospel, even in the midst of escalating persecution.
- Please pray for Eduard, one of our SWW coordinators in Moldova, whose family is experiencing financial challenges.
- Praise God for a new church in North Ossetia, Russia, which we helped to plant, and where SWW students are hosting evangelistic events for children and youth!
- Continue praying for Reconciliation Church in Bobruisk, Belarus, as they are still in need of resources to construct a church building.
- Pray that God would protect a tent that pastors and SWW leaders in Salekhard, Russia are using to host seminars and church meetings during the harsh winter months.
- Praise God for Ray and Cindy, our missionaries in Ukraine, who recently led a conference for Christian educators, launched a website with resources for Christian teachers, and printed John Amos Comenius: Visionary Reformer of Schools in the Ukrainian language through the International Alliance for the Development of Christian Education!
- Please pray for Bridge Youth Club in Russia’s North Caucasus, where SWW students are training youth to impact their society for Christ.
- Pray for Reconciliation Church in Bobruisk, Belarus as they develop a mentorship program for their congregation.
- Pray for SWW students in Salekhard, Russia who will be leading a winter Bible camp for 50 teenagers on January 1-7.
- Please pray for a short-term mission team from the US that will be partnering with SWW students in Moldova to distribute Gift of Hope boxes to children in need on January 3-9.
- As we begin a new year of ministry, please pray that God would grant us wisdom and use our many initiatives to transform Eurasia for Christ.
There are many moving pieces and events unfolding across the countries of Eurasia. Our ministry closely monitors the news and political landscape in the region and its potential impact on our ministry. We have compiled an update of some of the highlights from recent months to share with our friends and supporters, so that you can be informed about how to pray for us and learn more about the challenges–and encouragements–our ministry is encountering in the field. Please reach out to us with any questions, by either calling our office 630-462-1739 or emailing us at email@example.com.
The Ukrainian Conflict
Recent months have not brought any significant positive outcomes to the war in Ukraine. The front lines remain where they began this summer, and small but frequent ceasefire violations continue to undermine the credibility of the Minsk II ceasefire agreement. However, despite the stalled Minsk II agreement, there is potential for an eventual diplomatic solution in Ukraine, as Russia has called for a UN peacekeeping mission to Ukraine. What this means for our ministry is that there is still a great need for humanitarian aid, healing, and relief in eastern Ukraine, where hundreds of thousands of people remain trapped in the war zone where they are struggling to survive with limited access to basic necessities such as food, electricity, and clean water. This is why we remain committed to continuing the relief efforts of our “I Care” Refugee Assistance program as we deliver food packs, clothing, supplies, and copies of God’s Word to the people in crisis in eastern Ukraine.
Anniversary of the Reformation
Despite the many challenges that continue in Ukraine, an encouraging celebration happened in Kiev in September when between 150,000 and 500,000 people gathered in the central square to celebrate the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation and hear from Christian motivational speaker Nick Vujicic from Australia. Those in attendance represented all of the Protestant confessions in Ukraine: Anglicans, Seventh Day Adventists, Baptists, Lutherans, Methodists, Mennonites, Presbyterians, and Charismatic Christians. The gathering was a positive and hopeful reminder of existing religious freedom and the strong presence of Christianity in Ukraine. This central square in Kiev where the Reformation celebration took place is the same location where, many years ago, communists would force people to demonstrate and propagate socialism, atheism, and communism in their country. The fact that today this square was the site of a celebration of God’s faithfulness is proof of God’s incredible transformational work in Ukraine. To learn more, read Sergey Rakhuba’s interview with Mission Network News.
Yarovaya Law and Religious Freedom
The package of laws known as the Yarovaya law continue to restrict religious freedom across Russia. These laws forbid many types of religious activity, including evangelism, Scripture distribution, and public religious services unless registered with the local authorities. Certain religious groups have been labeled as “religious sects” and can be prosecuted as terrorists would be. Implementations of the specific provisions of the law vary from region to region. This summer, some Christian children’s camps have been raided or shut down for various reasons, ranging from public health concern to lack of parental permission. You can read more about religious freedom restrictions in Russia in the 2017 report on Russia from the US Commission on International Religious Freedom.
Despite these challenges, our leaders and School Without Walls students and graduates in Russia continue to proclaim the gospel without fear and work to support the strategic ministry of local evangelical churches. Praise God for His protection and blessing on our summer Bible camp program this summer, where 24 camps in Russia took place that impacted more than 1,790 children and youth with the gospel! We truly saw His hand at work over the summer, guiding and protecting our ministry and staff in Russia.
Zulfiya is one of our current School Without Walls students in Perm, Russia. Today she is thriving, growing in her faith, running a business, and leading an NGO that cares for homeless people in her community. But before her miraculous transformation, drug addiction stole 18 years of her life. She shared her story with us of how God rescued her from her addiction and led her to get involved in School Without Walls:
“I could have died from drugs, and lost my husband and son and parents,” shares Zulfiya. “I never would have lived to see another day full of joyful laughter, the blue sky, and warm sun. Drugs stole 18 years of my life, and took my family and everything I held dear from me.
“There was one day in my life that changed me from a young girl into a lonely, miserable creature living in the basement of an apartment building. I would come there alone to shoot myself up and would stay the night there because I had nowhere else to go. I had no hope for the future.
“One night I heard voices of unknown men and I was scared for my life. That was what made me realize that I actually still wanted to live! I realized, ‘I’m a mother – I have a son. I’m a wife – I have a husband. I have parents who care about me.’ I couldn’t wait for morning to get my life back in order. I had always believed in miracles but thought they wouldn’t happen to me. However that changed – I went to a rehabilitation center and there I met Christians who told me about Jesus. I am a Tatar, and my people are Muslims who don’t want to have anything to do with the “Russian God,” as they call Him.
“But when my Christian friends told me that Jesus died for my sins and loves everyone, I experienced God’s hand on me and made a decision to accept Jesus into my life. I had never heard any of this before, and learning that Jesus had shed His blood for ME was mind-blowing! I read in the Bible that I am His beloved daughter and that He has forgiven all my sins. I realized that I had been believing a lie, thinking that I was useless and headed to the grave. But I learned that there was One who had come to save the worthless and the disillusioned – Jesus! And my life began to change and continues to change to this very day.
“God changed my life radically! Thanks to Him I now run an NGO called Do Good, through which I work with others to feed the homeless. God put it on my heart to serve people in the same situation that I used to be in. I also a run a business which helps provide jobs for people in the same trap of hopelessness that I once found myself in, and I use the opportunity to tell them about the salvation available to them in Jesus. This year I started School Without Walls, and it has been enormously helpful. I have particularly appreciated the NGPLI events which showed me how I can minister to people through my job.
“I now know that what is most valuable is our lives and that we can only live them once – we only get one shot at them. I now know why I live and what I need to do. Thanks to Jesus I am like a child again, just in love with life!”
Give to support the incredible work of young leaders like Zulfiya who are being trained and equipped for effective ministry through School Without Walls:
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!