Elza is one of our first School Without Walls graduates from Russia. She and her husband planted a church several years ago in the capital city of Kalmykia, Russia and they feel called to minister to the native Kalmyk people there. Elza has an incredible faith story about how God touched her heart and convicted her to renounce Satanic influence in her life. The Truth of Christ has truly set her free!
Elza and her husband considered themselves good Kalmyks – they zealously followed Kalmyk traditions, and their tribe could trace its ancestry back to Genghis Khan. They were very proud of their identity and history, studying Kalmyk culture, music, folklore, and making frequent trips to Mongolia. In keeping with Kalmyk tradition they married early, and by the age of 16 Elza was already expecting her first baby.
Elza’s husband was a third generation healer – he had inherited an ability to see injured joints and correct them. His father was very respected as he had the ability to find lost people and animals by rubbing two sharpened sticks together. “The superstition which surrounded us from childhood made us, on the one hand, very proud,” says Elza. “On the other hand, we were afraid to in any way break the traditional rules binding us, and were constantly afraid of curses, and looked to shamans and Buddhist teachers for guidance, hoping to please all the gods. Ironically, at the same time we saw ourselves as good Soviet citizens – educated, modern, making independent decisions.”
Elza’s husband was a professional wrestler, she graduated from a music conservatory, they hadn’t ever argued in their four years of marriage, yet their perfect lives turned upside down when the Soviet Union fell. As repressive state control disappeared, food shortages, drastic inflation, and a spike in crime took its place. Many people, unable to deal with the new reality, turned to alcohol or drugs. Others, upon receiving their freedom, started looking for something new to give their lives meaning. Elza and her husband joined this search.
Their folk Buddhism couldn’t offer a satisfactory solution to their hunger for the truth. So they started to search. “We searched, and it is hard to say what we hoped to find,” shares Elza. “We simply felt unsatisfied with our lives, so we went searching. We started with ufologists. This seemed like the most modern and likely explanation – aliens sent great teachers to Earth: Buddha, Jesus, Mohammed, and others. However this theory did not offer any answer to what happens to us after death, so we did not find it very comforting. The whole country was looking for the meaning of life, and there were many different teachings, societies, and groups promoting their worldviews. Every day we would visit a new group to hear a new take on the Apocalypse, reincarnation, or life on Mars.”
At one ufologist meeting someone told Elza’s husband that the reason for meaninglessness and for death is sin, and that God can free people from their sins through Jesus. Elza refused to listen to this new theory, saying it was better to stop their search altogether and to return to their Buddhist faith like good Kalmyks rather than even consider worshipping the Russian God.
Elza’s husband didn’t argue with her, but rather started secretly attending Christian services. After a few months he repented and gave his life to Christ. Elza noticed that he was changing, and couldn’t understand what was happening. They started arguing for the first time, and finally, at the end of her rope, Elza decided to go to one of these Christian meetings and create a scene. She was angry that this sect was destroying her family and her people.
The first time she came to a church service, Elza resisted the urge to create a scene because, to her shock, she found not only Russians there but also Kalmyks! After the service she approached the pastor, a Russian, to complain. To his credit, he patiently listened to her, and then suggested that they read the Bible together and search there for answers to the questions bothering her. They spent a month meeting, talking, and studying the Bible, and gradually her heart began to change. “The turning point for me was reading Jesus’ words in John: ‘And you will know the truth and the truth will set you free!’” shares Elza. “I was tired of living with constant doubts and fears and superstition. I finally made the decision to accept Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior.”
Elza’s husband was overjoyed that God had answered his prayers for his wife. However, when they returned home they faced three days of intense spiritual warfare, and Elza realized just how bound up she had been in occultic chains, all the while thinking herself a progressive, secular woman. On the third day they finally prayed together, renouncing all of Satan’s influence in their lives and asking God to protect them from evil spirits and make them truly free.
Soon after, they moved to her husband’s village of Tsagan-Aman to plant a church. The people knew Elza’s husband as a healer and came to him asking for his help, but since their prayer rejecting Satan’s influence, he found that he had completely lost his ability to “see” and heal injuries. “However he understood that God had taken away this ability in order to give him spiritual gifts,” Elza shares. “Now instead of physical healing, my husband taught people about Jesus, who is the Way, the Truth, and the Life, and the only true Healer.”
After planting a church in Tsagan-Aman, the couple moved to Elista, the capital of Kalmykia, to plant a Kalmyk church. They faced many hurdles and had a lot to learn in the process of planting a church that was Christ-centered yet honored the positive elements of Kalmyk culture. Elza supported her husband, the pastor, and helped lead worship playing on national instruments. “Outsiders sometimes don’t approve of our efforts to present the Gospel in a way that is acceptable to the Kalmyk worldview,” shares Elza. “However our goal was to serve God and serve our people, who are sometimes aggressive and closed to change. We needed patience and a learning spirit!
“SWW was absolutely invaluable in supporting, training, and equipping us in the difficult task of sharing the Gospel in a culturally acceptable way. SWW has trained a new generation of Kalmyk leaders with a heart to reach their people. I graduated from SWW a few years ago and was amazed at how helpful the seminars were in preparing me to fulfill what I feel to be God’s calling in my life.
“Many SWW graduates have become home group leaders, or have moved to other cities as church planters. We continue to serve in Elista, raising up the Next Generation of missionaries and evangelists with a passion to share the Good News despite cultural barriers and the anti-missionary laws passed in Russia last year. We are grateful for the steady flow of innovative ideas and printed resources that we receive from SWW, which are invaluable evangelistic tools.
“The three-day SWW conference in Kalmykia in April brought together our network of church and home group leaders from throughout the region and taught us a wonderful method of building bridges with our people. We were overjoyed and refreshed in our commitment to serve, thanks to the tools we received at the conference, which are very practical and applicable in our culture.
“My life has been filled with deep meaning since I accepted Jesus! I was recently diagnosed with cancer, however I can say with confidence, ‘My Reedemer lives and my life is in his hands!’” Elza has gone through two rounds of chemotherapy and remains active in ministry.
Artem is a current School Without Walls (SWW) student in Russia. He shared with us about his calling to do ministry and how the SWW training program and the examples of his SWW peers are encouraging him and pushing him forward in his service to the Lord:
“I’m 21 years old, and I live in the Krasnodar region. I accepted Christ in 2012, and a year later I was baptized. My parents are also believers, and I grew up going to church and learning about God. I always felt like He was preparing me for something, so I asked Him what His plans were for me, and I felt an urgent call to study church planting at a college in Omsk. I’ve finished my first year of study, and now I am going to do a year of practical ministry training in church planting.
“For the past year, I’ve regularly attended School Without Walls (SWW) seminars, and I have been very inspired and encouraged by the testimonies of those who led these events. I learned a lot about missionaries who are doing ministry work in other parts of the country, even though it is challenging. The challenges missionaries face sometimes frighten me, but at the same time, I know that I have chosen to experience these things by deciding to be a missionary. I’ve also learned a lot of practical information at SWW, and this knowledge is very helpful, since I am still learning about missionary work. I believe SWW will help me make new disciples for Christ.
“Now I am facing a choice: I can either use my life to serve the Lord through ministry, or I can ignore all I’ve learned and walk away from Him. And this I know for sure: the example provided by the SWW leaders inspired me to continue pushing forward in my ministry to expand God’s Kingdom. I want to express my deep gratitude to everyone involved in SWW. I’m so grateful for your active, sacrificial service.”
In the midst of the spiritual emptiness spreading across Russia, Light Magazine–a beautiful evangelistic magazine containing the Gospel of John and designed and printed in partnership with ShareWord Global– is helping young people choose to follow Christ, rather than living for the world. These remarkable young people, like Olesya, are spreading God’s Light to their communities and families:
Olesya is 15 years old and was born in South Ossetia, but her family moved to North Ossetia not long after her birth. There they started going to church, where Olesya’s brother and parents were baptized. After becoming a believer, Olesya’s father stopped drinking and swearing. “I was so happy that my family became Christians, because we finally got along,” she shared. However, after some time, Olesya’s father left the Church because he was angry that so many people claimed to be Christians but didn’t live in line with God’s teaching. Sadly, his disappointment led him to start drinking and smoking again.
Despite her father’s decision, Olesya still attends a home Bible study and the youth group at her church. She has also participated in several boxing tournaments, where she has won many awards. Now, Olesya strives to be a world-champion boxer, however widespread corruption in Russia has made this very difficult. For a while, she found herself wondering how God could allow such injustice. “I was working so hard, so I didn’t understand why I was facing so many difficulties,” Olesya recalled. “One day, I was upset, so I opened Light Magazine and read these words: ‘The sun may be your light for the day, but the Lord will be your eternal Light.’ My heart was instantly filled with joy! I began to understand that God allows struggles in our lives so we can grow stronger and learn to trust Him.”
While boxing is very important to Olesya, serving the Lord is even more important. If she has to choose between going to Biblestudy and training, she always chooses Bible study. Because she recognizes that studying God’s Word and being in community with other Christians is so important, she actively shares the gospel with her peers, even during her training sessions. Many of the young people she talks to are interested in Christianity, but sadly, her teachers call her a sectarian. Despite the poor treatment she receives from her teachers, Olesya continues to trust that God will provide. She also loved the Light Magazine that our School Without Walls (SWW) students gave her, and because of the artistic, youth-friendly design, she can easily share it with her friends.
“This year, I served as an assistant to the SWW leaders at a summer Bible camp for the very first time,” Olesya shared. “For me, this experience revealed a whole new aspect of the Christian life, as I learned how to share the gospel with children. Now I want to study at a Christian university and pursue a theology degree. I’m planning to start studying at SWW this fall, because I believe it will help me learn more about God and provide experience that will help me serve more effectively and grow my faith. I’ve learned that it is important to look at Christ rather than others as the example for how we should live. And without Him, our worldly achievements are worthless. I am so thankful that I can serve in my church.”
Vlad is a 14-year-old boy from Russia who was born into a military family that has lived in many different places, including the United Arab Emirates, Greece, and Turkey. Sadly, his father died from a heart attack at the age of 39, so his mother is raising Vlad and his younger brother, Ruslan, on her own. A few weeks ago, Vlad and Ruslan attended a summer Bible camp led by our School Without Walls (SWW) students and graduates in Ardon, Russia.
During camp, the boys received their own copies of 101 Favorite Bible Stories for Children, which Vlad began reading whenever he had free time. The stories made him very interested in God, and he started asking the camp leaders insightful questions about Jesus and the Bible. Our SWW students had many significant conversations with Vlad, Ruslan, and even their mother about Jesus, and they plan to continue their friendship with Vlad and his family after camp ends. Vlad and Ruslan’s mother told the camp leaders she is so thankful they are teaching her sons how to live according to God’s Word.
“I am very grateful for the School Without Walls students and people who made this wonderful camp possible,” Vlad shared. “They taught me so much about Jesus by leading by example. I especially enjoyed our conversations by the fire every evening. During these talks, I learned a lot about God and the meaning of life. I also really enjoyed playing sports, swimming, and just being able to relax at camp. I made several new Christian friends at camp, which is so exciting for me. I can’t wait to come back to camp next year, because this was the best week ever. Thank you so much for this wonderful experience!”
Summer Bible camps are still happening across Eurasia, and thousands of boys and girls like Vlad and his brother are finding hope in Jesus for the first time. And like Vlad’s family, our Bible camps are impacting parents, siblings, grandparents, and entire families and communities with the message of the Good News! Thank you for your faithful and dedicated support of our summer Bible camp ministry this summer and in many years past. You have made it possible for thousands of children—and families—to hear the gospel presented in a clear, compelling way by our Christian camp leaders and to receive their own specially designed copies of God’s Word that will uplift their hearts and sustain their faith for years to come.
“My decision to serve Marina, her husband Sergey, and their five children rose out of my desire to be a doer and not just a listener,” shared Maria, one of our School Without Walls (SWW) students in Russia. “After realizing that there is a great need for evangelism in my community, I started praying that God would provide opportunities for me to share the gospel. And one evening, He moved me to start serving a family in my area.
“The next day, I shared this revelation with my fiancé, Rustam, and together we visited the village of Sosnovo, where I had met Marina and her family while distributing Gifts of Hope during the Christmas season. Marina told us that her family was facing very difficult conditions, as they had been living without electricity for two weeks. They had fallen behind on their payments, so their electricity was shut off, and even after they paid their bill, they couldn’t afford to have someone from the electrical company come out to reestablish their connection. Sergey works as a security guard at a café, but he doesn’t make much. Marina isn’t working so she can take care of the children, and even though she receives government assistance, it still isn’t enough to pay for everything her family needs. Right now, they live in a small wooden house with no running water.
“The first time we visited their home, Marina and the children were so excited to see us! We brought them food and spent time praying that God would provide for their needs. At first, it was hard for them to accept our prayers, but over time, we could see God working in their hearts. Rustam and I try to visit Marina’s family every weekend, and now we are reading the New Testament with them. During the past few months, we have seen God’s hand at work, and Marina even invited her friend, Tatyana, to participate in our meetings! Tatyana hasn’t been to church in two years, but she has really enjoyed talking with us about God. Right now, there aren’t any churches or home groups in Sosnovo, so we are praying that God would provide even more opportunities for us to spread the gospel.
“The most important thing I have learned during this process is that we must rely on God and obey His teachings. By ourselves, we can’t give people what they need, but the Lord is able to transform them from within. For me, not only has this experience inspired me to continue pursuing evangelism, but it has also helped me grow much closer to Rustam. It is such a blessing that we can work together to serve the Lord!”
“I am always looking for new ways to share the Gospel,” shares Olga, one of our ministry partners from Barnual, Russia. “One way I do this is by visiting the local train station once a week to leave a few copies of God’s Word around the station.
“One week when I was in the process of setting out a few of the New Testaments that I had received from Mission Eurasia, I heard a voice behind me ask, ‘Are you the one who brings Scriptures here?’ I turned around to see a severe-looking elderly woman, dressed all in black. ‘Yes, I am,’ I replied. To my shock, she bowed to me. She told me that she had been visiting the train station every day for a month, hoping to meet me and share her remarkable story with me. She told me that normally she always carries a copy of the New Testament with her, but recently discovered that she had lost it while on her way to town for a doctor’s appointment. So she stopped by the train station to pick up another copy, intending to return it later.
“When she got to the hospital, she sat down to wait for her appointment, and noticed a sad-looking young woman sitting next to her. They were separated by a small table, and the grandmother took out her copy of the New Testament and set it on the table right by the girl, facing her. She herself didn’t know why she had done that, she just felt compelled to.
“At first, the girl looked stunned, but then she burst into tears. The grandmother asked her what was wrong, and the girl shared that she was pregnant. As soon as she had found out, she had decided to get an abortion, even though her boyfriend wanted to keep the baby and marry her. His parents also told her that they would take the baby if she didn’t want it, but she didn’t want to have to deal with the pregnancy, and felt that it was her right to make her own decision.
“As they continued talking, the grandmother found out that the young woman had come to the hospital to have the abortion, which she had already paid for. But at the last minute, she decided to give God a chance. She decided that if God gave her a clear sign during the next 10 minutes as she waited for her appointment, then she wouldn’t go through with the abortion. She had only been waiting for a few minutes when the elderly woman arrived and gave her the New Testament!”
It is amazing what a single copy of God’s Word, in the hands of someone obedient to the Holy Spirit, can accomplish! You can help increase the impact of this transformational ministry by giving online here:
Alex* is one of our School Without Walls students and Bible camp leaders from Russia. His testimony is one of miraculous transformation that began when God saved his life after repeated suicide attempts. Today, Alex is a thriving leader who is serving the church, ministering to hurting people, and reaching his community for Christ.
“You could say that I came to know God through many challenges. When I was younger, my heart was filled with emptiness, loneliness, pain, and resentment toward many people who had betrayed me. In order to stifle the pain, I started doing martial arts. But that wasn’t enough to heal me, so I tried committing suicide twice. The first time I tried to kill myself, my mother was able to stop me in time. I think this first attempt was a cry for attention, because I wanted people to know the inner pain I was feeling. I felt apathetic and empty, and life seemed meaningless.
“The second time I attempted suicide, I immediately realized that, if I died, I didn’t know where I would go. I was filled with fear, because I realized that I might be going to a place that was even worse than where I was. All of a sudden, I had a strong desire to live. Praise God that I survived! It was truly a miracle.
“Not long after this, one of my friends invited me to a Christian youth group. The program was very interesting, and I enjoyed learning about the Bible. I had so many questions, and I found a lot of answers in the Bible, so I kept going to the group’s meetings. I also went to a summer Bible camp, where I heard a sermon that deeply touched my heart. The preacher spoke as if he knew all the problems in my soul. I hadn’t told anyone about my fears, but the Lord still knew. That day, I repented and opened my heart to Christ. Although I was still facing many challenges and my circumstances hadn’t changed, my attitude toward them was transformed. I had finally found the peace and rest that my soul so deeply desired!
“Today, I serve as a deacon in my church. I enjoy helping those who are suffering from loneliness and are struggling to find meaning in life. God has changed my life, my soul, and my attitude toward others and the world. Now, I understand that I am called to pursue care, understanding and, above all, love for all people. I also desire to learn more about God and the ministry of the church so I can effectively serve Him and share my faith with others. And thanks to my first School Without Walls (SWW) session, which focused on spiritual gifts, I better understand the gifts that God has given me, and I feel even more motivated to continue serving and pursuing the calling that He has for my life.
“Now, I teach a variety of courses for teens and children, help lead Christian camps, and serve in a variety of social outreach projects. I live in the Kabardino-Balkaria region in Russia, and because I see the urgent need to expand God’s Kingdom in this region, I want to train young leaders and keep learning myself. Thank you for supporting School Without Walls, which has inspired me and given me a new drive to serve the Lord!”
To support the training and equipping of young Christian leaders, like Alex, who are reaching the Next Generation for Christ, please give to our School Without Walls program:
*Name has been changed
- Praise God for the thousands of children in Eurasia who received Gifts of Hope during the Christmas season! Please pray that God would be at work in their hearts so that they may come to know Christ.
- Pray for an upcoming Next Generation Professional Leaders Initiative (NGPLI) conference that will take place in Belarus this month.
- Pray for young people in Tolyatti, Russia who are going to church, but don’t yet know God, and that our ministry efforts would bear fruit in their lives.
- Pray for our School Without Walls (SWW) leaders in Israel, as they are planning to start a new SWW group in the Czech Republic.
- Please pray for the regional coordinator of God’s Family Church in Minsk, Belarus as she leads ministry efforts, while also helping her daughters prepare for college.
- Praise God for providing resources and ministry opportunities in Russia, even in the midst of escalating religious persecution!
- Pray for our ministry team in Ukraine as they continue using our “I Care” Refugee Assistance Program to distribute humanitarian aid to internally displaced people and those who remain trapped in the war zone.
- Pray for our SWW students in Pinsk, Belarus as they partner with Christian student groups to prepare special evangelistic events at a local university in honor of the 500th anniversary of an edition of Psalms that was published by Francysk Skaryna in the Belarusian language.
- Please pray for our ministry workers and missionary partners who are dedicated to sharing the gospel with the unreached throughout Russia’s North Caucasus.
- Pray for our team in Ukraine as they meet with the leaders of professional networks in Kazakhstan, Moldova, and Russia.
- Pray for safety for some of our SWW students in Uzbekistan, as they are experiencing challenges with local authorities.
- Praise God for an English study group in Pinsk, Belarus, through which Church Without Walls (CWW) is teaching English lessons using Bible passages! Please pray that God would be at work in the students’ hearts so they may come to know Christ.
- Pray that God would grant wisdom to Vyacheslav, our SWW coordinator in Yekaterinburg, Russia, as he develops new ministry initiatives.
- Please pray that SWW students in Armenia would continue growing spiritually and sharing the gospel with their neighbors.
- Pray that young Christians in Saratov, Russia would actively participate in ministry efforts in their community.
- Pray for our plans to publish several ministry resources for young Christian professionals throughout Eurasia.
- Please pray for CWW in Pinsk, Belarus, as the church leaders are still trying to register with local authorities, construct their own building, and expand their small group ministry.
- Pray for our SWW students in Moldova as they organize and host a youth conference this month to encourage about 300 young people to share the gospel with their families, friends, and neighbors.
- Praise God for our ministry center in Vladikavkaz, Russia, through which we are expanding our ministry efforts, including church planting, in this volatile region!
- Pray that God would provide resources for CWW in Pinsk, Belarus, and that He would embolden working professionals who attend the church to share the gospel in their workplaces.
- Please pray for SWW students in Yekaterinburg, Russia as they begin their internships at local churches.
- Pray for Denis, our NGPLI director, as he develops and expands this strategic ministry throughout Eurasia.
- Pray for our SWW coordinators in Russia as they expand our ministry efforts in the North Caucasus and the Transcaucasia region.
- Praise God for our ministry leaders who are faithfully serving in Central Asia, despite the challenges they face!
- Please pray for our ministry team in Ukraine as they lead an NGPLI conference in Minsk, Belarus today.
- Pray for Georgiy, one of our SWW leaders in Vladikavkaz, Russia, as he is trying to obtain Russian citizenship.
- Pray that God would provide a new leader for the youth ministry at God’s Family Church in Minsk, Belarus.
- Please pray that God would grow the children’s ministry at Spiritual Renewal Church in Vladikavkaz, Russia.