Inzhi was born in Istanbul, Turkey but moved to Moldova with her mother after her parents divorced when she was five. Her father had a problem with alcohol and was sometimes abusive and violent towards them and her parents fought a lot. In Moldova, Inzhi and her mother stayed with her grandmother. Her mother worked very long hours and her grandmother didn’t care where she was or what she did, so she was left to her own devices. She frequently got in trouble at home, and when she started school her problems only increased. She had a lot of conflicts with other kids and was frequently the victim of bullying. She grew bitter and disillusioned. As she grew older she started hanging out with the wrong crowd. Her father came to visit rarely, and when he did, his visits were short and full of conflict. One of the sources of conflict was religion: her father was a Muslim, her mother Orthodox, and her grandmother identified as a cosmic humanist. Torn by the fighting, Inzhi wasn’t sure what or whom she believed in.
At age 14, Inzhi made her first suicide attempt. It wasn’t very serious, but it was followed by another five attempts, each more serious than the last, leaving her feeling empty and her arms seriously scarred. “I was looking for meaning in life, and I couldn’t find it,” shares Inzhi. “But one evening a friend invited me to Lighthouse, a youth group run by School Without Walls students and other young Next Generation Christian leaders from a local church. The experience transformed me. There I heard about a God unlike anything I had heard about before. This God gives strength and joy and brings meaning to my life. A few months later I attended Veritas, a summer Bible camp organized by Church Without Walls in Chisinau, and my life was changed forever. In August 2017 I repented and gave my life to God, and I discovered a new me.
“My life had meaning, I now wanted to live. I began attending church, growing closer to other believers and to God. I developed a love for other people and the world around me. I now take every opportunity to tell other young women about how God has changed my life and can change any life. I started studying in SWW, and I am learning about how to be a good leader, and how to manage my resources with God’s help. I look forward to continuing to grow and change with the help and support of my church, SWW, other believers, and, of course, God!”
“I grew up in an ordinary village family, and as a child I felt alone, like no one understood me or looked out for me. I wanted someone to understand and accept me and never leave me. I got married, expecting my husband to be this person for me, but he couldn’t give me what I longed for. When we realized that we wouldn’t get what we wanted out of the marriage, we started destroying our relationship with alcohol and abuse. I felt like I was dying and I had to leave my husband. After our divorce I felt completely alone. I felt that I had no reason to live and started contemplating suicide.
“It was then that a young woman was hired in my workplace who had been through a Christian rehabilitation program. We became friends, and I opened up to her about everything and felt much better. She was always full of love and encouragement, and after a month of getting to know each other at work she invited me to a Bible study. There I met other women who told me about Jesus and how He changed their lives. I felt more at peace and loved there than I ever had in my life, and I made the decision to follow Jesus, opening my heart to Him. He took my broken, wounded, and crushed heart and soul and made them whole again.
“Since then I have started studying in School Without Walls (SWW) and have gotten involved in ministry. I lead a home Bible group and I teach an Alpha Course to introduce people to Christianity. My life has been transformed, and my relationship to myself and people around me has changed completely. God is working in me and leading me. SWW helps me change and grow and prepare me to grow my ministry and bring the message of God’s love to the world around me. SWW helps ministry leaders grow in their missions activities, destroying unhealthy ideas about relationships between Christians and towards the world. The practical ministry component of SWW helps us develop our communications skills, responsibility, and creativity. There are lots of people in churches ready to help out and to serve, yet there is a lack of leaders to provide guidance and direction. SWW is the perfect program to prepare and train those kinds of leaders, and my hope is to continue to develop as a leader through the program.”
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Sasha is one of our current School Without Walls (SWW) students in Moldova. After many years of rebellion and atheism, Sasha felt hopeless, and even attempted to commit suicide. But God intervened and broke through her hardened heart, bringing her to a Veritas summer Bible camp last year, run by some of Mission Eurasia’s SWW students and young leaders. In her own words she shares her testimony and how God is now using her to mentor troubled teens who feel the same fear and anger that she once felt:
“If you asked me five years ago if I believed in God and in the meaning of life, I would have answered that neither one existed,” shares Sasha.
“I grew up in a family with different views on faith. My parents never believed in God and still don’t believe in Him. Both of my grandmothers are Orthodox. One grandmother took me to various Orthodox churches when I was a child and had me acquainted with different Orthodox practices. I really was interested in all that, but to all my questions ‘Why?’ she always answered, ‘Because it has to be so!’ so at one point I started suspecting that she was lying to me.
“When I was six, we had a moral and spiritual class at school. A very sweet young lady told us about God, how He created us, and how He gave His son for our sins. So I wanted to know if it was all true or not. I went to ask my mom if she believed in God. Her answer was, ‘no’ and at that time my mother’s opinion was the one that I trusted the most. And so I decided that I wouldn’t believe in Him either. And for several years, nobody could persuade me of anything different.
“My mother, reflecting on my childhood, says that I was an amazingly obedient child. Maybe that was why I was very difficult as a teenager. Starting from eighth grade, I was one of the most difficult children at school. I was very stubborn, rude, mischievous, and contentious; I never obeyed anyone and allowed myself to be defiant, always arguing my point. And even though I was that way, I still had friends. They were bad company, and it wasn’t just that I fell in with the wrong crowd of people. I was the one who gathered together that bad crowd of people.
“Just think of the most horrible things that your child can do at age 15. We did all of that. Why? At the very least, because we were bored and nobody cared for us.
“My parents didn’t know what to do with me. I wasn’t responding to psychologists, and I avoided teachers all the more. It’s so horrible when you are 16 and you have so many thoughts and you have no one to share them with. In my school file it said that I was in the risk group and in brackets it said ‘suicidal intentions,’ and that was for a good reason. At 16, I tried to take my own life. I still have scars. What saved me was that the knife wasn’t sharp enough and my friends happened to be nearby.
“In summer of 2016 when I was 18 and had already graduated from high school, passed all the difficult exams, and met new good friends, I found out about Veritas summer camp. I had been involved in sports tourism for six years, so a tent camp in the woods sounded really exciting! Nothing was going to stop me from going to that extreme camp! I am pretty sure I only found out that it was a Christian camp after my bus had already left. I didn’t have my friends with me (some couldn’t go and some didn’t want to go), but something on the inside was pushing me to go, even by myself. Now I know that that something wasn’t just my passion for tourism. It was really easy to find new friends at the camp. I think that Veritas draws in the very best people. That camp totally changed me and the way I viewed the world. I experienced what it felt like to really believe – believe without being false, just wholeheartedly believe in Jesus, talk to Him, and see His work in my life. I had left home to go to the camp being 100% skeptical, and when I came back it was the first time in my life that I prayed. I prayed that Jesus would be in my life, that I would believe even more genuinely in Him, and that He would always be with me.
“I wanted to continue talking to these Christian people from the camp after it was over, so that was how I ended up in the Lighthouse club. I started changing daily through that club; I was also growing spiritually and showed it with my deeds. My mother couldn’t understand what was going on with me. I couldn’t wait to go to the Lighthouse club every single Friday, and I was losing more and more of my old friends who were a bad influence.
“As the time was going by and my scars on my arm were not disappearing, I decided to cover them up with a tattoo. So I decided on a tattoo, and a few days after that I was invited to join the Lighthouse team. I couldn’t believe it! That was my tattoo – a Lighthouse! For me it’s a symbol that no matter what happens, no matter how bad I feel, I know where to go to find the light that will dispel my sadness: Jesus. That moment became very important to me, because that was how my ministry started.
“I went to the Veritas camp the first time to have fun, but the second time I went to Veritas, in 2017, I went with one objective in mind: to find out more about Jesus and do everything to follow Him and totally give my life to Him. I talked a lot to the camp counselors in the evenings.
“Each participant of the camp was given a beautiful New Testament in a design for young people. I saw the camp counselors reading Scripture in a way that seemed like they did not need anything else in the world except for God’s Word. So when I received my gift of the Bible, I also opened it and started to read. I knew that this book can leave a deep footprint on your life, but I never knew that it could become a part of your life!
“On July 16, 2017, I came to the Lord. Almost five months have passed since then. What has changed in my life since that moment? I now go to Church Without Walls. I am also a part of School Without Walls (SWW). I have started praying much more and have started noticing God’s work in my life. Sometimes it even surprises me how quickly He answers my prayers. It’s absolutely amazing! I now have God in my life and my biggest fear – the fear of being alone – is gone forever. I know that I can always talk to Him and receive an answer. I know that He is near and He hears me, He supports me, and He keeps me safe.
“I am a SWW student because God did everything so that I can come to this. Because of SWW I can be a minister helping young people to find out about God the way my mentors are helping me now. I am receiving priceless knowledge that will help me change and also help other people around me change. I am grateful to God that He has entered my life and has changed it so drastically. I also believe that my ministry will bring fruit and someone else’s life will also drastically change because of how God will use me. Now my life has sense and meaning because of Him.”
Our School Without Walls (SWW) students in Moldova met Yura three years ago when he was 12 years old. They met Yura through his sister Inna who had been attending church for a while and had made a decision to follow Christ. She then started inviting Yura to children’s events at church. Yura was always very shy and reserved and wouldn’t talk to anyone. Inna explained to them that he had speech impediments, and she gave some more background information about their family. Their mother worked in Russia to support the family and was almost never around. Their father was an alcoholic and was abusive towards his children. Yura’s speech was developing normally until one day when his father returned home drunk and his aggressive behavior scared Yura so badly that afterwards he shut down as a way of protecting himself, and his speech problems were one way that this change manifested itself.
“For the past three years, we could see that Yura loved coming to church,” shares one of our SWW students. “He loved spending time with the other children, and later teens. He came to every activity offered for his age group, including summer Bible camps and Sunday morning services. This year we decided to invite Yura to help out with some of the practical aspects of running our summer Bible camps. When we asked him he was beyond surprised and overjoyed and gratefully accepted our invitation. Over the course of the summer, every team member noticed changes taking place in Yura, who began opening up, joking, and even praying! He faithfully and responsibly carried out all of the tasks assigned to him, and he served as an encouragement to many other team members. Many also commented that they had noticed a significant improvement in his speech, saying that for the first time they could fully understand what he was saying! I’m grateful to God that I know Yura and that we could serve God together this summer. God has placed enormous potential in him, as in all of us, however Satan has been working hard to destroy it since his childhood. I pray and believe that Yura will glorify God with his life!”
Looking back, Regina can see clearly that God was working for many years to reach both her and her husband with the Good News. In 2003 both Regina and her husband gained new coworkers in their workplaces that were evangelical Christians. Regina was a teacher at a vocational school and her husband worked in construction. Her husband’s coworker invited him to church, and Regina decided to go with him. There, they discovered people who were full of life and joy. Fascinated, they continued attending church services and Christian events, and in 2004 they both made the decision to repent and dedicate their lives to Jesus.
Since then Regina and her husband have been growing in faith and serving in the church. Her husband is a worship leader and deacon. They also have three small children, which until recently had prevented them from pursuing a Christian education. However, when Mission Eurasia’s leadership training program School Without Walls (SWW) came to their church in 2015, the program offered the flexible solution that they needed, enabling them to obtain the training and tools they needed for ministry without detracting from their family, work, and ministry responsibilities.
“As I studied in SWW, I kept asking myself, ‘How can I serve people who don’t yet know God?’” shares Regina. “I enjoy attending church and serving our church body, but I wanted to reach people outside the church, just as our coworkers reached out to us over a decade ago. I kept pondering and coming back to this question as I proceeded with my SWW studies.”
Last year, Regina’s SWW group got involved in ministry in a pediatric oncology unit in a Krasnodar hospital. “I knew that this was a ministry where I could share God’s love and speak hope to those who had lost theirs,” shares Regina. In addition to speaking individually with children and their families, Regina had the privilege of dressing as an angel and declaring Good News of great joy throughout all five floors the pediatric unit as they invited children and their parents to a Christmas concert last Christmas. Many children and parents came down to the hospital’s performance hall, and there Regina and the rest of the SWW team shared a message of hope with them through their concert, and took the opportunity to get to know many families personally. They made it their mission to discover how they could help these families, and then set about doing so – they helped buy expensive medications and purchase tickets to St. Petersburg for a life-changing surgery.
“These bridges allow us to share the Gospel with parents and children,” shares Regina. “I know that this is a long-term ministry, which requires a lot of patience and care for these people. I am grateful that SWW motivated me to take steps to increase my faith. I firmly believe that many of these children and parents will come to faith in Jesus through this special project!”
On a visit last winter Regina met 7-year-old Tanya. Tanya has brain cancer, and had part of a malignant brain tumor surgically removed. She has also been through two rounds of chemotherapy. The tumor presses on the part of the brain that controls the endocrine system. One of the effects of this is severe fluctuations in hormones, which sometimes lead to a halt in her physical development, followed by drastic changes, such as gaining 20 pounds in a very short period of time. The chemotherapy has stopped the tumor’s growth. Generally these types of tumors will resume growth after two years, at which point another round of chemotherapy will stop the growth for another two years, and so on, until the tumor reaches a critical mass. Tanya’s mother shared that she is praying for her daughter and asked for prayer support. The family lives in the village of Gulkevichi, and have another child. Tanya’s father is unable to find full-time work, and they are struggling financially. SWW students helped purchase some items that Tanya needed, as well as raising money for travel to Moscow in April for treatment. In addition to offering financial support, the students have been visiting the family in their home and building a relationship with them, taking every opportunity to share a message of hope in Jesus with them.
To support the work of our School Without Walls students like Regina who are serving people in need and proclaiming the gospel with their unique gifts and abilities, please give to our School Without Walls program:
Maksim grew up in a Christian family going to church, and always knew a lot about God. However, as a teenager, he chose to stop going to church and turn away from God. One day, when he was 17, a non-Christian friend invited Maksim to a concert, and when they arrived at the concert venue, it turned out to be a Christian concert in a church! Although at first he felt uncomfortable, Maksim enjoyed the concert, and was impressed by the Christians’ honesty and sincerity. Because he already had the church background, he understood the message of the songs, however this time the message touched him like never before.
Soon after the concert he prayed, repented of his sins, and invited Christ into his heart. Maksim had been smoking for six years, however he prayed, asking to be freed from his addiction, and from the next day onwards he felt no desire to smoke. Max knew that God had done a miracle in his life!
Max started attending church regularly and joined the worship team. However soon conflict arose and the church broke apart. Disillusioned, Max gradually drifted away from church and God once more. He was hurt and couldn’t understand why God had allowed these things to happen.
At the age of 25, Max felt a desire to renew his relationship with God, and he made changes in his personal life and found a new church. That church was Reconciliation Church in Bobruisk, our long-time partner. Max felt that God had something special prepared for him, so he prayed, “Lord, lead me! I don’t know what will happen, but I trust you. I don’t want to waste my life, I feel the seed that you planted in me growing, and I know that I am forgiven!”
Soon after, God provided direction and clarity to Maxim, and he began studying in School Without Walls (SWW) and participating in home groups through his church. “God is changing my life drastically, turning my thinking upside down, and giving me ideas and opportunities to serve Him in multiple spheres,” Max shares. Max joined other SWW students in serving in an orphanage in Bobruisk, and a group of them developed a unique project. They visit the orphanage every other week to hold a cooking club. They teach the children how to cook, and then they eat the dishes they have cooked together. This both provides opportunities for fun, fellowship, and mentoring, as well as teaching the children valuable skills for life after the orphanage, which they are often tragically unprepared for.
Max has found that this cooking club ministry not only benefits the children, but he also benefits. Max writes rap songs and his ministry in the orphanage has provided him with a lot of inspiration for his songs, as it gives him a glimpse of what young people care about and how they think. “Thanks to my ministry in the orphanage, I don’t grow complacent in my faith, but am always aware of my need to continue growing spiritually, in order to be able to serve and help others. It also makes me aware of and grateful for God’s blessings in my life. I am aware of my need for God and His goodness and mercy in my life, and these motivate and enable me to serve Him!”
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.
Slava is a current School Without Walls student from Belarus in his first year of study. For many years he was an atheist who made fun of Christians for their faith. But after making some friends from School Without Walls and attending an Empower Conference, God began to work in Slava’s heart and transform his life:
“I’m 23 years old, and I grew up in a non-Christian family. For people like my father, I have a special name, ‘aggressive atheist,’ as he completely denies God’s existence. In fact, when I was growing up, the only person who talked with me about God was my grandmother. She taught me the importance of reading the Bible and praying, but I still didn’t want to believe in God. I needed proof, and I even made fun of Christians for their faith. However, my grandmother patiently listened and continued to talk with me about salvation.
“When I was older, I moved to Pinsk and got a job as a barista at a coffee shop where many Christians worked. We soon became friends, and I often asked them about their faith, but to my surprise, they never tried to prove anything to me. I still refused to accept what they believed, but two months later, one of my friends invited me to work at the Empower Conference, because they needed a barista. I accepted this offer, because I already knew many of the School Without Walls (SWW) students in Pinsk.
“During the Empower Conference, I was surrounded by Christians for four days. I was very impressed by the event and the friendly atmosphere created by the students. After working at the conference, I stopped making fun of Christians, because one of my friends told me, ‘Friends respect one another’s personal views.’ I also felt humbled when I realized that my Christian friends had never made fun of my atheistic views.
“A few weeks later, I went to the Joy Youth Club, and I really enjoyed talking with the Christians I met. I think God was working in me, but also giving me a choice. In the summer, I moved to Brest for a new job, but almost every weekend, I went back to Pinsk so I could hang out with my friends from church. I went to their home group, but I still avoided talking about God too much. However, He was continuing to work in my heart. In early autumn, the leaders of the home group said that we would be studying the entire New Testament, starting with the Gospel of Matthew. My heart started to change, and I found myself thinking about God. He was waiting for me to make a choice, and I finally confessed to the home group that my views about Christians and the Church were wrong.
“Three weeks later, I attended a SWW meeting at church, and afterward, I prayed a prayer of repentance with the pastor. And then my new life began! I immediately got involved in church life by serving at the Joy Youth Club. I thank God that my grandmother and friends endured my poor treatment, and I’m so grateful that they didn’t turn away from me. I know that I will face many challenges in my Christian walk, but I also know that my Father loves me and will be with me every step of the way.
“This year, I also started studying at SWW, and I’m so glad that this program is pushing me in the right direction. I also want to help others, because there are so many people in need, and the Lord calls us to serve our neighbors. Now, I serve coffee at the youth club and talk with young people about God. Even though I have repented, I still have many questions, but with God’s grace, I want to use my life to glorify Him. I want my faith to grow, and with the help of my church, the Joy Youth Club, and SWW seminars, I want the Lord to use me to lead people to Him.”