The Heart of Christ Mennonite Church in Berdyansk, Ukraine recently hosted a youth camp, during which School Without Walls (SWW) students served children and youth from the front-line cities of Andreyevka and Avdeyevka. Yevgenia, a 16-year-old girl from Andreyevka, was just one of the many young people who participated in this camp. Yevgenia, her mother, and their friends are going through a hard time, as war continues to rage in their hometown, and they hear the sound of gunfire almost every day.
Sadly, even before the war broke out, Yevgenia had already experienced suffering. Her father abandoned her 16-year-old mother as soon as he found out that she was pregnant, so Yevgenia never met him. Her mother’s grandmother was also killed in a car accident when she was seven months pregnant, and the emotional and psychological stress caused Yevgenia’s mother to go into early labor, so Yevgenia was born two months early.
After she was born, Yevgenia had to undergo medical treatment due to the complications caused by her premature birth. For a while, the doctors weren’t even sure if she would live, and even though she is healthy now, her mother still sometimes feels guilty for the health problems she had when she was younger. They also often struggled financially as Yevgenia was growing up; and after the war broke out, things only got worse. However, they continued to pray, and with God’s help, they didn’t lose heart and refused to give up.
Now, Yevgenia tries to encourage her mother by praying and reading the Bible with her. She also participates in a reading and writing group that is led by SWW students from Berdyansk. Every week, these young leaders visit Andreyevka to share the gospel with those in need through different ministry initiatives, so Yevgenia and her mother started attending these events.
One day, the SWW students led a youth event, where Yevgenia received her very first New Testament. By reading God’s Word, she grew closer to Him, and learned how to pray and talk about Him with her peers. “We often went to bed cold and hungry, since we had no coal to heat the stove and no money to buy food,” Yevgenia shared with tears in her eyes. “But then we met the SWW students, who brought us humanitarian aid. This aid saved us, and after that, my mother and I started going to a Bible study group. We didn’t understand anything at first, but it was still interesting, and we could feel God’s love filling our hearts.
“The SWW students also visited my school and led various Christmas and Easter events, and in the summer, they led a camp. This camp helped me learn about Jesus, and this year, I attended my third summer Bible camp! Two of them took place in my village, and the other was in Berdyansk. Now, I believe in God, and He is in my heart. I know that He is the Lord Almighty. I trust that He is working in my life, and He will never leave me to suffer alone.”
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.
God has been touching thousands of young hearts and lives this summer through our Bible camp ministry. From remote, unreached people groups in Mongolia to the city centers of Russia and Ukraine, Next Generation Christian leaders—trained and equipped by Mission Eurasia—are bringing the love of Jesus to children in desperate need of the Good News. Because of your dedicated support and prayers, we anticipate 20,000 children will be reached by School Without Walls (SWW) students and graduates and other Next Generation Christian leaders at summer Bible camps.
Every day, new stories pour in of the heartfelt responses of children encountering Jesus for the first time. Last week, School Without Walls students from Russia and Mongolia and Mission Eurasia national staff from Russia and Ukraine traveled to remote regions of Mongolia to share the gospel with 600 largely unreached children and youth at Bible camp. Our leaders were touched by how eager each child was to hold God’s Word in their own hands for the first time and read the story of Jesus in their own language. Our SWW students and graduates in Mongolia will continue visiting and ministering to these children in the coming months and years as their faith grows!
This summer our SWW students also hosted a camp for Udi children, an ancient native people group in Azerbaijan. Centuries ago, the Udi people were introduced to Christianity, but the practice has become largely cultural over the years, and many Udi children have no concept of the gospel. Last year, SWW students hosted a Bible camp for the Udi children where many children and families accepted their Savior and were baptized. This summer, we met many of those same children and their families—plus several new children from the village. Many questions were asked, copies of God’s Word were handed out, and many lively conversations about Jesus took place. God has opened hearts and broken down barriers for our SWW students and leaders to share the Good News with the Udi people, and we are in awe of the transformation that is taking place as the Udi people reconnect with their historical Christian faith.
By the end of the summer Bible camp season, close to 20,000 children will have heard the gospel message through Bible camps led by SWW students and graduates and Next Generation leaders equipped by our Empower camp training events. Praise God! And this impact could not have taken place without your faithful support and prayers. We hope you will be encouraged by these sincere words of thanks from children and youth who attended life-changing Bible camps this summer:
“I want to express my gratitude to all those who organized this camp and spent time with us. I learned a lot about God, namely that, in order to get to Heaven, you must repent of your sins and believe in Christ. I really liked all of the games and activities, and talking with the other kids and camp leaders around the campfire. I can’t wait for summer Bible camp next year!” – Valera
“This was my first time at a Christian camp, and I made a lot of new friends. Our leaders taught us a lot over these last few days, like how to be kinder and more respectful and loving to others. They were so fun to be with, and most importantly, we could feel their love for us and their love for God. Thank you for making this camp possible!” – Alena
Mission Trips to Ukraine
In mid-July, two teams of dedicated believers from the US and Canada traveled to Ukraine for short-term service trips with Mission Eurasia. One team was led by Wally Kulakoff, Mission Eurasia’s vice president of ministries & church relations, and the other was led by Nick Tishenko, the executive director of Mission Eurasia Canada. Each team served at a summer Bible camp and helped construct two playgrounds in impoverished villages–one near Korosten and the other near Zaporozhye. Working alongside national Mission Eurasia teams and School Without Walls (SWW) students and graduates, these teams sacrificially served the local communities with the love of Jesus and helped support the outreach efforts of nearby churches.
Over 250 children and their parents–plus city officials from the town–attended the dedication of the playground in Korosten, which will provide a fun, safe place for children to play and a gathering site for the local church to conduct outreach and connect with hurting families. At the playground dedication, the team handed out copies of Scripture and Christian resources to the children and families and invited the children to attend a summer Bible camp happening later this summer. Several parents signed up their children for summer Bible camps, and others are planning to send their children to Sunday school at a local church.
After the playground dedication event, many parents from the village shared with our team their gratitude and excitement about the new playground and what a blessing it will be to their families. Even the city officials expressed their gratitude to our team for their service. One mother shared, “We have never seen our children so happy! You have done something absolutely unbelievable for our village.” During the dedication, a local news team arrived to film and broadcast the event and interview members of the mission team, providing them an opportunity to share the love of Christ, whose message of salvation is the reason they traveled to Ukraine to serve on this trip.”
Please join us in praying for each of the children and families who came to visit the playgrounds and received Scripture or an invitation to church or Bible camp—may God continue to water the seeds of faith planted in their hearts! And may He continue to use these playgrounds to His glory for many years to come. We are so grateful for these dedicated, faithful teams from the US and Canada who served alongside our national staff members, local churches, and Next Generation leaders to share the love of Jesus with these children and families in desperate need of the Good News.
ShareWord Global Trip to Moldova
This July for the third year in a row, a team of Next Generation leaders from our dedicated, faithful ministry partner ShareWord Global in Canada traveled to Moldova to serve at summer Bible camp alongside our School Without Walls (SWW) students and graduates. ShareWord Global provides hundreds of thousands of copies of God’s Word for outreach in the countries of Eurasia, and on this trip the ShareWord Global team distributed Scripture, prayed and cared for the children at camp, and shared the love of Jesus with many young lives. Together with our SWW students and leaders, they impacted nearly 1,000 children and youth who came from some of the most vulnerable and challenging circumstances. It was such a blessing for us to see these young Christian leaders from Canada use their vacation for an eternal purpose: sharing the Good News with a hurting world!
At one of the camps, the team served a group of 100 at-risk girls, many of whom were orphans or affected by human trafficking, which is a major threat to vulnerable children and youth in Moldova. During camp, the ShareWord Global team and our SWW students shared their testimonies of faith and led the girls in Bible lessons, worship, fun games, and relay races. Each girl was also given her own copy of Hope magazine, a beautiful evangelistic resource we designed and printed in partnership with ShareWord Global.
The whole team was deeply touched by meeting these girls at camp. “I remember the girls’ eyes very clearly, because it looked like they were constantly searching for attention and care,” shared Nona, one of the members of the ShareWord Global team. “We could tell that they were hearing everything we taught from the Bible for the first time.”
One of the young girls at camp named Marina shared her story with the Bible camp leaders: “My father died when I was 4 years old, and after his death, my mother forgot about God and started drinking and smoking. This was very difficult, but I know that God helped me get through it. I’m so glad I could come to camp! I want to say thank you to everyone who made it possible for me to receive God’s Word. I’m so happy to finally have my very own Bible to read!”
Travel With Mission Eurasia
We would love to bring you or your church on a short-term mission trip with Mission Eurasia! This January, we are taking a team to Moldova to help distribute Gift of Hope Christmas boxes to children in orphanages, hospitals, schools, and more. Come enjoy fellowship with Christians from across the world and help us share the love of Jesus and the true message of Christmas with hundreds of children in need. You can learn more about the Moldova trip and other upcoming trips here.
In February, School Without Walls (SWW) students in Tajikistan had the opportunity to participate in a seminar on spiritual gifts. The students enjoyed sharing their ideas and learning about how to effectively use their spiritual gifts. Now, SWW coordinators are working with these students in accountability groups to encourage them to continue developing their leadership skills and using their spiritual gifts. Now that several months have passed, a few of these students share how the seminar has impacted them in the long term:
Ahmed (age 15)
Ahmed is a pastor’s son, but he used to be too afraid to share his faith with others. However, after he completed his first SWW session, he said, “God revealed to me that He and His Word should be the most important things in my life.” Just a few weeks later, other SWW students and coordinators could already see a change in Ahmed. During one accountability meeting, he shared that he was able to share the gospel with several of his friends, and he even brought one of them to church! At the next meeting, he asked for prayer that God would remove his pride, and the following week, he shared that God had provided several opportunities for him to humbly serve others!
Viktor (age 16)
“Before we started studying the Word together in our accountability groups, a lot of us had problems with our school work and didn’t have much motivation to read the Bible,” Viktor shares. Today Viktor is an honors student, and even though his teachers don’t agree with his beliefs, he still takes every opportunity to share his faith with his classmates. His accountability group is encouraging Viktor to share what he is learning from God’s Word with others. He is also taking guitar and vocal lessons, and he helps lead Sunday worship services at his church. Recently, Viktor was asked to sing for a class, so he sang several Christian songs, and his classmates were very interested in the lyrics.
Ilya (age 15)
Ilya has won multiple cycling championships, but he shared with his accountability group that he was afraid of talking with others about Christ. The rest of the group prayed for him, and throughout the next week, he was able to share the gospel with several of his classmates, and he even invited three of them to church! A month later, one of his friends accepted Christ at a summer Bible camp! Now, Ilya is a standout SWW student, as he always completes his homework, he is actively involved in youth ministry at his church, and he helps lead his accountability group.
If you would like to partner with us in training and equipping more young Next Generation Christian leaders like Ahmed, Viktor, and Ilya in Eurasia, you can give online to the School Without Walls program here:
A group of School Without Walls students were in a church in Krasnoyarsk, Siberia earlier this summer, preparing for a missions trip to Mongolia to serve in a summer Bible camp. As they were working, a drunk man, who was around 30 years old, walked in, and asked to talk to one of the young women. “I was scared, as there were only a few of us in the church, however I sat down with him nearby and he started to pour out his life story. He shared that, having tried all of the pleasures that life has to offer he was unable to fill the emptiness in his heart.”
“Disillusioned, he decided to hang himself, but before killing himself he wanted to go on one last drinking binge. On his way home he got into a fight with his companions, and they kicked him out of their car right in front of our church. He shared with me that his whole life he’d felt a longing for God, but had never made an attempt to approach God because he felt undeserving.
“I was lost for words. I prayed to God for wisdom, and told him that even though he is a sinner, God loves him very much and that he should ask Jesus for forgiveness, because Jesus died that he might live. I offered to teach him to pray. He couldn’t believe that he had a right to address God directly. He got to down on his knees and said three words, ‘Jesus, forgive me.’ Then I prayed, and he cried. When I opened my eyes, he was smiling. He said that everything was different – the world was brighter and more beautiful. He immediately sobered up. He asked if there was somewhere he could go wash up. We gave him a Bible, and called friends from his town to find out where the nearest church is for him to attend. And we were left happy and grateful to God for this miraculous repentance. God showed us once again that He wants to use us for His work, and that all we need to do is to be ready.”
- Praise God that Pastor Dmitry (David) Shestakov and his family, who we helped flee to Ukraine after David suffered severe persecution in Uzbekistan, were relocated to the United States on August 30! This is a wonderful answer to prayer, as we have been advocating on behalf of the Shestakov family since 2012.
- Please pray that God would use our 2016-2017 School Without Walls (SWW) program, which launches this month, to prepare even more young Christian leaders for effective ministry throughout Eurasia and Israel.
- Pray that God would be at work in the hearts of the children who attended this year’s summer Bible camps and will now be participating in several follow-up events.
- Pray for SWW leaders and students in Belarus as they prepare for several upcoming Next Generation Professional Leaders Initiative (NGPLI) conferences.
- Pray for our ministry team in Russia’s North Caucasus as they continue expanding SWW outreach efforts and church planting in this volatile region.
- Praise God for a team of young people from ShareWord Global, one of our ministry partners, who recently visited 12 of our summer Bible camps in Moldova, where they distributed New Testaments to 900 at-risk children!
- Please pray that our containers of humanitarian aid goods for Ukraine would clear customs quickly so we can continue bringing these goods to those in need.
- Pray for the leaders of Church Without Walls (CWW) in Pinsk, Belarus, as they are seeking new ways to serve in their community and grow their small group ministry.
- Pray that God would provide new opportunities for our ministry team in Vladikavkaz, Russia to partner with local schools and universities so they can reach out to young people through preventative lectures.
- Please pray for our SWW coordinator and several SWW students in Uzbekistan who were recently interrogated by local authorities. Pray that God would protect them and give them courage.
- Pray for CWW in Chisinau, Moldova as they continue developing and expanding their youth ministry through sports outreach, youth clubs, and training seminars at local middle schools.
- Praise God for a very successful summer Bible camp in Dagestan, Russia, where many children heard the gospel for the very first time!
- Pray for a new Living Israel church that was recently planted in Safed, Israel, where there are currently no other churches.
- Please pray for several upcoming evangelistic events, including picnics, movie nights, and prayer meetings, that Reconciliation Church in Bobruisk, Belarus will be hosting.
- Pray for our SWW students in Armenia as they prepare for several upcoming evangelistic concerts in various cities.
- Pray for healing for Konstantin, one of our ministry workers in Ukraine, who recently injured his shoulder.
- Praise God for our ministry center in Vladikavkaz, Russia, through which we are preparing SWW students to reach the lost throughout the North Caucasus!
- Please pray that God would continue His work in the hearts of the non-Christian teenagers who participated in a special summer Bible camp in Pinsk, Belarus so that they may come to know Christ.
- Pray for Aram, our SWW coordinator in Armenia, as he prepares young people at his church to lead their own youth ministry.
- Pray for safety for Erin and Rashid, our missionaries in Perm, Russia, as Rashid travels to Kiev, Ukraine for SWW meetings and Erin stays at home with their children.
- Please pray for SWW students at Reconciliation Church in Bobruisk, Belarus as they continue serving at a local boarding school for orphans.
- Praise God for new believers who were recently baptized at Spiritual Renewal Church in Russia’s North Caucasus!
- Continue praying for peace in Ukraine so that those who are hurting can start to heal and move forward.
- Irina, the wife of the CWW pastor in Pinsk, Belarus, is starting an English as a Second Language ministry, so please pray that God would grant her wisdom.
- Pray for courage and safety for our brothers and sisters in Russia as they continue sharing the gospel, despite new laws that limit religious freedom.
- Praise God for a specially designed New Testament in the Romanian and Russian languages that we are distributing in Moldova!
- Please continue praying for Sasha, a SWW student from Bobruisk, Belarus, as he is currently serving in the army.
- Pray for several upcoming events in Russia, including a pastors’ conference in Yekaterinburg, a NGPLI conference in Perm, and a NGPLI forum in St. Petersburg.
- Pray for wisdom as we continue sharing the gospel in the midst of escalating religious persecution in Central Asia.
- Please pray for Dmitry, our partner pastor in Tolyatti, Russia, as his church plans evangelistic events to expand God’s Kingdom in their city.
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 were 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:
Alex* 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 receiving 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.
*Note: all names in this post have been changed