Belarus, where the Deyneka family has its roots, is considered to be the last dictatorship in Europe due to a long record of human rights violations and political corruption. Long-standing economic dependence on Russia has left Belarus struggling to find its own national identity. However, widespread disapproval of Russia’s annexation of Crimea may lead Belarus to pursue stronger ties with western countries. In 2015, the nation’s GDP growth rate dropped, corrupt government spending raised the national debt, and inflation continued to cause financial challenges for the nation’s people. There are also as many as 50,000 orphans in Belarus, many of whom were abandoned by their parents.
Although most Belarusians identify as Christians, it is the spiritually stagnant Orthodox Church that dominates the nation. In fact, only about 1 percent of Belarusians are evangelical Christians. Following a strict religion law established in 2002, all religious activity must be registered with the government and take place within approved church buildings, which means that home Bible studies are illegal. Establishing new churches is almost impossible, because registration is rarely given to Protestant congregations. In 2015, authorities raided numerous churches that they accused of worshipping illegally.
Thankfully, we were officially registered with the government before the 2002 religion law took effect, so we were grandfathered in as a recognized religious entity. Foreign missionaries are not allowed in Belarus, which means that our School Without Walls (SWW) model of equipping national Christian leaders for ministry is the only possible means of preserving and growing the church. In 2016 alone, 61 young people participated in SWW in Belarus!
- For the people of Belarus to be open to the gospel, turning from their materialism and despair to the hope that Christ brings.
- For Belarusian Christians to find ways to plant new churches despite government restrictions, and for existing churches to persevere in sharing the gospel with their communities.
- For Next Generation leaders studying in SWW to find innovative and creative ways to impact their nation for Christ.
- For God to work in the hearts of Belarusian government officials, ending persecution against evangelical Christians and enabling Christians to have a constructive partnership with Belarusian authorities.
“I am so glad that I now have God, a family, a good church, and people I can trust.” These were things that once seemed out of reach to Ekaterina, whose parents were alcoholics who had abandoned her and her disabled sister, leaving them to grow up in an orphanage in Belarus. In the orphanage, Ekaterina heard about God from believers who visited, but she chose to reject what she heard and instead turned to alcohol and cigarettes for an escape.
Once she left the orphanage she lived a wild lifestyle until she met Sasha, a young Christian man who is now her husband, who led her to the Lord. God first changed Ekaterina outwardly, helping her quit drinking, smoking, and swearing, and He then worked inwardly, giving her a desire to serve others, which led her to SWW. Through SWW Ekaterina took the step to forgive her parents, and she was equipped with the skills to serve others.
Ekaterina now visits an orphanage twice a month to teach the older children the life skills that no one taught her, to prepare them for life outside the orphanage, and to help them avoid some of the mistakes that she made. “I hope to continue developing my relationships with them,” Ekaterina says, “and to serve as an older sister to them. I believe that this is just the beginning of God’s work in me.”