Georgia is a land of great potential. Since 1991, a sharp decrease in corruption, combined with democratic reform, has laid the groundwork for a brighter future. And yet, with 36 people groups in a population of just over 4 million, inter-ethnic conflict remains a grim fact of life, while political turmoil and strife with Russia over disputed land in Abkhazia and South Ossetia add to the unrest. In fact, in 2014, Russia signed a strategic partnership agreement with Abkhazia, which only worsened the nation’s relationship with Georgia.
Also, during the past decade, more than a quarter of a million people have been displaced by ongoing conflict. Many of them are now living in makeshift camps around the capital of Tbilisi and are in great need of humanitarian aid. Unfortunately, despite the Georgian government’s recent attempts to help them, these hurting people still face many challenges. Most notably, they often experience issues with the resettlement process, there are few jobs available for them, and the general population is largely unaware of their suffering.
However, Georgia is experiencing positive changes, including a new openness to spirituality, especially Christianity. Unlike many of its neighbors, Georgia is actually changing laws to provide more freedom for evangelicals and other non-Orthodox faiths. The national university’s former Department of Atheism has even become a theological faculty!
Christian groups of all expressions have experienced growth, and our School Without Walls (SWW) program is no exception. “We see real changes brought to our country by SWW,” said Oleg, pastor of one of the churches participating in the program. “Young people’s relationships to the church and the world are changing. They are becoming more committed and active!” As Georgia continues to work for freedom and peace for its people, our SWW students and graduates will be there to lead the way.
- For the great strides in economic, social, and political reform to continue, and for Georgia to set a good example of progress for its neighbors, especially by ending the ethnic strife and conflict with Russia that have kept the nation from realizing its full potential.
- For Georgian churches to be filled with a vision and passion for going beyond their walls to reach their communities and nation for Christ in practical and creative ways.
- For Christian agencies ministering both physically and spiritually to the many refugees from the wars in Abkhazia and South Ossetia as they struggle to survive without adequate food, water, heat, or medical care.
- For SWW to continue its growth in Georgia, developing more of the leaders this nation needs for the future.
David’s journey to Christ and a local church was not all smooth sailing – he stumbled many times along the way and came close to giving up. Looking back on his own experience and observing other Georgian youth, David came to the conclusion that the most difficult part of young people coming to Christ is getting them to take their first step into a church. David started thinking about how to bridge the gap between the world and the church, and how he and other young Christians could help their peers take that step.
It was at this point that David found SWW, and discovered that it was the perfect instrument for training and equipping young Christians to reach out to their non-Christian peers, creating programs and projects that can bridge the gap between society and the church. “I am thankful to God that I am a part of His body,” David says, “which so wonderfully connects very different people, making them one Body. I consider my local church my home and my family. It has problems, like any family, but with the love of Christ we are able to resolve them all.” SWW has equipped David to invite new members into that family.