Eyes “still” on the Prize

Over the course of church history, world events have always had an impact upon the mission of the church. While God’s mission to reach all people groups with the Good News is never thwarted, God’s mission happens within the context of the “messy-ness” of life and global realities.

The war in Ukraine is a current case in point, one more in a long list of global events influencing the mission of the church. While we know that ultimately God will fulfill his purposes on this earth, us mere mortals can easily get caught up in the messy-ness of it all. This usually happens as we take our eyes off the big picture of what God is up to and focus on what the “kingdoms of this world,” are up to – be that globally or in our own society.

Through our colleagues in Ukraine, we know God is still at work in a country under fire. This illustrates the incredible resilience of the Mission and the Church. At the same time, the mission is alive and well in spite of increasing restrictions on the church in Russia. The mission may be impacted but never thwarted by political, economic and any other messy-ness. God continues to build his church on both sides of the conflict and throughout a broken and dysfunctional world.

As a reader of past newsletters, Valera and Narina will not be strangers. As a ministry, we first connected with them in the Caucasus (southern Russia) over fifteen years ago. Their two sons have now grown and they still have two teenage daughters at home (St. Petersburg). It has been such a blessing to have Narina translate all of our materials into Russian. She has also been a faithful interpreter at our seminars and conferences.

Due to the war, the international school in which she teaches has declined in enrollment and so her and her husband have taken on several part time jobs to make ends meet. Valera (and Narina) continue to serve in the church plant they are part of, which has grown to about 200. Their passion continues to be to mentor and invest in the next generation. Using our Mentoring Guides they continue to mentor young men and women, as well as provide leadership coaching through our “Church Health Assessments.”

In a recent video call they shared how many of the young people they mentored in the Caucasus are now pastors and church planters throughout the fellowship. They continue this focus on the next generation, “Here in St. Petersburg we are helping the youth group build a core team rather than seeing the ministry as just one leader running the show, as is typically the case here. Often the parents of teenagers are curious as to the “club” that their children are attending and through that begin to attend the church.”

Over the years they have also had quite a significant impact in helping struggling marriages as well a preparing young couples for marriage. Since those early days in the Caucasus when Phil and Nancy shared their seminar, “The First Team,” they continue to prepare couples for marriage and are also helping couples throughout Russia via video conferencing. Recently they were in Thailand to mentor a couple as well as expand the ministry there through contacts from their church.

To say that they are busy would be an understatement! As mentioned in our last newsletter, they also used our materials (Worship Teams) to conduct a seminar with thirty members of the worship teams in their church, “The first day we taught on worship and then on building a team. We will continue to meet with this group every few months. It was encouraging to get the feedback that participants realized that being on the worship team is more than just being on stage on Sunday.”

Thank you for your continued prayers for Valera/Narina as well as our friends and colleagues, Alexei/Tatiana, who are in Moscow. While not in a warzone, their lives have also been impacted and yet they desire to continue to serve those in their country with the Good News, being that salt and light where God has placed them.

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