I have learned a new folk saying: “Weed Andreeya do Yordahnah ukrayeenska ramadahnah” (“The Ukrainian Ramadan is from Andrew to Jordan.”) It means that the holiday season in Ukrainian culture lasts from St. Andrew’s Day (November 30th) to the day of Jesus’ Baptism (January 19th). Although the saying sounds funny, the businesses and services activity is pretty low during this period. This year it was next to zero, of course, due to the quarantine restrictions. But the work of the Kingdom never stops!
Youth leaders’ development is our special focus. As you are reminded, not many of those who experienced Exodus entered the Promised Land. A new generation with new leaders had to come into being. Most Christians in our part of the world, who experienced Exodus from the Egypt of communism to the desert of secularism, are first-generation believers. We had had a late start after spending a big part of our life in the slavery of sin, not knowing Jesus. Now we have a lot to catch up on, helping others to enjoy the Kingdom’s glory from our younger days. Yet, so often we try to reach the people of the 21st century by telling them about the problems of the 20th century in the language of the 19th century! We often forget that Jesus is not only the Truth! He is also the Way and the Life. Life does not stand still, however, and the youth is in the front lines of church life now!
But how can we cross the cultural gap between generations? The Scripture provides a model in Paul’s strategy. Wherever he arrived in a town, he would first find a synagogue and preach there – a place where the listeners would understand his message. However, the Jews were not his target audience (they often rejected his message), but the God-fearing locals were. They could adapt the message to their own culture and then reach their people more effectively than foreigners could.
Young Christians are not only those who will pass God’s Word to future generations but also those who are already “infecting” everyone with the “virus” of the living faith. Admittedly, they are doing it much more efficiently than those who are older. While the “old guard” discusses the problems of generations (“X”, “Y” and “Z”), the representatives of these generations, for whom the 21st century is their “natural habitat,” bring the Good News of salvation to their peers in the very language they understand and in the very context of the challenges they face.
Therefore, our priority is to share the experience and knowledge the Lord gave us with the younger ones in accordance with the apostolic principle of 2 Timothy 2:2: “Take the teachings that you heard me proclaim in the presence of many witnesses and entrust them to reliable people, who will be able to teach others also.” “But train up a child in the way he should go” shows that he is just a reserve of the church (even if it is a “strategic reserve”), and when he is older, he will not cease from being just a reserve. Our youth are not a reserve, but a vanguard of God’s people!
With this in mind, we were planning to hold a youth leaders’ conference on the biblical foundations of sharing a Christian worldview in Rivne. We had expected it to be a modest event with two dozen participants. However, while the word about it was spreading, people from other places in North-Western Ukraine started to sign up – from Lutsk, Dubno, Ostroh, and smaller towns. It is not our custom to refuse those who desire to be the agents of change for the greater glory of the Kingdom, and so, eventually, we had a list of about 200 people! We are so thankful to the biggest church in the city for allowing us to use their facilities! It was really a joyful time for exploring God’s guidance together! (See pictures attached.) May the Lord be praised!
We are planning now, God willing, and unless the quarantine gets in the way, to hold similar conferences in other parts of the country – in Kherson (South-Eastern Ukraine) in mid-March and in Ternopil (South-West) at the end of March. Please keep those events in your prayers: pray for our safe travel, participants’ health, and, above all, for the Lord’s continuing guidance.
The holiday season makes many people wonder about the historical veracity of the Christmas story. A rich heritage of traditional symbolism behind it causes some to confuse traditions with the pure message of the Gospels and even makes it sound like a myth to others. That is why the seminar “The Historicity of Christmas” was a great challenge for doubters and an encouragement for the faithful (see pictures attached). It was a real joy to explore together step by step what exactly the text says and where other ideas had come from! Please pray with us for the seeds planted during the seminar to grow!
At the same time, we continue to provide courses of the combined format at seminaries. The combined approach(where the students watch a media version of the course at the time of their choosing and gather online later for discussions and questions/answers sessions) offers many advantages. It allows us to teach at several schools at the same time; provides a flexible schedule for the students, and reduces the “Zoom fatigue” effect. All that makes the online sessions real fun, whether it is an intriguing course like “Biblical Anthropology” or such a “dry” one like “Bible and Logic” at the Slavic Evangelical Seminary. At the same time, I am learning new ways to teach as well. For instance, when I was teaching “Systematic Apologetics” to the Kremenchuk Evangelical Seminary” I used Google Class and Meet for the first time (see pictures attached).
Regretfully, we had to once again cancel the opening of the offline Master’s program in Moldova due to uncertainties created by the pandemic. The prospect of getting somewhere in the post-Soviet “frozen conflict” zone of Transnistria stuck for two weeks of quarantine doesn’t sound attractive at all. So, we will provide “Practical Christian Ethics” (the first course of the program) in the combined format again in early March. Please pray with us for the course and for the program development in general.
Since we moved to Kyiv we have had many opportunities to partner with other ministries located in the city and region, like organizing talks for the Hope TV programs(see the pictures attached). On the other hand, the experience that the Lord has granted to us throughout the years of our ministry is the result of His enabling, not ours. That is why we have to share it with everyone who is likely to find it helpful. That is why we get involved occasionally in projects that are beyond the scope of our ministry. As an example of that, we can mention a workshop on managing church finances (see picture attached). May it be for the glory of the Lord!