*** The following is an adaptation of our recent newsletter. When we send outreach updates, we have to be careful with what we post online, so if you’d like more pictures and stories, please consider signing up for our newsletters. They are delivered directly to our subscribers’ inboxes, so they have a bit more substance to them. Thank you!***
As I (Helen) think about telling the stories from our time in Central Asia, I am overwhelmed with the reality of all God did, and all we got to do in the area of the world often referred to as the “Silk Road.” Many of the stories and photographs I want to share with you will have to be reserved for in-person or Skype conversations, as the places we visited are closed to missionaries. We took a risk by going to such places, but more than that, our contacts and the churches and home groups we visited take risks every day by being Christians in a part of the world that is hostile to those who proclaim Jesus as Lord. We want to protect their work and well-being, which limits what we can share online.
We really can’t do justice to our time in Central Asia, without going into a bit more detail about the steps leading to our eight weeks in the “Stans.” Michael and I flew to Ukraine in January to staff Titus Project, a three month Bible-teaching ministry which trains graduates of the School of Biblical Studies (SBS) as teachers, and sends them to places in desperate need of Bible teaching. Our desire is to plant this ministry at YWAM Turner Valley in 2017, but before doing this, we needed to staff a Titus Project, to gain experience as leaders. YWAM Kyiv graciously welcomed us on board as short-term staff, and we had a wonderful time being mentored as teachers and leaders.
Titus Project starts with three weeks of training time, in which we equip SBS grads for the eight week outreach ahead of them. I (Helen) had the opportunity to teach our participants how to prepare a lecture. Michael taught specifically on the value of application. Michael and I co-taught Bible Overview and how to teach inductive method through the book of Philemon. Throughout the three week training time we had with our participants before leaving for Central Asia, we also gained valuable experience in how to plan an outreach, lead a team, and evaluate participants in their practice teachings. The time flew by, and before we knew it, we were headed out into the world to teach the Bible.
Our first location was the most challenging location for us as a team – we had to be especially careful in this nation, as it is not a country of religious freedom (Christian or otherwise). We could see how the daily struggle to be faithful in such difficult circumstances affected the everyday lives of the Christians we met and taught. We mostly taught to small groups willing to take the risk of having foreigners in their homes. We heard so many testimonies of God’s faithfulness to His people in this part of the world – how He called them out of their previous religious framework and gave them the courage to persevere in a place so hostile to the Gospel.
When we crossed the border into country #2, we immediately noticed a drastic difference. This nation was much more religiously free: that was immediately obvious because of the call to prayer we heard each morning, and because of the head coverings worn by a few of the women there, practices not seen in the country we had been in previously. As we got to know this second nation more, we also saw that it was more open to Christianity as well. Persecution is still a major part of the lives of believers there, but it is social persecution, not persecution on a government level.
Some of our favourite teaching opportunities in country #2:
- A seven day seminar for all of the churches in a large city, focusing on Bible Overview, how to study the Bible using the inductive method, and how to prepare and present a sermon (many of the attendees were leaders in the church).
- In another city, we focused on training Bible teachers – we showed leaders how to study using the inductive method, and then watched them teach others how to study the Bible in this way.
- Teaching a weekend seminar on how to study and interpret Daniel and Revelation. We had known we would be teaching a weekend seminar for some time, but we only found out about the content they wanted – apocalyptic literature – less than two weeks beforehand! Despite the short amount of time to prepare for such a weekend, we had a wonderful time teaching, and we were given so much encouraging feedback about the comfort and encouragement these books brought to those in attendance, especially those who had come with fear-driven questions about the end times.
He is Faithful
The main goal of Titus Project is to equip the body of Christ with the “knowledge of the truth, which accords with godliness” (Titus 1:1). The goal of outreach is to pass Bible study tools on to pastors and lay leaders in the churches of the nations we go to, so the fruit of our ministry can be multiplied, as church leaders pass on skills to their congregations. We really feel we had the opportunity to do this, and to learn how we can multiply this program by bringing it to YWAM Turner Valley. We’re so proud of our participants, Sasha and Julissa, for their growth as teachers throughout Titus Project, and we’re so thankful for the way God worked through them and us in a part of the world that is hungry for Bible teaching.
We had so many answers to prayer throughout our time in Central Asia:
- Applying for visas was a major headache for us months before getting on a plane for country #1, and we were eventually advised to apply for them upon arrival. This was fairly nerve-wracking, but went incredibly smoothly.
- Our border crossing from the first country to the second went far better than we could have expected – previous teams have had major difficulties at this border crossing, and we had no problems at all.
- Throughout the entire outreach, our contacts were reliable and helpful, bending over backwards to help us make our ministry as effective as possible.
- Sasha and Julissa did an incredible job teaching, and Michael and I both had opportunities to teach and preach.
- We were way under budget.
- I ate gluten, dairy, and red meat when necessary, with no major problems!
- We built relationships with heroes in the faith who live for Christ despite tremendous obstacles.
Praise God for His faithfulness!
We are currently in Germany, connecting with a couple who will join us on staff in Turner Valley to help pioneer Titus Project. On Saturday we leave Europe for ten days in Taiwan, where we will meet with leaders of Titus Projects around the world for a “Titus Project Consultation.”
YWAM Turner Valley’s Titus Project is scheduled to begin on January 22, 2017 – it’s even up on YWAM Turner Valley’s website , so you know it’s official! In the meantime, we will be promoting Titus Project, hopefully by connecting with SBSs around North America, and we’ll be in the planning stages as we connect with our team of staff who are already committed to joining us in leading Titus Project next winter. We’d love it if you would join us in prayer, especially for participants. We have an amazing staff team in place, we just need the participants! Pray that SBS students around the world would see the need for Bible teaching, and that they would see how they can be part of meeting that need through being equipped as teachers, and “going” to the nations!
Thank you so much for all the prayer and support you have poured into Michael and I as we have been on this journey. We truly would not be able to do this without the support of the body of Christ. We are so grateful God has called us to this ministry. Thank you for believing in this calling with us.