February, 2010Partners for Reaching Russian Teenagers,
Seventeen-year-old Natasha listened as I presented the good news of Jesus to her class--in Russia, 1993. Natasha kept wondering, "Where have I seen that man?" After my presentation it dawned on her. "He wrote my discipleship book--Following Jesus." Going through the book and talking to friends, she had become a believer only a week earlier. After class she spoke to me in her broken English: "I read book by you...Thank you...I follow Jesus." That's all she could communicate. Thus ended our conversation.
Last week--now in Milwaukee, 2010--Natasha told me her complete story in very fluent English. For several years before I came to her class, she had been looking for God in New Age and other religions. Then when she heard about Jesus, she knew He was the One for her. She wanted a relationship with Jesus so badly that she interrupted speaker Brent Budd and asked: "Can you tell me how you became a Christian?" Those people walked her into the Kingdom through love and prayer. A few months later on Palm Sunday, she became a believer--and a fully devoted one at that.
Thirty-four now, this fireball bundle of enthusiasm serves on Reach Out's team in Russia. Despite family struggles, because of her faith all of her family follows Jesus. From the inside out, her ever-growing love for Jesus expresses itself in her life passion to reach and mobilize Russians for missions--particularly toward Muslims in the Middle East.
This moving story creates in me, and I hope you too, more awareness of how God is working in our world.
Natasha's story goes across the globe--from America to Russia to the Middle East. It flows out of God's heart expressed through Joel and Peter:
In the last days, God says, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophecy, your young men will see visions, your old men will dream dreams.
(Joel 2:28, Acts 2:17)
The larger story in Russia illustrates the spiritual reality that God is working in all places at all times in our sons and daughters. Simultaneously, in city after city, across all eleven Russian time zones, youth leaders are being equipped in Jesus-Focused Youth Ministry so they can reach teenagers like Natasha.
Equipping youth leaders takes place because Reach Out has phenomenal leadership in Russia. Last week Eric Ball, our International Director, and I spent three days in Milwaukee with Lance and Jean Corley. As Lance put it, we spent our time "reconnecting, refocusing and renewing."
Reach Out's younger generation ministry, led by Lance Corley, Yuri Pozhidaev and Sergei Pankov, has been instrumental in laying a strong foundation for growth in Russia. Seven years ago they began Perspectiva to equip leaders in Jesus-Focused Youth Ministry. This two-year mentoring process brings together 25 hand-selected youth leaders from all parts of Russia twice a year. Between sessions, our team goes to each of the participant's churches.
On March 27, our next graduation, a total of 66 Russian youth leaders and another 55 from Perspectiva "extensions" in other countries will have graduated. These 121 youth leaders from seven denominations are scattered from Siberia to Belarus and Tartarstan. Each one is committed to training at least two others in Jesus-Focused Youth Ministry. Nine have become either regional or national leaders of youth ministries. And since Russia has 1 of every 8 acres on the planet, when the Holy Spirit is moving in Russia and the countries they influence, He is covering a major percentage of the planet!
People like Natasha are seeing visions of what God is doing and then acting on what they see. She began meeting with four people to pray for Moscow's four million Muslims. That prayer meeting on Mondays has grown to 20-25 people. At a recent outreach, over 500 Muslims attended and heard the gospel. Now our team is praying about how we equip Russian youth leaders in Jesus-Focused Youth Ministry to train leaders in each of the many countries they represent.
Will you join us as we join God's Spirit there? We need your financial help now for Reach Out to expand our capacity to equip more leaders to reach more sons and daughters like Natasha!