Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Reaching to Russia (and Ukraine!) - Reach and Touch

Reaching to Russia (and Ukraine!) – Reach and Touch

I’ve written often the last few years about our ministry having unique reach into places that others, for whatever reason, have not been allowed/able to penetrate. This became evident again the last two weeks as business circles, new countries, churches and a few hearts of developing leaders were reached for and touched by God’s love in a truly transformative way. Some had been touched this way before but some experienced this for the very first time.

Nothing has impacted my personal spritual development the last nearly 2 years like the training I’ve received from the International Leadership Institute. I’m thrilled the say the same thing about our top leaders in Russia is true. The conduit that we have been able to spread this teaching to our volunteers and partner network with is called “History Makers.” You can read all about it at www.history-makers.org. Note the 8 Core Values this ministry is built upon and see if a more intentional focus on one or more of these areas might not be a source of challenge and growth for you as well. Just a suggestion.

If you looked at a picture of those who attended our History Makers Journey last week, you would see people who came from Russia, Belarus, Ukraine, Great Britian and the United States. I was thrilled personally to have my brother and sister in law join me on this trip to Russia and then to Ukraine. More on that in a minute.

YouthReach International has decided to use the History Makers training as the chief source of spiritual development for our volunteers in both Russia and Ukraine. This is supplementary of course to their belonging to and growing in their local churches as well as ministering with our short term teams that come throughout the year. Even with those things in place, we feel that this training is so vital that we include it for all volunteers. It not only grows them up as mentors but it makes them better leaders in their local churches, places of work and families as well. In that sense, it is a win-win for all.

Philip, Kara and I traveled first to Novosibirsk, Russia, to carry out a one day business seminar for some young Christian business leaders there. This project flowed out of our spring Chick-fil-A SERVE Seminar that we carried out in Novosibirsk and Tomsk this past March and April. To be able to invest in a young team of business leaders as they embark on their professional lives was a great blessing and challenge to us. The principles shared with them allow them a unique chance to build a business from the DNA on up knowing and practicing God honoring principles each step of the way. Please pray for them and the churches they come from in Novosibirsk. It is a daring new day in the life of church leaders and Christian business men where spiritual and commercial entrepreneurship intersect. Pray for wisdom, courage and humility for all involved.

We then left Novosibirsk and traveled to Donetsk, Ukraine, where the home base of YouthReach International is located. Three of our strongest leaders from Novosibirsk, having completed the History Makers training themselves, also joined us in Donetsk which allowed for the first time ever our Russian arm to meet our Ukrainian arm. It was wonderful to see people who have prayed for each other, spoken on the phone with each other and worked towards the same goals together actually meet face to face to pray, learn and worship together for a whole week.

I want to sincerely thank Chick-fil-A’s Winshape Foundation for providing this opportunity for our Russian and Ukrainian teams. Your investment in our ministry has equipped us like nothing has before. Thank you for allowing us to be stewards of what God has entrusted to you.

Our week together was strategic in many ways as well as educational and fun. YouthReach has vision and hopes beyond Ukraine and Russia. This gathering began to open those doors up in a very concrete way. More on that in later newsletters throughout the fall and winter.

With the hurricane bearing down on New York City and Philip, Kara and myself due to fly through there on Sunday in order to return home, we high tailed it out of Donetsk Saturday morning to get back to Moscow to begin the trip home. Philip and Kara made it out but I did not. Another day in Moscow allowed me to meet with a dear friend and one of our former mentors who now lives and works there. Though getting home was my desire, God allowed me a chance to bring some much needed encouragement to one who has invested so much in our work in Novosibirsk. I was able to leave Sunday morning, transit Paris and make it home a full 6 hours earlier than originally planned when I left my family on August 16. Indeed, God ordained every step of the way.

With that arrival on Sunday night back into Atlanta, our 2010-2011 ministry year, which runs from September 1 to August 31, is over meaning no more trips or projects directly involving us. Of course, ongoing ministry in the lives of orphans continue in Russia and Ukraine. That never stops! We now turn our attention to 2011-2012. First and foremost we find ourselves in need of some financial “juice.” You’ve all probably received an email about it but if you have not, click here for more details. ANY help is needed and greatly appreciated right now. As you can tell by the thermometer, there is still some work to do.

Also, a final prayer request if I may. 53 weeks ago today, Traci had her BIG surgery which was the proactive beginning of her road to absolute freedom from cancer. We have said more than a few times what a journey it has been. While we linger in certain aspects of it, we are for the most part finished with battling this instance of this disease. Others are not though. I humbly ask you to pray for a young boy named Caleb Kinnersley. He’s 6 years old, the same age as our Aidan. Caleb has a nasty, nasty form of cancer that treatment does not exist for. You can read more here and meet his family here. Their support network is strong as was ours but never, I assure you, did we say “enough already” to the prayers or the words of encouragement that came our way. As the Lord leads you to pray and respond to this family, please do. Thank you.

Our staff, families and board gather together in TN September 9-11 to launch next year’s ministry calendar. Please pray for us as we commune together and begin seeing just a bit of what God has in store for us in the year ahead.

Your help, your prayers, your encouragement and your financial support the last year have seen us through some daunting days. Thank you are words we say often but mean more than ever. Please hear our hearts when we say how grateful we are to all of you.

In Him and oh so thankful to be, we are,

Rob, Traci, Benjamin, Nate, Aidan and Anna

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