I just returned from my 16th trip to eastern Europe in the last 19 years. For over seven months of my life, it has been my privilege to minister in Belarus, Ukraine, Estonia, and Russia, with several missions.
Most of my time has been spent in Belarus, teaching in a Bible college and seminary, and preaching in churches pastored by some of my former students.
How gratifying to witness the fruit of my labors as I impart the great truths of the Bible to trustworthy people who are able to pass them on to others (2 Timothy 2.2). The son of one of my first students, back in 1996, was in this year’s class. And the eldest son of another student intends to enroll next fall.
My biggest regret is my inability to speak Russian, necessitating the use of a translator. But the bond we share as brothers and sisters in Christ transcends language barriers and cultural distinctions. This fellowship I enjoy with those I have known for years, and also with those I meet for the first time, is strong, immediate, undeniable, and intensely satisfying.
Belarus is acknowledged as a religiously repressive country. It is a challenge to maintain a positive attitude and consistent witness for the Christian faith there. Intimidation and harassment by authorities, and discrimination in university acceptance and denial of employment or job promotions are very real for evangelicals.
However, the believers there don’t expect or desire our sympathy for any hardships they endure. On the contrary, they consider it a privilege to suffer for their faith. The joy of the Lord is truly their strength (Nehemiah 8.10).
In fact, they are concerned about our spiritual welfare! They pray for many believers in the West suffering from “affluenza” in our permissive culture and economic prosperity.
God is moving in mighty ways in Eastern Europe; the enemy is also very active. The same is true here.
Let us pray for our fellow believers and for ourselves that we will be strong in the Lord and in His mighty power, that we will stand firm in the face of opposition, that we will make the most of every opportunity to share the Good News in word and deed, and that we will use our time and resources wisely as we shine the light of truth in a very dark world.