Sitting around a dining room table with cups of tea, walking along the Dnieper River, or going on a retreat at a camp outside Kiev, young Ukrainian believers are learning to minister to one another as they grow in their knowledge and love of Jesus Christ. Each week, they meet together in homes for Life Groups to encourage one another in Christ. They take turns sharing responsibilities, preparing ice breakers, leading Bible studies, selecting songs, and praying for one another.
Everyone has busy schedules with either university studies or full time jobs. Finding ways to equip these young believers with knowledge and skills for ministry is a creative adventure in theological education, working in partnership with the OMS missionary team in Ukraine. Just as the Ukrainian believers follow the early church model of house churches, we are following the example of Paul’s methods for leadership training and discipleship. Paul wrote letters to teach and to encourage the new believers. We are also writing. Rather than letters, we are developing a series of lessons that give biblical answers to questions such as: “What will happen at the end of time?” “Who is the Holy Spirit?” “What is worship?” “What is sin?”
Paul traveled and made personal visits to encourage new believers. In October, I had the privilege of making my third trip to Ukraine to share in a weekend retreat. I was asked to teach about developing our friendship with God through the practice of spiritual disciplines and to lead a discussion on what it means to be community in Christ. Each time I return, there is a deepening bond of trust. We discuss joys, questions, and concerns over cups of tea. This is the life-on-life model of theological education that Jesus modeled with his disciples.
These young believers represent the power of the Gospel of Jesus Christ to transform lives through their personal testimonies and outreach to others. They represent the hope of things to come as the kingdom of God extends across Ukraine. As Paul encouraged Timothy, let’s pray that they will receive and live out these same words of encouragement: “Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in life, in love, in faith and in purity” (I Timothy 4:12, NIV).
By Colleen Fitch, One Mission Society Missionary and Theological Education Consultant for Europe