Eastern Europe

Eastern Europe is most commonly identified with the nations once part of, or under the influence of, the Soviet Union. Despite post-Communist atheism and secularism in the surrounding culture, the Eastern Orthodox Church wields significant influence in the region. Protestants, however, remain a small minority and often face opposition.

Politically and economically, decisions from Moscow affect the entire region. The Russian annexation of Crimea in 2014 has led to an ongoing war in Eastern Ukraine. Economic sanctions by Western nations have hindered the Russian economy, but have also taken a toll on neighboring countries reliant on Russian oil and natural gas.

After the fall of the Communist bloc, Evangelical missionaries experienced significant success in the early 1990s as many came to faith. Many churches were planted, and Bible schools and seminaries established. Although growth has slowed considerably, Eastern Europeans are taking up the call to make disciples in their nations.

The Church in Eastern Europe needs wise mentors who can equip the next generation of Christian leaders and address the many problems facing society. In Russia, anti-conversion laws make evangelism outside of religious buildings illegal. In Ukraine, ongoing war with Russia will leave lasting scars. Schools like Ukrainian Evangelical Theological Seminary are preparing to train pastoral caregivers in trauma counseling, as well as helping the Ukrainian Church to develop a theology of citizenship.

Through LeaderStudies, ScholarLeaders has supported Christian leaders from Belarus, Bulgaria, Macedonia, Romania, Russia, and Ukraine. Through the Vital SustainAbility Initiative, we also work with University Divitia Gratiae in Moldova; Kuban Evangelical Christian University and Saint Petersburg Christian University in Russia; Odessa Theological Seminary, Tavriski Christian Institute, and Ukrainian Evangelical Theological Seminary in Ukraine; as well as Union Theological Seminary in Kyrgyzstan (technically, Central Asia).

The COVID-19 crisis has multiplied disruptions for all of our partner schools. Common challenges include navigating rapid shifts to virtual learning, caring for stranded students, and managing budgets and supporting personnel amid drastic income reductions – as tuition, donations, and third-stream revenue continue to decline. Pray for theological education to continue amid uncertainty, and adapt to meet evolving needs in both Church and society. Pray for God’s provision and encouragement. Pray for all who call on Jesus’ Name to persevere as agents of hope in Eastern Europe and beyond.

Photo: Saint Basil’s Cathedral (Moscow, Russia) by Nikolay Vorobyev (Unsplash).

Prayer Community

Alexander Belyaev in Russia

Today, life in Russia, and all around the world, has been influenced by COVID-19. Herzen University was closed for more than a month. The pre-defense of my thesis took place without my participation and now I need to make adjustments to the text, because I could not personally answer the Committee’s questions.

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Prayer Community

Vital SustainAbility: Brazil Cohort

The challenge has been how to care for and support everyone. We need to get in touch with those who are not participating in online learning, to understand the reasons, and to give the support they need. Some have infected relatives or acquaintances, and we have been praying for them. We created a “Virtual Chapel,” so students can receive messages and share prayer requests.

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Prayer Community

Vital SustainAbility: Ethiopia Cohort

All faculty members are now working from home, and the government has ordered that teachers continue teaching from home. We are in a very desperate situation, since the vast majority of our faculty members do not have laptops. This is a very critical and acute need. We are also in need of teleconferencing equipment, so we can continue offering lectures.

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Prayer Community

Vital SustainAbility: India Cohort

We have been working on contingencies for all our ministries in light of COVID-19. In India, we are currently under a nationwide lockdown, one of the most stringent in the world. This has caused difficulties for us in arranging food supplies for our campus, but the Lord has provided ways for us to get by. We have 70 students on our campus who were unable to leave before the shutdown. Daily wage workers, however, are facing a serious threat of starvation. We are currently working to supply 500 families with food for the next four weeks.

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Prayer Community

Stavan John in India

Before the pandemic and lockdown, I experienced an epiphany that I would like to share. It was during my recent study trip to the Oxford Centre for Mission Studies (OCMS). I was asked to speak in the chapel, so I chose a passage dear to my heart: Mark 9:14-29. This passage focuses on the desperation of a father whose child is demon-possessed. Jesus heals the child, but not before addressing the father’s doubt, through both rebuke and empathy. As someone who has struggled with doubt myself, this was a good reminder.

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Prayer Community

Atul Aghamkar in India

The sudden shutdown of India, due to COVID-19, has taken all of us by surprise! This has led to massive confusion, as people do not know how to respond. Factories, shops, industries, offices, schools, and colleges have been shut down. Public and private transportation have completely ceased to function. People are prevented from going out of their homes, and those who venture out are beaten by the police. Heavy restrictions limit people’s movements. The shutdown has drastically affected people’s lives. While life at every level has been disturbed, the poorest of the poor are the ones most deeply affected by this shutdown.

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