Vital SustainAbility: Eastern Europe/Central Asia Cohort

Dear Friends,

Through the Vital SustainAbility Initiative (VSI), ScholarLeaders works with theological schools in the Majority World to develop plans for sustaining institutional missions in service to the Church and society.

VSI Team and University Divitia Gratiae Staff in Moldova (Sept. 2019)

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.
According to our original schedule, our VSI team would have wrapped up strategy planning work with six schools in Eastern Europe and Central Asia this week. Instead, our work continues via video conferencing. The pandemic has generated new questions – and opportunities.

Odessa Theological Seminary in Ukraine

Please pray with us for the VSI Eastern Europe/Central Asia Cohort: Odessa Theological Seminary (Ukraine), Tavriski Christian Institute (Ukraine), University Divitia Gratiae (Moldova), St. Petersburg Christian University (Russia), Kuban Evangelical Christian University (Russia), and United Theological Seminary (Kyrgyzstan). 

VSI Team and United Theological Seminary Staff in Kyrgyzstan (Dec. 2019)

More than 360 million people reside in Eastern Europe and Central Asia. Eastern Orthodox Christianity has long shaped the history and culture of Eastern European nations like Belarus, Bulgaria, Macedonia, Romania, Russia, and Ukraine. Through LeaderStudies, ScholarLeaders has supported scholars from each of these countries. In the five Central Asian republics – Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan – Sunni Islam is widely practiced and Russia serves as an interethnic language. Fifteen countries in Eastern Europe and Central Asia comprised the Soviet Union until 1991. 
Please intercede for our partner schools: 

1) Pray for education to continue amid uncertainty.

Shared use of the Russian language enables many Eastern European schools to attract students from Central Asia or develop extension sites to help train leaders for the Church in that region. When Moldova went into lockdown, 120 students at University Divitia Gratiae (UDG) were stranded on campus, unable to return to Central Asia. Pray for UDG as it cares for this group of students. Pray for students who must remain under quarantine far from home.

University Divitia Gratiae Students before the Lockdown

Meanwhile, faculty members from schools like Tavriski Christian Institute in Ukraine have not been able to travel for scheduled classes at extension sites in Central Asia. They ask for prayers for their students and the Church in this time of crisis. 

2) Pray for financial provision. 

The pandemic has squeezed almost every source of income. Delayed enrollments and shifts to online learning will limit tuition payments. Local and foreign donations have dwindled. Lockdowns and other restrictions have thwarted third-stream revenue projects.

VSI Team and St. Petersburg Christian University Staff in Russia (Dec. 2019)

In Russia, St. Petersburg Christian University has closed its hotel and does not know when it will reopen. In Moldova, University Divitia Gratiae recently opened a new apartment building and conference center, which has yet to host any groups due to the lockdown.

In Ukraine, Tavriski Christian Institute’s (TCI) greenhouse project lost money for several weeks, as the pandemic closed markets where TCI sells produce. Located on the bank of the Dnieper River, TCI also relies on income from facility rentals and recreational activities. Cancellations over the past two months may continue through the summer, the most lucrative season.

Valentin Siniy (left), Taras Dyatlik (right), and the Manager of Tavriski Christian Institute’s Greenhouse Project 

TCI’s President, Valentin Siniy, whom ScholarLeaders currently sponsors through LeaderStudies, shares that the current economic situation is worse than in 2008. Still, he reminds his faculty and staff that God is merciful and provides. 

3) Pray for students, faculty, and staff who are facing burnout and fatigue.

The toll on psychological health and productivity continues to build as people remain quarantined, forced to work from home, sometimes in small spaces shared with other family members. Pray for reprieve and encouragement.

4) Tavriski Christian Institute requests prayer for their state licensure process.

VSI Team with Families of Tavriski Christian Institute Staff in Ukraine (Sept. 2019) (Photo Credit: TCI)

Before the pandemic, TCI was on track to become one of the first theological schools in Ukraine to receive state licensure for their programs. Currently, school leaders await final approval regarding their bachelor degree program. As the pandemic has forced them into digital learning, they are praying about how they might extend the license to cover online programs, as well. 
Each of these schools also gives thanks for God’s provision through our COVID-19 Relief Fund. They share that they are praying for the work of ScholarLeaders and for the many supporters who make our work possible. 

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