Each summer, I look forward to serving the youth ministry of the Christ the Savior Church in Volgograd, Russia, by helping with their summer English Camp. Our team is very international, including English-speaking volunteers from Africa and the United States, who serve with the Russian team from local churches. For the third time, I was the coordinator for the U.S. team and helped to create the English lesson books for the camp, applying what I’ve learned through YWAM’s TESOL program.
The goal of the camp is not only to give Russian teenagers an opportunity to practice their English with native English speakers but also to introduce them to God’s love and grace, found through faith in Jesus Christ. The majority of kids coming to the camp are non-believers, while many of the teenagers serving as helpers are believers and came to faith in Christ at previous summer camps. It’s always exciting to observe them growing and maturing in Christ year after year.
This year some kids who were in the process of seeking God or showing some interest were invited to serve as translators. One young translator, named Tikhon, still believed he was a scientific atheist. The teacher he was helping, Stan, wondered how this arrangement was going to work and started to pray for him. Little did Tikhon realize God had a plan to work on his heart this summer.
It started with two of the Christian girls, Anya and Yulia, who were also helpers at the camp. They knew Tikhon was an atheist, but they were determined to challenge his thinking about God. One afternoon they sat and talked with him about Creation in the Bible, shared their testimonies and did their best to explain the gospel to him. They were so focused on their conversation with Tikhon they didn’t realize several other kids around them were also listening with rapt attention.
The next day, Tikhon found an opportunity to ask Nuper, one of the American men, if they could talk for a while. Nuper was more than happy to take some time. As they sat by the river, Tikhon shared about all the things he’d just learned about the Bible from the girls. After thinking about it all, he began to realize he was wrong about God and Creation.
“What should I do?” Tikhon asked. Nuper challenged him to put his faith in Christ through prayer, and they stopped and prayed together. “Now what should I do?” he asked. Nuper said, “Go tell someone what you have just done.” Later, Tikhon met again with Stan and told him about the decision he’d made. “He was so happy,” Stan said, “you could just see the difference in Tikhon’s face.”
This is just one example of what God did this summer through our team of volunteers. Through Stan’s prayers, Anya and Yulia’s testimonies and Nuper’s sensitivity to the Holy Spirit, Tikhon is now a child of God. Even the kids who listened intently as Anya and Yulia shared with Tikhon were changed by what they heard.
There was such an atmosphere of God’s love and grace at the camp! I praise God for the many other hearts that were touched by the gospel. ~ Craig Blair
Craig works with Volunteer Development at Mission Builders International. He returns yearly to Russia (where he lived and served for eight years with Campus Crusade) as a coordinator and volunteer for the English Camp.
“Has God ever promised you something? Has God ever clearly led you?”
When twenty-nine-year-old Kristen H. of Fredericksburg, VA, gave God the opportunity to fill her heart with His desires, she didn’t dream it would involve living boldly and serving Him globally. God surprised Kristen with a mission-building journey. She spent a gap year as a volunteer with Mission Builders International, helping at YWAM locations and visiting missionary friends in Uganda, Swaziland, South Africa, Cambodia, New Zealand, Great Britain, Israel and Germany.
How did it all get started? Kristen says:
“A little over one year ago I was able to attend a retreat just a couple hours from where I live. You’re thinking I’m going to say that God slowly showed me something through the speakers that weekend, right? But no, God didn’t even wait for the retreat to officially start to speak to me.
“It happened that I was there a couple hours early, so I walked down to the pond, with my Bible in hand, and just sat before the Lord and quietly read and prayed. While I was sitting there, God clearly spoke to me through a few different verses in Psalm 20 and 21 and promised me that He would give me the desires of my heart. I asked God to do as He promised and grant me my heart’s desires, to make His desires mine and direct my steps. I didn’t know what those desires of my heart were and in what way God would fulfill that promise until almost a year to the day later.
“I do love to travel and, while I had a gap year in life and was seeking God for the direction I needed to take, I thought it would be great to take a little time and maybe plan a trip across the United States. But, as God continued to lead, I had no idea He would bring me to a place of traveling the world!
“I was praying and seeking Him on whether this mission trip was what He had for me and realized it was exactly where He was leading me. I’m not the girl who has always had a pull toward being on the mission field, but when I asked God to grant my heart’s desires and make His desires mine, He took me seriously. He created in me a desire I didn’t even realize I had: a desire to see His work advanced, a desire to serve His people, a desire to live boldly for Him.”
From teaching English and making jewelry to cooking meals and taking care of small children, from housekeeping and reception work to organizing in a café that employs marginalized women, Kristen served the YWAM campuses that hosted her and the people they reach out to. In the midst of serving, she also experienced the beauty of her host nations physically, culturally and historically.
“His ways and plans are so much better than ours,” Kristen says. “I had a big idea, He had a fantastic one!”
Kristen’s story may not be very different from one just waiting to unfold in your life. What are your heart’s desires, and where in the world might God be leading you? For fantastic possibilities, visit www.missionbuilder.org!
(To see more photos from Kristen’s journey, visit her blog at mymissionjourney.com.)
Few of us are comfortable with change. Whether it’s forced upon us or we embrace it willingly, change can lead us to a different way of looking at and doing things.
After years of working with our email address of MBI@missionbuilders.net, and with our website address in mind, we finally changed it to Team@missionbuilders.org. It now better reflects how we work and connect with the world. That’s just one visible change. Bigger changes are occurring behind our website, in our in-office document-handling, email and calendars, as well as in our accounting procedures and the way we communicate with the world, including the switch from ConstantContact to MailChimp for emailed newsletter service – starting with this newsletter.
Of course, right in the middle of all this change, our long-time, locally-owned bank of some 20 years (which has treated us like family) was bought by a regional corporate bank, forcing more change upon us. Oh yes, and how can I forget the ever-changing updates to our computer operating systems (Windows 10, anyone?), cell phones and every other electronic gadget, forcing us to learn and relearn new ways of doing things (whatever happened to the adage “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”?).
Even bigger changes are in the wind of U.S. politics, potentially affecting the direction and future of the nation for good or bad, depending on one’s point of view. I have to admit, there have been moments of my crying out to God for deliverance from the craziness of politics amplified by a rabid, foaming-at-the-mouth media.
Gratefully, God’s not surprised, flustered or impressed by the flurry of changes affecting us. In fact, He is both the Author and Finisher of our faith and the events that create change in the first place! As a person who embraces the “new, novel and different,” I’m content to know that God is indeed in control and that everything will eventually work out. In the meantime, MBI continues to connect friends like you—who are willing to embrace change and trust the Creator—to the frontlines He sends us to.
Here at MBI, we love hearing stories about how trusting in Jesus and responding in love and forgiveness in the face of challenge can radically change the outcome of lives. We’d like to share this beautiful story of God’s help and grace as told by DTS student, Christin Ingold, who took her training at YWAM Berlin in Germany and fulfilled her field assignment in Muizenberg/Capetown South Africa. (Mission Builders International supports YWAM Berlin and YWAM Muizenburg by sending volunteers.)
Yesterday was one of those days that showed me once more how precious and not-to-be-taken-for-granted life is. My friend Andrew and I were running at the beach. We were already on our way back when someone grabbed me by the shoulder and took hold of my shirt to stop me. As I turned around, I saw four guys, and in that moment, I already knew they were going to rob us. One of them held a knife, another one an empty bottle and one of them a long stick.
While Andrew stopped and came back to me, they took my phone and all the rings and earrings I was wearing. Andrew looked at one of the guys, who stood closest to him, and asked: “Can I pray for you?” Immediately, and for me unexpectedly, this guy responded: “Yes, I need it.” His eyes were empty, and the way he said it was so desperate. No hint of irony in his voice at all.
Andrew hugged him and held him while he was praying. I stood directly behind them, watching this guy’s face. He was obviously overwhelmed and touched by what just happened. As Andrew spoke forgiveness over him in prayer, this guy made eye contact with me and said: “I am so sorry. Please forgive me!” I already held his hand, as I had started to pray for him as well, but I pressed it even harder and said: “I forgive you. You are forgiven.”
The other three guys now were all standing with their backs to us. One of them came to me again, still wanting to take off one of my bracelets. As he grabbed my wrist, the guy who just received prayer, still in Andrew’s arms, reached out to his friend’s hand and pushed it away. There was change in his eyes, and God really broke my heart for him. I guess from this day on I’ll understand the story of the sinner hanging next to Jesus, taking the grace of forgiveness a little deeper and with personal attachment. Forgiveness is always there, but it needs humility to take it.
As Andrew and I got out of this situation, we fell down in the sand on our knees to pray. Only in this moment the awareness and reality hit me of what just happened … we were still alive. We weren’t raped or killed. This whole story could have had such a different ending. Both of us were able to stay calm and act in the opposite spirit, which wasn’t to our credit at all but only by God’s grace. That one of these four guys experienced God’s love deeply was so worth losing the phone.
I am thankful for my life once more, I am thankful for God’s protection and for my friend, Andrew, whose instinctive act of compassion calmed the whole situation down, me included. And I am thankful one more time for Jesus and the cross, which made this immediate forgiveness possible.
Can’t say it enough: God is good, more than we can imagine. All glory to him.
~ Christin Ingold, YWAM Berlin, Germany
on outreach in Muizenberg/Capetown, South Africa