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Strategic Kingdom Partnership: From Kansas to Ukraine

Strategic Kingdom Partnership: From Kansas to Ukraine

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(My speech for a special event at the
Hillsboro Mennonite Brethren Church in Hillsboro, KS, Oct 26: Mission in Eurasia: Faithful Heritage,
Strategic Future
)

We have come
an interesting way — from Ukraine to Kansas. You did it before, we made it
recently. And we see in this God’s will, His way. We are not here by chance.
But what if
this is not the end of our journey? What if we have to continue our journey,
sometimes returning — from Kansas to Ukraine? After all, we are just strangers
and foreigners.
But wherever
we live today, we cannot forget the places from which we came. There we got
faith. And we can bring it there again, share our faith with local people. We
can tell them: “We are not strangers, we are almost relatives.” Our history is
a miracle in itself for our peoples and countries.
As you know,
in Ukraine and in the whole of the Russian Empire, Bretheren Mennonites were
the beginning of a great spiritual awakening. I knew it from my childhood, I
heard from my parents, and I myself was a part of this spiritual heritage.
Today it is
a great honor for me to live among you, learn from you, build relationships and
partnerships.
And I want
to say one simple truth: only cooperation in a mission can revive our
traditions. We can live each in our own world, we can protect our family and
church traditions, but in this way we will not be able to fulfill the Great
Commission.
We can go to
visit each other. We can show each other our museums. But if we do not become
part of something greater, something common, we will not be able to fulfill the
Great Commission. I will not talk about you. I will say self-critically about
us, about our Mission Eurasia: if it is not built in partnerships and is not
part of the mission of God, then it is simply not feasible, then our mission is
just  impossible.
History
teaches us that only in cooperation we may survive and have a good influence. A
little about my family history. My great-grandfather was a communist, he
brought a lot of suffering to other people. But when he repented, he gave
everything to God, even his life. When the Stalinist persecution began, he hid
several pastors at home and fed them. Then he was arrested and executed.
I grew up in
a big and poor family. But every month, dad set aside money to give to the
families of those who suffered for their faith in prison. It was not a sacrifice,
it was a natural, common thing. We took care of someone. Someone took care of
us. Including in the far West.
I remember
how I dreamed of having my own Bible as a child. There was only one Bible in
our house, it was kept as the greatest treasure. Do you know where she was
from? It was printed in London and smuggled into the USSR. I looked through
these thin pages and thought that somewhere behind the iron curtain we have
friends, brothers and sisters. It was an amazing feeling: we are not alone. Why
does someone in London print the Bible in Russian? So they remember us, we have
not forgotten.
Once KGB
officers came to our home with a search to find religious literature. I hid our
Bible under my clothes and ran out into the street. I still remember how I
waited for a long time until everything was over and it would be possible to
return home. I was cold, I was scared, but I knew that I was carrying out an
important mission: I was saving the only Bible.
When I
finally received my own Bible, in fact it was the New Testament, I accepted it
as the most important document, as my heavenly passport. And yes it was printed
abroad by some westerners.
When I
showed my gospel to my friends, they were amazed: “What a thin paper! And
printed abroad! ” I just now understand that the neighbors envied us: these Christians
had friends all over the world, they helped each other like real brothers and
sisters. The Communist Party and the Soviet government built the Iron Curtain,
but the Christians overcame it. Even prison bars could not close us from the
world.
Since then,
I believe in global partnerships. I believe that we are called to show the
world the unity of all Christians in the fulfillment of the Great Commission.
When people who are tired of divisions and conflicts see the cooperation of
Christians, they are surprised and open to faith.
This winter
season we are going to collect and distribute 100,000 gifts for children in
Ukraine, Russia, Moldova, Georgia and some other countries. In addition to
sweets and useful things, they all get their first Bible. When they take up
their gift, they will think: «In this world there is someone who worries
about me …»
How nice to
be this «someone.» How great to be part of God’s mission in this
world. Today we are here to say “yes” to God: yes, we care about partnerships, we
want to be partners in God’s mission. We went our way from Ukraine to Kansas
because He led us. And if He calls us to go from Kansas to Ukraine, we will do
that. And if we cannot go, then we can support those who work there. Have them
give a gift or a Bible from the Mennonites from Kansas.
We have
different countries. We have different churches. But one kingdom. Kingdom of God.
And one mission. Mission of God. And therefore everything that we do for Him,
we do together. And this is called a partnership. Today we celebrate a
partnership in God’s mission. And we thank God for you, your churches, for your
history, for your ministries, for your trust, for your friendship. For the
privilege of being and serving together.

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