My journey to Word of Life Seminary (WOL) in Brazil was an unexpected one. Prior to applying to WOL, I graduated from college with an Architecture and Urbanism degree I had plans for my life, and a degree in theology wasn’t on my horizon or so I thought!
Shortly after graduating from college, the Holy Spirit began working on my heart. I began to sense a strong call from God to study theology. It seemed impossible, so I knew God was going to have to make it happen. I started to fervently pray, and God acted in a mighty way!
He helped me overcome what had seemed like insurmountable obstacles. As God answered my prayers one by one, it confirmed to me that God was leading me to WOL. It made me even more confident I was doing the Lord’s will for my life.
I am now in my second year of studies at WOL, working toward my Master of Theology degree. My desire to work full-time as a Christian educator and leader is within reach!
Your financial investment has been a significant part of God answering my prayers. Thanks to you, I have a scholarship that has made it possible to fulfill God’s calling for my life.
“May God bless you all and continue to use you to bless other students. Thank you very much!”
Recently our Regional Director for Euro-Asia, Taras Dyatlik, shared this devotional with the team at our Indianapolis headquarters. While the context from which he shared is the ongoing conflict in his home of Eastern Ukraine, we pray this message encourages your heart no matter what circumstances you find yourself in.
Philippians 4:6-13 (NIV)
“Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.
I rejoiced greatly in the Lord that at last you renewed your concern for me. Indeed, you were concerned, but you had no opportunity to show it. I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength.”
As I reflect on the essence of theological education, how and why we prepare church leaders in Eastern Ukraine in the midst of conflict between two nations and the hidden conflict between Ukrainian and Russian churches…
It is impossible to assess the real taste of bread, not knowing the state of hunger.
It is impossible to appreciate the taste of cold spring water, not knowing the state of thirst.
It is impossible to appreciate the joy of dawn, not knowing what a nightmare and a sleepless night are.
It is impossible to assess the bliss of rest, without knowing what deadly exhausting labor is.
It is impossible to appreciate the joy of meeting without knowing the sadness of farewell.
It is impossible to know the power of forgiveness, not realizing the depth of the fall.
It is impossible to appreciate the joy of the peace, not realizing the horrors of war.
It is impossible to assess the yearn for life, without looking in the eyes of death.
It is impossible to know the power of unity, not knowing the tragedy of separation.
It is impossible to know the imputed righteousness of Christ without realizing our inability to live righteously without the guidance of the Holy Spirit.
It is impossible to live a godly life in Christ without renouncing ourselves and without allowing Christ to live in us and through us.
It is impossible to know the power of the Cross of Christ and the blood of Christ without taking and carrying our cross, without fighting against sin unto blood.
It is impossible to know the power of prayer without realizing our absolute dependence on Christ.
It is impossible to be the salt of Christ on Earth without realizing the depth of moral decay without Christ.
It is impossible to be the light of Christ in the world without knowing the doom and despair in a sinful darkness without Christ.
When my soul leaves its mortal body, I would like to say with Christ and many saints who have moved to the shores of the Heavens: I will know the joy of the resurrection, through knowing the fear and tremble in the gates of death.
Meet Sergey Konyshev, Sergey Litvinko and their families. Both are pastors and graduates from Minsk Theological Seminar in Belarus, and both are involved in Overseas Council Compassionate Care projects that reach out to orphans in need. Here are their stories:
Sergey Konyshev’s Ministry
My wife, Nadezhda, and I have seven of our own children. Our family has been ministering to orphans since 2002 when we started to visit the Children’s Social Shelter. In the beginning, we supported the children spiritually as well as materially with clothing, shoes, medicines and personal hygiene items.
In 2003 after much prayer and consideration, we accepted two orphans into our family, Maxim and Sergey. Then one year later, a girl named Katia joined our family. Our family began to grow by taking in these children, and we loved participating directly in the lives of orphans. During the time we lived in Belarus, we helped eight children to grow and find their places in life.
Today we have two orphan boys living with our family, Arseny and Evgeny. We also still help Maxim, one of the boys who grew up in our family. Now he is married to Marina, and they have a son named Artem. Marina is also an orphan; her parents passed away when she was 10 years old. Maxim’s father passed away, but his mother doesn’t lead a good life which is why her sons were taken to the children’s shelter. Right now, Maxim has changed jobs, and it is quite a difficult time for his family, so the Overseas Council Compassionate Care funds really helped us support this young family to survive a difficult period in their life.
Your funds are a great blessing from the Lord for our family. Each year, we hold a children’s camp and invite other children from orphanages to take part in it. Your funds made it possible this year.
We continue to support orphans and accept them into our family to help them find their place in life. We do everything we can so that they have opportunity to learn about Jesus Christ and have eternal life. Thank you!
Sergey Litvinko’s Ministry
My wife, Tania, and I have four of our own children, and we also have five orphan brothers living with us. Their father died, and their mother could not care for them because of her way of life. The children are grateful to have the possibility to live within a family.
Our project is called “Warm House.” Orphans come to our house on weekends and school vacations. We spend time with them, help them with their studies, help with their psychological and social adaptation problems, teach them necessary skills for everyday life and attend church together. Once a year, we organize a children’s camp at our house for orphans and other troubled children. Every year, we have about 35 children, and we try to pass on Christian family values to them.
With the support of Overseas Council Compassionate Care funds, we can hold the children’s camp this year. Through our project, many people in our town have learned about our church and received a better understanding of evangelical Christians. We would like to continue this ministry as long as God will give us strength and possibilities.
I treasure being able to have a ministry among Syrian children in refugee camps here in Zahle, Lebanon, as part of Arab Baptist Theological Seminary’s (ABTS) compassionate care ministry. I always heard about the devastating conditions in which the refugees lived but never experienced what it was like. I am very encouraged to see all the children so responsive to our message. My husband and I have also been carrying out home visits and Bible studies with families. Our passion to work with the underprivileged was kindled several years ago.
In 2010, my husband and I left our home country to serve at a discipleship school that prepares individuals for ministry among their people. I was able to serve with my degree as a physiotherapist at a center next to the school. In the afternoons, my husband and I would go out for street evangelism among Muslims.
Throughout our ministry, we felt the need for more knowledge of the Word of God. People around us encouraged us to study theology, and then God led us to ABTS in Lebanon. Coming to Lebanon took a lot of courage and faith, but God has provided for us. Our Overseas Council scholarship has made it possible for both my husband and me to be full-time students. I am in the Master of Divinity program, and my husband is pursuing his Bachelor of Theology degree.
I love to study the Word of God, and the more I get involved in ministry, the more I realize how I need to grow in knowledge of the Word. Studying theology has equipped me with practical tools such as how to prepare a Bible study. I consider these tools very important, since part of my current ministry involves carrying out Bible studies with young women.
In my home country, it is forbidden to share the Gospel with Muslims. God is teaching me everyday to be a living example of His love and faithfulness. I know His light will shine through me to reach others!
Please pray for my husband and me as we seek for God’s continued leading in our ministries. Please also pray for the Syrian refugees, the Muslims and others we are ministering to. Thank you!
*Name and identifiable details have been changed for security purposes.
Please take a minute to leave a word of encouragement for our friends in Lebanon and those humbly serving their communities all around the world.
I was 19 years old when I accepted Jesus as my personal Savior. From that point, I submitted my life to the Lord and within me grew a burning desire to serve the Lord. I entered into full-time ministry 10 years later through my church. I was in charge of some ‘unreached’ villages and responsible for all spiritual aspects of the families of believers living there, as well as going house to house to share the Gospel. During this time, I began to be burdened to concentrate on serving neglected women.
About three years ago, the leadership of my church encouraged me to enter into seminary training at Colombo Theological Seminary (CTS) in Sri Lanka. As I engaged in my studies, that compulsion for neglected women grew stronger. I was going through an intense internal conflict. Although I had been involved in full-time ministry for over 10 years, I had a nagging feeling that I had not really embarked on the specific ministry to which the Lord had called me – ministering to neglected women.
However, through my studies at CTS, I came to the important realization that the Lord uses us for different purposes at different times and that my responsibility was to be faithful in whatever I was doing at any given season. This helped to strengthen my faith, released me from the inner struggle I was undergoing and helped me to continue to faithfully serve in the ministry I was engaged in until the Lord opened a new opportunity for me.
I got married about a year and a half ago, and that’s when a door opened up for this ministry desire on my heart. My husband ministers in a drug rehabilitation center. The center is run by Christians and is open to anyone. At the point when I entered this ministry, there was no initiative in place to minister to the spouses of addicts.
I started ministering to the wives of recovered addicts who serve in the center. By conducting a regular Bible study for them, I have been helping them to grow spiritually. More recently, I have joined the ministry as a full-time worker and minister to the male residents as well. Currently there are 49 male residents in the center with whom I work on a daily basis. In addition, I conduct a weekly Bible study for seven women who are spouses of reformed addicts.
My learning at CTS is of tremendous value as I minister to these men and women through the Word of God, helping them to overcome their challenges by developing their spirituality. The majority of those who come to the center don’t have any knowledge about God. I spend time introducing the concept of God to them and sharing the Gospel. This is an important aspect of helping them overcome their addiction.
By spiritually strengthening the wives of reformed addicts, I am helping to build up a support group for these men who are in danger of falling into their old lifestyle at the slightest temptation. To help these people grow in spiritual strength, I have been teaching them the power of prayer, especially as an important means through which to overcome temptation.
I have recently set up a prayer team. I believe that as they grow stronger in their prayer life, they will grow stronger in overcoming their addictions and in staying away from temptations. However, as many are very recent believers, they are still taking baby steps in this regard.
My hope is to one day set up a fully-fledged rehabilitation center that will focus on ministering to neglected women in society.
After 10 years of going door-to-door sharing the Gospel, I now have the opportunity to daily meet with non-believers who desperately need to hear the Gospel, and many of them, after hearing the Good News, accept Jesus as their Savior.
Since both my husband and I are serving in a faith-based ministry, it would not have been possible for me to continue my education if not for the Overseas Council scholarship. Thank you so much! I will graduate in 2017.
One of the hardest challenges of this ministry is that the addicts backslide over and over again. Please pray for these 49 men that they will have the strength to overcome their temptations.
For the prayer group to successfully negotiate the challenges of the initial stage and grow in strength and dynamism.
Please pray for my physical health. I intermittently experience physical ailments that, at times, keep me from engaging in the ministry work.
The conflict in Eastern Ukraine has severely affected our partner seminary in the contested city of Donetsk. Please pray for Donetsk Christian University (DCU) whose campus was taken over by armed separatists for use as a military base. At present, the seminary is no longer in operation.
Here is a recent message from Oleksii Melnychuk, the DCU president, for your prayers, and then please keep reading for how you can help:
“Since Slavyansk, Kramatorsk and other cities north of Donetsk have been freed from pro-Russian separatists, Donetsk has become the stronghold of the separatist bands of armed soldiers in the region. A group of approximately 2,000 armed soldiers entered the city of Donetsk and have occupied the dormitories of universities, schools and hotels.
On July 9, a group of armed individuals from the separatists pro-Russian group, named ‘Oplot,’ came to DCU and demanded that we vacate the university’s student dormitory for their use. By the end of the day, they brought a written directive from their leader stating that they are taking possession of DCU buildings for temporary use to be given back to DCU when the war ends.
We have been advised that disagreement with their demands will be severely punished. Although DCU leadership explained that the university is a religious organization and that its property should not be used for war purposes, the argument did not help. Staff members and all students have evacuated.”
Our Regional Director for Euro-Asia, Taras Dyatlik, says, “The separatists promised to turn Donetsk into the second Stalingrad, which they have been successfully doing so far unfortunately. Thousands of people are leaving Donetsk every day because of the war. All workers and faculty members had to flee from the campus, leaving most of their belongings at DCU which has one of the best Protestant theological libraries in the former Soviet Union.
These people of DCU who are very dear to my heart really need your prayerful and, if possible, financial support until they find a new place to live and work. It may take a couple months.” DCU is very special to Taras as he spent 11 years there: three years as a student and eight years in various capacities as chief librarian, professor and academic dean.
DCU Needs Your Help
The school is seeking to raise at least $30,000 to help during this displacement time as their income has been seized. Donations can be made via:
Typhoon Haiyan (also known as Yolanda) brought widespread devastation and immense human suffering to thousands of people in the Philippines last November 2013. It was one of the strongest tropical cyclones ever recorded and devastated portions of Southeast Asia, particularly the Philippines, with strong winds, heavy rains, flooding and landslides. It is the deadliest Philippine typhoon on record, killing over 6,300 people there alone. 4.1 million people were displaced and 1.1 million houses were damaged or destroyed in the Philippines.
Our Filipino partner school, the Asian Theological Seminary (ATS), immediately responded by mobilizing trained volunteers to minister using a special kind of counseling (psycho-spiritual support) modeled after Jesus who was fully present, caring and compassionate. This kind of psychological first aid is most important in the immediate aftermath of disaster. Survivors usually experience emotional distress such as anxiety, depression, grief, trauma and other stress-related problems. They needed assistance to cope with the loss of loved ones, property, and most importantly, with the experience of trauma and despair.
Between November 2013 and January 2014, ATS deployed 10 teams consisting of 66 volunteer counselors from the faculty, staff and students. The teams of trained counselors gave primary importance to listening attentively and providing space for people to share their feelings. As a result, over 4,000 people were counseled and ministered to by the team. Here are some of the stories of the people they helped:
Stories of Pain
In between sobs, Rosa* whispered, “Thank you for coming over to listen to me. No one wants to listen here. All are hurting. I can’t believe someone will care to listen to me.”
Rosa, a young 22-year-old mother, was able to save her two children but witnessed how the treacherous sea waters swallowed up her grandparents. They thought they were safe on the roof of her grandparents’ two-story house, but the powerful waves, a rolling cargo van and a ship smashed their abode like a house of cards. She only had two hands to grasp her children and so was not able to protect the two other important people who took care of her in the absence of her parents. The words of her grandparents would forever ring in her head, “Take care of your children!” as she helplessly watched the waters engulf them.
After the typhoon, Neneng* finally found the courage to go back home but found her mother dead. “When will the grieving stop?” she wept. She blamed her aged father for not being able to save her mother. With anguish in heart, she resented that only her father remained alive. She then uttered, “We were too busy looking out for our children, we didn’t know who to save first,” pointing to her kids playing.
Stories of Hope
Someone said, “Here! They’re alive!” Gemma*, with heart pounding, immediately ran and found her family. Somehow they found their way atop a floating refrigerator through the ceiling vent, crawling on roof beams towards other houses on higher ground until Yolanda subsided.
Twelve-year-old Mina* held on amidst the storm surge while witnessing her father being hit by a metal roof sheet. Afraid for her own survival, she was more terrified not to see her father again.
When the storm subsided and seeing her father alive and the rest of the family survive the horrific experience, Mina managed to hope and look at the brighter side of life. “There’s no need to blame anyone. We just have to learn from it,” she said.
These stories of pain, hope and survival are among countless others in the devastated areas of Typhoon Haiyan. ATS’ unique counseling played a crucial role in working through people’s psychological, emotional and spiritual distress, instilling faith and hope in an otherwise dismal situation. In the midst of wrecked houses, wounded hearts and broken spirits, the volunteer counselors provided this ministry to the marginalized survivors of the typhoon, resulting in strengthened inner beings, hopeful outlooks and enriched lives.