by: Natalia Smirnova

5 March 2018

Mission is one of the key areas in the development of the United Methodist Church in Eurasia. We have been repairing church buildings, organizing summer activities for Roma children and people with disabilities, initiating Christian motocross for bikers and assisting in ministry to HIV-infected children in South Africa.

You can become a missionary at any age. It is especially joyful when young people begin to prepare themselves for such hard ministry. The festival “When God Calls …” was created to help them understand their vocation, discover gifts and talents.

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The participants did not only listen to the lectures delivered by experienced missionaries, the area bishop and DSs and the reflections of the members of the youth council, but also learned to serve other people.

During these five days young people received information about the projects in which volunteer help is needed. They could choose the one they like and plan the upcoming event together with the organizers. Young potential volunteers worked out the program and the budget of each mission themselves, tried to find new sources of funding, created designs for printed materials for fundraising.

During the lessons the mentors shared their experience, told about the heroes of faith who brought Methodism to Eurasia and managed to save the community during the times of Soviet repression at the cost of huge deprivations. The son of Ivan Vuksta – one of those amazing people – also serves as a pastor of the UMC in Ukraine today.

It became obvious at the festival that “dynasties” of ministers were gradually being formed in our churches. Some of the young missionaries were pastors’ children. We could recognize the features of their parents in them. The age of the participants is significantly younger this time. Almost half of the children were under the age of 20. I’m sure it will take several years and they will turn into strong and brave leaders who will be able to serve humbly to all who need it.

Useful information is given, and practical skills of missionary activity are developed at such events. But it is not the only important thing. This is the time when new acquaintances are being made and personal relationships are being established. We meet people who may soon become a part of our team and we learn how to work as a single mechanism.

And let it happen through the game when you solve a labyrinth or have to move in a line all wrapped in toilet paper and trying not to tear it apart, but at this moment each of the participants is learning very important things such as responsiveness and mutual understanding, patience and perseverance, leadership qualities and the ability to think about the needs of other people in a state of high emotional stress.

There is a good tradition at the festival to organize a concert where the young people can show their talents. When the lights out, the participants did not want to leave for their rooms – they talked, played table games and had tea.

Everyone went home but it’s not the end of the project. The work on missionary projects of 2018 continues over the Internet uniting various parts of Eurasia. I read the messages in our chats in WhatsApp and enjoy the innovative ideas given by the festival participants and I pray that the Lord will continue to shape their character – the character of a missionary.

Natalya Smirnova
Video & photo: Alexander Gorodilovskiy
Translate by E. Chudinova