Training While We Can
This morning I was thinking about the work of the BVBID extension program and took a few minutes to look at a large map of the world I have on my office wall. As I glanced at the various locations of our 16 extension schools, I couldn’t help but notice the strategic location of our extension school in Gorlovka, Ukraine (BVBIU). It is right in the middle of two of the most influential regions of the world—Europe and Russia! In fact, culturally and politically Ukraine is in a tug-of-war between the opposing forces of two of the most powerful influences on this earth. And right there in the mix is the Lord’s church.
Ukraine – a strategic location for the spread of the gospel of Christ into Europe and Russia.
In the Oct. 31st, 2011 issue of STRATFOR entitled: “Russia: Rebuilding an Empire While it Can”, Lauren Goodrich observes that expansion of its borders (empire-building) has historically been Russia’s means of securing itself due to a lack of natural borders like that of other major world powers. Goodrich further states that the recent actions of Prime Minister Vladimir Putin to seek a return to the presidency in 2012 are intended to “formalize [Russia’s] relationship with former Soviet states by creating a Eurasia Union (EuU)”.
Political jockeying between the United States and Russia will come to a showdown in 2015 when the Kremlin plans to have the EuU fully formed, according to Goodrich. Combining a new version of the Russian empire with undistracted U.S. influence with former Soviet states, he believes, will lead to a new version of the Cold War—but short-lived. This explains another reason for Putin’s actions. Goodrich cites deteriorating demographics for Putin’s push for re-establishing a Russian empire. With a much higher death-rate than birth-rate and a losing battle against drugs (Russia is the world’s leading consumer of heroine, with 2.5 million drug addicts, according to the Russian Health Ministry), Putin is trying to strengthen and secure Russia before its demographics weaken it; since, as Goodrich says, “no country can be a global power without people”.
While there are obvious differences in the two countries, there are also many similarities between what is happening in Russia and in Ukraine—especially eastern Ukraine. In a previous issue of the Ferguson Report, I stated my concern of young people leaving Ukraine by the droves for the “greener pastures” of the west because of deplorable social and economic conditions. While one cannot necessarily blame them, this only exacerbates the demographic troubles shared also by Russia. Drug addiction, alcoholism, and a general break-down of the family are also a very common reality in Ukraine. In addition, with the last Ukrainian presidential election in 2010, a pro-Russian president, Viktor Yanukovych (from the eastern oblast of Donetsk), was sworn into office.
If I can move from my political analysis to a more spiritual analysis of the situation; I would have to make this conclusion: whatever happens in the next generation to Russia will greatly affect Ukraine. For the last few years, American teachers we have sent to teach in BVBIU have experienced practically no difficulty at all entering and working in Ukraine. I have heard the horror stories of those who came previously, but those days are past. At the present time, we are teaching students with no restrictions as to the content of our curriculum. New Testament Christianity is for-all-practical-purposes unshackled in the places we go to teach and preach. But I think we are naïve to think that it will always be so.
Those old enough to remember only have to think back at the time when it was illegal to own a Bible in the former Soviet Union. We may never know the suffering people experienced who were found to own a copy, or to dare profess faith in Jesus Christ. When the USSR dissolved, the people were starving to get their hands on God’s Book—formerly considered contraband. When news got out that the “iron curtain” had fallen, there was rejoicing that finally God’s word was no longer barred in those countries. Christian individuals and even families made decisions to become missionaries to these countries. Hundreds were baptized, and churches were established.
But as the newness of God’s “good news” became more common and easier to access, the reception also became less frequent. It is at this point that I am the most concerned. First, I am concerned that fewer people have the healthy spiritual hunger and thirst of former days. But secondly, I am concerned that some of my own brethren who are too-often geared toward “visual results” will be too short-sighted to see the benefit of long-term mission efforts. Throwing-in-the-towel at such a critical period of Euro-Russian history would be, in my opinion, nothing short of spiritual negligence. Whatever direction Ukraine goes (nobody really knows), there is one thing for sure: the churches of Christ can survive regardless of what political direction the country goes. BVBIU simply must continue to exert its influence of sound Biblical teaching and training to faithful men and women (2 Tim. 2:2).
As I look toward the map on my wall, I see the only preacher-training school we of the Bear Valley Bible Institute have in Europe or in any other place in that part of the world. Two of the greatest influences in the world—Europe and Russia—teetering on what may very well become an earth-shaking event of seismic proportions—and BVBIU is poised smack dab in the middle! If we don’t hear God knocking on our door loudly, I don’t know how else He could get our attention. “‘These things says He who is holy, He who is true, “He who has the key of David, He who opens and no one shuts, and shuts and no one opens: I know your works. See, I have set before you an open door, and no one can shut it; for you have a little strength, have kept My word, and have not denied My name’” (Rev. 3:7-8).
Undoubtedly, Satan has attacked our efforts with indifference in receptivity. That is to be expected (cf. 1 Cor. 1:26-31). But the door is open—God has opened it; we have a little strength. May we not lose faith in our purpose to keep teaching as He rules in the shakable kingdoms of men (cf. Heb. 12:25-29).
In last month’s report, I indicated that BVBIU had lost some of its financial support. I have been diligently trying to re-coop that lost amount by recruiting new supporters and encouraging existing supporters. It is my conviction that to a very large degree, the future spiritual direction of Ukraine as well as much of Europe and Russia rests in the hands of those of us who support BVBIU. Brethren, no one else is doing what we do best! Can you help? Howell