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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