Monday, June 2, 2008

Investments in a Movement - YMInsights Series

I'm currently getting ready to head out for another whirlwind teaching tour with YMI. In a few days I'll be heading to Florida, Malaysia and then North Carolina and as I'm getting ready with my notes, videos, illustrations and other techniques that I use to communicate I keep thinking of one word that sums up what my ministry is all about...Investments.

Investments, not monetarily but spiritually. Investments into the young men and young woman who have a desire to reach the next generation for the cause of Christ through local church Youth Ministry in their particular country and their unique culture.

As I was getting ready, I was perusing through some of my old updates and came across this one from my journal when I was in Ukraine. It really puts the investment idea into perspective, because it's not just about me and YMI doing the it's about all of us partnering together in the various ways that God calls us to invest in His kingdom that is making the difference...

Journal Post - Kiev, Ukraine January 2008

I checked in to my room at the seminary today, and got settled in. It’s such a blessing to have a comfortable place to stay with access to the Internet right in my room! As I sat in my room and checked e-mail I was reminded that I have this opportunity to update my friends on what God is doing in part because of the efforts of many of you who are reading this blog right now!
You see, several years ago a group from my former church followed God’s lead to gain the donation of some servers from IBM, to bring to Kiev to help assist one of our missionaries who was serving here. I remember lots of prayer went into that trip and I remember rejoicing with the team members with how God completely blessed the delivery and set up of the equipment that really helped to enable KTS and that missionary to give the seminary students an opportunity to learn and grow (in a twenty first century way!) Well, now I sit here several years later with the tools needed to help the YMI story be told…That’s Awesome to me!

So I want to say thank you to those pioneers (you know who you are, and I don’t want to leave anyone out so I won’t name specific people) for your investments into the ministry here at KTS it’s being used for God’s glory, just like you hoped it would. Check out the
KTS web site

• After settling in I met with the lady who will serve as my Interpreter for the class. Her name is Natasha and she and her husband Sergei both work as interpreters here at KTS. We spent some time getting to know each other, and work out specific words that we’ll need to use to communicate clearly to the students. One of the things that is fun but can be frustrating for me and for the interpreter is translating words and concepts from Russian to English and back again. I’m continually amazed (and jealous) of people who have this ability, I mean I can barely understand the way people who live in different regions of the US talk let alone interpret a whole different language…it’s a gift that I really appreciate!

Anyway as we were talking I found out that she was at KCU which is where the Pastor that we ministered with the first time I came to Kiev teaches. So I asked her if she knew Pastor Volodymyr and she said with a hint of sarcasm “there are many Volodymyr’s in Ukraine”, to which I said “this one was a famous Russian rock star in the 80’s”. Her face lit up and she said “oh, of course Pastor Volodymyr!” and she went on to tell me all about him and how great his ministry is doing.

It was incredible for me to listen to her talk about how he’s using his gifts (music especially) to spread God’s love all across Ukraine. As she talked my mind again went back to the investments that were made by praying people in the US (many from my former church) who gave sacrificially so that missions teams could help provide tools (guitar, drums, sound equipment to name a few) for his ministry to reach the people of Ukraine with the gospel.

Pastor V has an amazing gift of music that he put on the shelf when he became a Christian, because the church leaders told him that music with instruments was not accepted in the church. Some people from our church found out about that and raised some money to buy him a guitar and he began using his gift again (after about 10 years of silence)…and the rest is History…his church is growing and he is using his God given gifts and abilities…talk about a win-win!

When our team in 2004 was getting ready to come to Ukraine one of my youth leaders who couldn't’t come on the trip but felt that God wanted him involved in a very creative way, said to me “I would like to make an investment for the kingdom through your team, here is what I believe God wants me to do”…”here is $315” There were 9 of us on the team and he wanted me to give each team member $35 to invest in a person or a ministry or whatever God was leading them to do that would help the Kingdom of God expand (it was kind like “Pay it Forward” if you ever saw that movie)…

Anyway, each of us prayed about how God would have us use this money to make an investment, and I must say it was pretty difficult to narrow it down because there were so many needs…At the end of the week though a couple team members and I sensed God leading us to pool our money together and purchase some studio time so that Pastor V could make a CD of his music to be used to bless others, and that’s exactly what we did…What a blessing it was to give him the money and explain why we did and what we were trusting God to do through him.

So for me to hear Natasha talk about how his ministry is growing and how he’s using his gifts and his CD...WOW! So to that particular youth leader (and I know you're reading this, because you're still such an incredible encouragement to me), who was tuned in to God’s voice and made an investment in the kingdom 4 years ago…Guess what…It’s working!!

Amazing things are happening in is an excerpt from an e-mail I received recently from Mike Manna, YMI's Eurasia Director in Kiev, Ukraine outlining just a few of the things that are happening because of the investments being made in there...FYI, an Oblast is like a county in the US, there are 26 of when a Youth Pastor is an Oblast leader it means he is a Pastor of Pastors...What makes YMI unique in the world of Youth Ministry training is that we focus on training the trainer with a formal Bachelors or Masters degree in Youth Ministry...Multiplication of Leadership!

1. As you know, four of our students graduated from our program again this year. A fifth student who was slated for graduation will need to wait until next year due to lack of credits. I have put a graduation video link and pictures on our website at The graduates this year were: Radik Tsurkan - Poltava, Ukraine; Vasya Ostriy - Rivne, Ukraine; Ivan Lenko - Uzhgorod, Ukraine; Vladimir Tkachenko - Berdychiv, Ukraine.

2. We met with the Kremenchyk Bible College president and Radik Tsurkan, our recent graduate, about partering w
ith them to start another Youth Ministry degree program there. This college is actually better set up than Rivne to start this program and had a youth ministry program in the past. They have 3 SEND missionaries there at the college as well. The president was very open and excited - he has a good relationship with Anatoly, our president. He knows Radik well and approves of him. They will probably start by teaching a course in youth ministry next year and then a full fledged program in 2009. It is not official that the CYM is started here yet, but I am sure it will. This will be our Central Ukraine CYM. I will have Radik come and team teach with me a course at KTS this fall. I also plan on doing this with Vasya. Remember, Radik is the oblast youth leader.

3. Dennis Shulga, one of the guys you met in Israel, had the grilling of his life in front of 21 Kiev pastors for ordination as a pastor. He was ordained as a deacon a year ago, and now this is the final step. Dennis stopped in our apartment after meeting with these pastors. Dennis specifically asked to ordained as a "Youth Pastor" and not as a "Pastor." I know we don't do this in the states, but he wanted to do this. Vlad Kosobovsky then asked him to consider leadership position with the Kyiv oblast. They approved him for ordination. He will be our second student ordained as pastor.

4. Vasya Ostriy was given a national position of leadership with the Baptist Union in Ukraine. The Baptist Union has recently formed a new leadership group/committee to oversee "Teenager Ministry" in Ukraine. This is going to be underneath "Youth Ministry," but its focus is to increase ministry to those who are 12-17 years old in the church (and outside the church). As you know, youth ministry in Ukraine focuses on 17-25 year olds. This is great news and Vasya is part of the 5 people in leadership for the country. Specifically, he is the person responsible for the "Education of Teenage Ministry Workers." What a great title for one of our graduates! They are calling this a "Teenage Ministry Movement."

So as I continue to prepare for the upcoming teaching opportunities, it is with the hope and prayer that the movement for Christ that is happening in Ukraine because of the investments of God's people will keep on happening in Malaysia, Cuba, Mexico, Kenya, France and hopefully very soon in Nepal, Ecuador, India, China and beyond. God is moving and using YMI and our faithfully passionate Youth Ministry Professors to make investments into the lives of the next generation of Global Youth Leaders.

Thanks for your in a movement of life change and Kingdom Expansion!

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