Eurasia… Boundless Opportunities
1 Mar 2007
It was a warm, sun-swept day on the island. As I hung the bag on the quaint blue gate, a woman emerged from the cottage looking irate. This was my third day handing out Bible bags, so her appearance neither frightened me nor took me by surprise.
‘Ena thoraki’ (this is a gift). I offered the words that had become so familiar to me. She ignored them and motioned me to follow her, which did surprise me. I obeyed, now a little afraid of what might ensue, but enticed nevertheless by my curiosity.
She brought me to the house of an Orthodox theologian and summoned him. He greeted me with a warm smile that I returned. I was surprised to hear his near fluent English. He introduced himself as Costas and invited me in.
In the conversation that followed we voiced our different beliefs about Marian devotion, I Timothy 2:4, and icons. He steered our conversation to Mount Athos, a peninsula in Northern Greece inhabited by monks. Then I opened the book of Romans, and we started studying the train of Paul’s argument in it.
We’d been working for weeks in preparation to distribute 30,000 packets containing a Greek New Testament, the Jesus film on DVD, and some Gospel portion tracts to homes in the Paxoi region of Greece. In a country only 0.4% evangelical, we knew there’d be challenges, but also opportunities to share the Bible’s news of grace through Jesus. That is often the case in the milieu of postmodernism in many areas of EurAsia. Let me share with you some of the exciting things happening in this region of the world.
South Central Europe
Pioneers presently has seven teams working in this area – in Bosnia, Montenegro, Serbia, Croatia and Slovenia. The work of the Central Bosnia Team has included ESL, ‘Peace Crafts’, and a lot of relational evangelism and discipleship. Through these efforts God has established a church in Zenica, through which Pioneers is now working to plant another church.
Currently, other church plants are taking place in Croatia and Serbia. Opposition from the Orthodox Church is increasing.
The Pioneers teams in other countries are working at ESL, relationship building, business as mission endeavours, discipleship, Bible teaching, Bible translation, developing resources for local Christian leadership, and are also involved in church planting.
During the coming year we hope to see at least two and possibly three new teams in the area, including one to the over half a million people of the Sandjak region, where there is only a handful of known believers.
South West Europe
A 1960 poll in France indicated that 77 percent of the population believed in God. By 2005 that figure had fallen to 52 percent. More strikingly however, of those who believe in God, only seven percent believe in a God that can be ‘known’ rather than a ‘force’ or ‘higher power.’ Also, Islam is on the rise, with the number of adherents in France quadrupling since 1996. These figures are typical for Spain, Italy and Portugal as well.
God is calling people to Eurasia to serve His purposes. The Word is being preached, people are turning to Him, small churches are being planted and the Kingdom is growing.
In the Pioneers world, Matt and Kiri are assisting the Portuguese Bible Institute (PBI) in training pastors in Lisbon, and in the countryside training lay people and church planters onsite. Andrew and Leana are reaching out with the Good News on the northern coast of Spain. Christophe and Mel are beginning a ministry to surfers in Biarritz, France in partnership with Christian Surfers International.
How can we get the glory of Christ back into Europe’s headlines, lest the Good News increasingly become but a part of a distant and fading history? Who will take the Good News to South West Europe, incarnating the Gospel of Christ in these countries.
Like the famous trans-Siberian railway, Pioneers team locations in Russia stretch from St. Petersburg and Moscow in the west across Siberia all the way to Vladivostok on the Pacific Ocean. The vast expanse of Russia covers 11 time zones, and is home to many diverse people groups.
Outreach in Russia requires a commitment to working in deep relationship with Russian speakers. In partnership with national churches our teams are crossing societal and cultural boundaries, – taking the news of Jesus Christ to ethnic and marginalized people groups where it has never yet penetrated.
According to Joshua Project research, the Russian Federation is home to 73 of the world’s ‘least reached’ ethno-linguistic groups. Among these are the indigenous people groups of Northwestern and Southern Siberia. Historically, the Asiatic peoples of Siberia have only known of the Christian faith in the context of Russian culture and language. Pioneers teams in this region are focusing on scripture translation and contextualisation of the Gospel message.
As well, there are societally marginalised peoples in Russia; street children, the physically handicapped, and families affected by HIV-AIDS. In partnership with national churches, Pioneers workers are carrying the Gospel of hope and eternal life to these forgotten peoples.
Eastern Central Europe
Beginning with Lithuania in the north to Greece in the south, this swath of nations is comprised primarily of former Soviet block countries that still suffer from the effects of communism. The traditional religions of Roman Catholicism, Orthodoxy, and Islam (in Kosovo) retain their places as part of the cultural identities of these nations, though their relevance in the daily lives of the people is minimal. The spiritual vacuum of decades of atheistic communism has left the average person sceptical of any spiritual reality. As these nations have opened their doors to western nations ready to exploit them as new commercial markets, consumerism is vying to become the new religion of these who have viewed western prosperity from afar.
But God is at work. Patient sowing of the seed of the Gospel by Pioneers teams is leading many to meet Jesus. Cell groups and infant house churches are being formed step by step. Young people in particular, disillusioned by dysfunctional political systems, nominal religion and consumerism alike, are open to a fresh examination of the claims of Christ, particularly as life in Christ is demonstrated by the day-in and day-out sacrificial love of cross cultural workers living among them.
More labourers are needed! We would like to see several new teams established in the coming year. A team for Greece is high on the priority list – a team to follow in the footsteps of the Apostle Paul, who stood on Mars Hill declaring that God has revealed himself to mankind. Two EDGE teams are planned for this year.
There is a harvest for those with a heart for evangelism and church planting; those who are willing to give themselves to the hard work of reaching out and discipling a vibrant new body of Christ in Eurasia. Throughout the Areas of Eurasia opportunities abound with Pioneers for those with a passion to make Jesus known, be that in ESL, evangelism through relationship building, church planting, business as mission or via many other skills and gifts that can be used to share the Good News and demonstrate God’s love. Will you join us?
- Pray that a group of MBB’s would be meeting in Visoko in the near future
- Pray for a team for Greece
- Pray for God to open hearts in ex-Soviet block countries and more team members for the present and projected outreaches
- Pray for teams for outreach to Basque people in both Spain and France
- Pray for teams for outreach to unreached ethno-linguistic groups in southern Russia and Siberia
by a Short Term worker in Greece and the Four Area Leaders of Pioneers Eurasia