They were on the train from Frankfurt to the airport. Noemi and I took seats opposite them. A dog and his master. Sitting on the floor beneath his master, the dog looked warily out at us. Always ready to strike up a conversation, we asked “What’s his name?” “Tyson.” Responding, “My name is Arlie and this is Noemi,” I said. “My name is Mustafa, he replied with a smile. We discovered that the continual brutality of Afghan violence had driven Mustafa as a refugee from Kabul to Germany five years ago. A well known Afghan musician, he left everything and everyone behind to escape the death and destruction ravaging his home country.
“My parents are still in Afghanistan and do not want to leave. I came here looking for peace.”
“We are Jesus followers,”I responded. “He taught that God wants to bring peace to all people, including those in Afghanistan.” Mustafa said, “Our people have had enough of religion.” More was discussed along this line. But before long, we arrived at the airport and left the train, Mustafa, and Tyson.
What a contrast. The day had dawned with such promise. Ecclesia, a new church community of Moldovan sportspeople, was been born. Twenty-six young people, some still deciding who Jesus is, and others in various stages of their own walk with God savored the aroma of fellowship and family in Chisinau. Many of them had been in our home earlier in the month, learning the grand story of the Bible. All are experiencing the joy and safety of being with others in the ultimate refuge center, the Church.
Mustafa and Ecclesia provided us with a poignant reminder of why we do what we do.
Stories from Ukraine, Czech Republic, Belarus, Moldova, & USA
Disciple Daily exists to train Jesus followers to tell the big story of God,
one story at a time to those who have never heard the Good News.
The demonstration of a believer’s love for Jesus must lead to tangibly loving one another. This love for one another is the most powerful argument that can be made for the Good News of Messiah Jesus.A believer’s only interest should be to make Jesus known through loving others. With that as a foundation, Jesus followers are free to identify and partner with other followers of the Way, crossing institutional, denominational, and geographic borders.
As the summer draws to a close, here is a sample of what Jesus has been up to through our small part of His Church.
Ukraine Partnering with Andrii Petrenko, we conducted a week-long story training in Kiev for coaches and ministry leaders at Ukraine Christian Sport Academy. During the morning, we gathered around a table to learn strategies for using the story of the Bible to playing fields, family meetings, and the marketplaces of ideas. Each afternoon featured a camp for young soccer players and their friends. The camp provided opportunities for those training together to get practical experience in Bible storytelling. Following our time at UCSA, we traveled to Shostka, Andrii’s hometown. There, two soccer practices a day were conducted with players Andrii had coached previously. The evenings found us in his childhood home where we were hosted by Igor and Tatyana, Andrii’s parents. Hospitality is a cultural trademark of Eurasia. After supper, players and parents joined us for dessert and Bible discussions.
Czech Republic Matt and Trish Taylor are tent-making missionaries. Two years ago, they sold almost everything they owned, secured work, and moved to Prague. On our way to conferences in Belarus and Moldova with Rick and Diana Lowe (Shepherds’ Support) and Will Schraven from Florida, we invested two days in this precious couple. It was clearly a God-ordained time for encouraging building them up. Two days after we left them, news that Matt’s employer had declared bankruptcy and closed their doors reached us. God has woven the Taylors into the lives of many people. Please pray for clear direction from the Lord for their next steps.
Shepherds’ Support Conferences Ministry couples that are committed to the expansion of the Kingdom of God are under continually under attack on many levels. Shepherds’ Support, led by Rick & Diana Lowe, conducts conferences around the world to encourage, equip, and refresh their marriages. Shepherds’ Support and Disciple Daily have many common friends across Eurasia. It is only natural that we would collaborate together to care for our brothers and sisters living in the countries of the old Soviet Union.
Belarus Green Ranch is a developing conference and training center just outside of Minsk, the capital of Belarus. Pastor Nicolae and his wife Luba have served the Church in Belarus for over 60 years. They have endured hardship and persecution. They know how hard it is for couples to lead rural church communities. Green Ranch’s existence is a miracle, the product of Nic and Luba’s persistent prayer to our Mighty King! Pastoral couples were invited to Green Ranch to be loved on and served by our American and Belarusian team.Most of these pastors have jobs to meet the personal needs of their family. Their churches cannot support them. Due to the stress of this environment, a number of couples had contemplated leaving their churches. Many of these precious saints had never been alone together, away from their children or church in their entire lives.The morning and early afternoon featured teaching and training about how to balance ministry and marriage. The afternoon and evenings were intentionally left open to relax as couples, build supportive relationships with others, and reacquire perspective in their own lives. How sweet it was to observe couples walking hand-in-hand to meals and activities, to listen to them worship, and play with them.The home of one of the couples burned down just days before the conference. One night, sharing around the campfire, our hearts broke for them as they wept openly. He spoke about identifying with Job. By the time they left for home, an offering had been taken up to help them rebuild. The smiles on their faces when we parted will stay with us for a lifetime. God is good, all the time.
Immediately following the conference in Belarus, our team flew to Chisinau, the capital of Moldova. A second conference was conducted for ministry couples at a Christian retreat center in Vadul lui Voda.Sasha and Masha are sport ministry influencers across Eurasia. They have experienced first hand the pressures on the marriages of people dedicated to making disciples of Jesus Christ. Ministry life takes a toll on marriages and families. Sharing their dream for a couples training conference with their pastor and his wife (Vitali and Christina), the two couples began to pray and plan. Together, their contacts span churches and para-church ministries throughout Moldova.The content of this conference was similar to the previous. The audience, however, was a bit different, with a number of young couples in attendance. One had only been married for two months. Another, a little over a year. On the other end of the spectrum was a couple who had been married almost fifty years.Each day had a theme. What a delight to observe husbands and wives engage in animated discussions about Creation – the Race Begins, Adam and Eve – the Race Has a Plan, Fall – the Race Has an Enemy, and Jesus – the Race Is Already Won. Our oral Bible discovery storytelling method was used to set the stage for the other trainers throughout the day, framing healthy marriages as God’s primary vehicle for reaching a lost and broken world with the Good News available to all.For several years, Disciple Daily has partnered with the Admiral’s Academy led by Nick and Uliana Morari. Based in Chisinau, the academy uses team basketball to introduce players and their families to Jesus Christ and show them what following Him (discipleship) looks like. We have watched two of their coaches follow Jesus with all of their being. A year ago, they organized Ecclesia, a small group of sportspeople meeting regularly to discuss the Bible and encourage one another. On Sunday morning, August 18th, Ecclesia took the next step. Twenty-six people came together as a new church community. Unabashed worship, prayer, a devotional lesson on priorities, and a look at Acts 2, the birth of THE CHURCH. Three people explained their intent to be baptized in September and declare themselves publicly to family and friends as a disciple of Messiah Jesus.
Now we are home, catching our breath and attending to the ministry God has entrusted to us here in San Antonio. Weekly meetings with disciples, teaching at Grace House and the Carpenters Class, and planning for the next season are all on the table. Please stay tuned for details about what is around the corner.
We are so grateful for those of you who partner with us with your time, talent, and treasure.
Arlie & Noemi Francis Ezra 7:10 – Study, Practice, Teach