Over the last several years, I have had the privilege of traveling quite a bit. The purpose has been to introduce some of Jesus’s disciples around the world to our Stories of God disciple making strategy. The people I am working with have yielded their lives to the Holy Spirit’s empowerment to create disciple making movements where they live work and play.
A disciple-making movement is a self-replicating group of disciples of Jesus Christ that extends to at least fourth spiritual generation. This model is based on 2 Timothy 2:2.
Paul discipled Timothy. Timothy identified faithful men to disciple based on their commitment to disciple others. Admiral’s Academy I have just returned from a sixteen day trip to Moldova. The first couple of days were invested in the lives of Nick and Uliana Morari. The Moraris live in Chisinau, the capital. We first met Nick through Wayside Chapel, our home church. A partnership has since been forged between Disciple Daily and the Admirals Academy, the basketball ministry they founded five years ago.
The activities run by the Admirals Academy provide something far more important than keeping kids busy and out of trouble in Europe’s poorest country. They coach basketball excellence. Practices are intense. Coaches demand that players pay attention, follow instructions, and work hard. They are not running pickup games. They are not babysitting. Their process is very intentional. Practical life skills requiring desire and discipline are learned by players on the court and taken home to their families. Through the respect they earn as excellent coaches who are interested in their players, the Admirals use team basketball to build court communities that create followers of Jesus.
Coaches care for their players. When asked important questions about life beyond the court, the Admirals are learning how to direct their players to eternally focused answers. They are winning boys, girls and their parents to new life in Messiah Jesus. Two weeks ago, as part of a joint project between our own Department of State and the Basketball Federation of Moldova, the Admirals Academy conducted a week of basketball camps open to players from all around Chisinau. Through this program the Admirals made national news!
Disciple Daily is equipping the coaches of the Admirals Academy to use the grand story of the Bible with their
teams. The tip of the spear in this endeavor is Eugene Postolake. I disciple Eugene via Skype. He was responsible for planning and executing the camps mentioned above. The first three stories of our Stories of God collection were introduced to the players who attended the camps. I couldn’t be prouder of the job Eugene did. Over the next year, Eugene will be training the Admirals Elites, a semi-professional team made up of the Admirals coaches, to use the entire series of our collection with their own teams.
Five young men, all part of the Admiral’s Elite team, live in the Morari basement apartment. They are being discipled by Nick. This is how Eugene Postolake and Eugene Pogorelov were equipped for their own ministries within the Admirals and throughout the broader Church across Eurasia. When I asked them to identify their wildest hopes for the Admirals in the next five years Nick and Uliana had a ready response. “We are asking God to give us thirty godly coaches just like the Eugenes to lead this ministry.” This is why Disciple Daily is investing in the lives of those associated with the Admirals Academy.
Eurasian Sports Leadership School The Morari home is a way station, a beehive of Kingdom activity. Whenever I am in Moldova, I spend several nights in the Morari home. Discussing the generous hospitality they always exhibit, Nick and Uliana commented “It’s what we do. It’s who we are.” Waking up to my second day of this trip, I discovered that three people had arrived during the middle of the night. All are part of a leadership team that will spend the next month equipping eighteen Jesus followers from across Eurasia to do sports ministry like the Moraris. These leaders represent a region-wide network that uses all kinds of sports and games to disciple the people of Eurasia towards saving faith and reproductive lifestyles. Andriy Petrenko leads this team. As I came downstairs for some coffee, there he was sleeping on the couch.
I am constantly amazed at the way God weaves the lives of seemingly random relational connections into tapestries that proclaim His glory throughout the world. During a support raising trip through Texas, Nick Morari introduced me to Andriy about five years ago. He is an ex-professional soccer player from Shostka, Ukraine. Now, as a coach, Andriy’s teams play with the same goal as the Moraris. Andriy uses team soccer to disciple players and families towards faith in Jesus and disciple-making lifestyles of their own.
For the last two years, I have been invited by Andriy and his team to teach at the Eurasian Sports Leadership School. This year’s students, eighteen in all, represented five nations. They coach soccer, basketball, tae-kwon-do, ultimate frisbee, table-tennis, family games, and chess. This incredible team has a saying. “We are all born to play!” People around the world are recognizing how effective play of all types can be used as a platform for building the Body of Messiah Jesus, the Church.
Think about this for a minute. The countries of Eurasia were once a part of the Soviet Union. Followers of Jesus were harshly persecuted for sharing their faith. Many were imprisoned. Once the Soviet Union fell apart, Gospel activity increased significantly. Last year, however, Vladimir Putin enacted laws that made open Gospel proclamation a crime once again. Severe restrictions have been placed on the Church. The Russian government has pointed to Islamic terrorism as the reason for the new laws restricting religious freedom. Nonetheless, Christian workers are now being forced to leave the country or face large fines and/or imprisonment if the laws are ignored. As a state sanctioned institution, the Russian Orthodox Church is exempt from these laws. Now, other Eurasian countries are enacting laws based on the ones Putin has enacted.
So, how does the work of Disciple Daily figure into Kingdom work in this complex region? Everybody plays games of some kind. Our Creator made us this way. Keith Myer, the director of T Bar M camps, accompanied me on the first part of this trip. He has a saying. “Don’t waste fun!” Think about it. All you need for this type of ministry is a place to play, a few simple games, and a strategy to build a spiritual community among those who come together to have some serious fun. Sports and the Stories of God go hand in hand. Doesn’t it make sense that games and sports can be a vehicle for declaring God’s glory to everywhere to everyone?
Other News For some time now, people have been asking for videos of me telling all twelve of our foundation stories. Last year, a young lady from Chisinau created videos of Russian speakers telling the Stories of God. Jenechka Ianac did such a fantastic job that I asked her to do this work for us. She is meticulous in the details, has a servant’s heart, and is a lot of fun to work with. These videos will be posted soon on a new website we are building.
Many of you have supported this work financially and with your prayers. None of what was accomplished on this recent trip would have been possible without your generosity.