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On the Road to Faith

A challenging question at English camp
“I think most people here don’t believe I’m a Christian. What do you think?” The question came from Kostya, a young professional in his 20s who was attending our five-day English camp this summer. His raised eyebrows and intent stare revealed that he wanted an honest answer, not spin. The six others seated at the table with us, their attention glued to me, wondered how I would answer him.

Kostya’s question revealed a common misunderstanding: just as an American living in the Bible belt might claim Christianity (not based on sincere faith, but on locale and traditions), many Ukrainians think they’re Christians because Ukraine is culturally Russian Orthodox—even though the average Ukrainian may have never opened a Bible, never prayed, and most importantly, never repented and given control of their life to Jesus.

For the last three days we’d been sleeping in tents, eating all of our meals together, having lessons, playing games, and discussing what the Bible says about making big decisions in life. Living in that kind of close proximity gave us a chance to see one another’s character more clearly. For the last hour I had addressed the entire group, about 35 people, and explained how God’s Spirit reveals our self-centered motivations and sinful nature, and how because of that, faith in a perfectly sinless, righteous Messiah—Jesus Christ—was the only way for us to stand before a Holy God. I also explained that being a “follower of Christ” meant forsaking all else and surrendering your life and all your decisions completely to His guidance.

The heart of the issue
I couldn’t see into Kostya’s heart, but from my conversations with him there were no indications that he had approached God honestly in this way, so I answered, “Kostya, I think you’re in transition.” There was a long pause before Kostya slowly nodded his head and with a slight smile replied, “I think you’re right.” When Kostya first arrived, he thought the only “sin” he had was smoking, and that he could conquer it. Using the words of Jack Miller, I told him, “Cheer up, Kostya, you’re a lot worse than you think! It’s only when we realize the true condition of our heart that we begin to see our need for a Savior, and the depths to which Christ’s love came to redeem us .”

Kostya was one of many at this camp who have begun to experience God’s love in a new way. Halfway through the camp, Lena, a young woman who came to know us through my weekly English class, approached us and said, “I’ve never seen a group of people like this before. Usually, even among my friends, we start talking and gossiping about someone the moment they walk away from us. No one here is doing that.” Another young lady, Olya, agreed with her. “This is my second time coming to this camp. The first time I came I was shocked at how kindly everyone treated each other, always encouraging one another. I had never seen a group like that and didn’t know what to think. This year I didn’t think it would be the same, but it was!” We had prayed that God’s love would shine through the believers, so that any newcomers would be drawn to the One who first loved us.

Please pray that the Holy Spirit would continue His good work of opening eyes, unstopping ears, and softening hearts in these young people so they would embrace the good news of salvation through Christ alone.

Bob and Andrea Burnham serve with MTW in Odessa, Ukraine. You can follow them at www.burnhamsnapshots.com. 

Bob & Andrea Burnham, Odesa Ukraine Oct 3, 2013
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