Faithful men and women in history demonstrated trust that God was still at work among and through us, no matter what was happening in the world. How we choose to view what is happening in our world will frame our attitude and either energize or discourage us.
A church splits, and new churches form. A war erupts, and waves of refugees cross oceans and borders, looking for a new home. Coups and ongoing conflicts become a catalyst for change. Ministries pivot in the wake of world events, and believers are scattered, like in Acts 8:1.
“[…] On that day a great persecution broke out against the church in Jerusalem, and all except the apostles were scattered throughout Judea and Samaria.”
Theologian David Guzik suggests that “there are two different words in the ancient Greek language for the idea of ‘scattered‘. One has the idea of scattering in the sense of making something disappear, like scattering someone’s ashes. The other word has the idea of scattering in the sense of planting or sowing seeds. This is the ancient Greek word used here.” It’s not the death of a ministry; it’s the scattering of seeds across the globe so new ministries can form. In Acts 8:1, believers were scattered throughout Judea and Samaria as intense persecution increased with the death of Stephen. And like believers then, world events are creating new opportunities for the spread of the Gospel now. Do we have the right view to frame our attitude? What lenses are we looking through?
Lens One: Crisis
According to sources, more than 6 million people have fled Ukraine since Russia’s invasion. Of that number, 3.2 million went to Poland. Other sources reported that 200,000 people left Russia during the first ten days of the war. Ministries throughout Ukraine experienced great scattering. Ministries in Russia have had to pivot as believers in Russia scatter, too.
Sasha* (not her real name) had a sister living in Irpin, Ukraine until they scattered on March 4. This was a town that experienced terrible hostilities by the Russians since the attacks started on February 24. On March 5, Sasha’s family was in the line of cars leaving the city when Russians attacked them. By God’s grace, they made it safely, eventually settling in a country in Western Asia. Sasha was relieved that her sister and family were away from the war. Sasha decided to follow, leaving Moscow, Russia.
Sasha served faithfully with WorldVenture’s well-known music ministry to Russian-speaking peoples – known as RussiaWorship – for years. Many years prior, her parents moved to Moscow from Ukraine to plant a church. She’d been leading worship in Russia for the past 15 years. She sang in many of RussiaWorship’s conferences and albums, attended RussiaWorship’s training seminars, and taught children’s music sessions at their Fine Arts Day Camps. “We came from Moscow to [Western Asia] because we wanted to help my sister’s family,” said Sasha. “We rented an apartment here and settled down.”
This area of Asia is closed to the Gospel. Yet Sasha continues to serve with RussiaWorship. “I think training is just one of the ministry goals of RussiaWorship. And if I leave here in one to two years, there will be trained people here to serve.”
The group that gathers in Western Asia meets each week in Ukrainian communities. Russians are also there. “We want to have a group in our area, maybe like a women’s club. We are looking for ideas and praying,” says Sasha. There are barriers, though. Sasha still needs to obtain a residence permit in the new country, which is a complicated process. Her sister and niece continue to get online jobs and bring in some income. Sasha also asks for prayer for her family.
RussiaWorship isn’t the only ministry experiencing a scattering as seeds are planted in different countries. Other WorldVenture workers from the region are learning to pivot and innovate in difficulty, with some living like refugees in countries around Ukraine.
Acts 1:8 says, “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”
God meant to scatter His witnesses to the world. He desires people to come to Him, and we are either sent, or God will send the people to us to hear the Good News.
According to the United Nations, 700,000 Afghans were displaced in 2021. For the past 40 years, war, violence, and poverty drove out six million Afghans. “We’re now seeing a third generation of Afghan children born in exile. (United Nations)”
Last year, we reported how WorldVenture served Afghan refugees fleeing to Europe, North America, and even Southeast Asia. Global workers shared the Gospel and helped with practical needs. In one area, they helped Afghan believers start a church where other Afghan refugees could gather to worship together in their own language (see our TikTok platform @WorldVenture.Missions). Many Afghan refugees made decisions to follow Jesus and were baptized!
We can either view circumstances around us in the world as an obstacle or as an opportunity to improve upon or innovate in extraordinary circumstances. It depends significantly on how we view the scattering.
Lens Two: Adaptation
“But you, keep your head in all situations, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, discharge all the duties of your ministry.” – 2 Timothy 4:5 NIV
The pandemic affected businesses, churches, and schools from 2020 into 2021. Churches and ministries that seemed to adapt best during the pandemic were often already doing digital ministry, especially with social media. Social Media has a reach that goes beyond the borders of a community. Half of the world’s population is regularly online in some format. And digital connections, especially social media, are a more regular part of our lives than we sometimes appreciate (the simple fact that you’re reading this means you are digitally engaged).
We adapt many aspects of our personal lives into digital format where online and in-person activities naturally weave in and out of each other. Coffee meet-ups begin with texts, emails, or direct messages to our friends. People request help in a Facebook group or by email for food donations. We apply online for jobs. Many of us use online banking tools in some form. Ministry happens online, too. Churches stream services and sermons on YouTube, make announcements on Facebook and Instagram, and provide important information for visitors on their websites. Some even use text-to-give services for donations.
In the first few weeks of the war between Ukraine and Russia, our Global Workers in Poland coordinated meeting practical needs for refugees via text, email and private messages on social media.
During the pandemic, WorldVenture reported how numerous Global Workers met ministry challenges successfully:
- Sam Knutson shared how God shifted their plans in language learning. “I was so nervous about my first tutoring, and God used it for a chance to spread the word about His love.”
- Bible translation continued using various platforms such as Whatsapp.
- A new online course was created to help church leaders combat the scourge of sexual abuse. “Since we have changed the format to online, I am now able to offer the course to people all around the world, especially other missionaries who urgently need this information,” said Karen Shogren. She continues to build on this platform today.
- Nikole Hahn continued to educate and help train churches and Global Workers across multiple time-zones in digital disciple-making tools.
- (There are too many examples to give; read more on our Facebook page or search our blog)
Digital ministry, which started as an adaptation, has expanded as a potent tool that many Global Workers use to engage the world for Gospel impact. And this is largely because of the choice to look through a lens of hope.
Lens Three: Hope
What separates most good photographs from average photos is lighting. A trained photographer seeks to capture light in a scene. The light makes the patterns, colors, and stories stand in sharp relief, impacting how a photo is framed. Like a photographer, we must also seek out the light to better frame what we see. And that light we are looking for is the light of Christ which frames our experiences in hope.
Author and Pastor, Dr. Tony Evans, can speak to hope. He experienced significant loss in a short amount of time. He shared at the National Religious Broadcasting convention in 2021, “Normal process have been turned Topsy Turvey. When my world and your world are turned inside out, we are not to dismiss it.” Dr. Evans referenced the book of Hebrews and the challenge to never give up and how God took Moses from ordinary to the extraordinary. “[God] shakes things up when we become too comfortable, especially when we are not on point with Him.”
How we choose to view what is happening in our world will frame our attitude and either energize or discourage us. Do we see crisis? An opportunity to adapt? Are we framing our experience with hope? Take the challenge to see what is happening in the world as an opportunity to audit your faith and ministries:
- Conflict does not have to be the end. It can cause a change of vision, a scattering, as believers are sent out to other locations, and a time of spiritual or ministry growth. It’s an opportunity for new kinds of ministry.
- Adaptation can open doors with people that were once closed. The message of the Gospel hasn’t changed, but how we communicate the Gospel continues to evolve. Digital tools provide the opportunity to adapt ministry to reach people where they are at instead of waiting for them to come to where we are.
- Frame what’s around you in a lens of hope. Look at what God’s people are doing in persecuted countries, in times of war, pandemic, and situations that feel unfair. Frame your circumstances in the light of the gospel and see how that changes your view. Ask yourself what can you do to make a gospel impact in your family, community and world?
Remember, how we choose to view what is happening in our world will frame our attitude and either energize or discourage us. What lens are you using?