Pointing Girls to God in UkraineBy Oksana Brower, Missionary, Ukraine, with Rachel Elwood, Support Staff
It’s considered weird to be a Christian in Ukraine.
When I first started a girls’ discipleship group three years ago, I encouraged the girls to invite their non-Christian friends to come. There was a lot of skepticism at first—was this another crazy cult?
Between inflation, government corruption, and the scars of communism that continue to linger, young people don’t have much hope for the future. This feeling of apathy is almost a disease among them. I can’t “fix” it for everyone, but over time, I’ve built trust with a few girls ages 16 through 20, and we’re starting to see a few glimmers of hope as they are brought into an understanding of God.
We get together once a week and talk about God, life, and the Bible. I don’t have a curriculum or study guide because those kinds of materials aren’t available here. My goal is to show them that God is not all about rules; He’s all about love and acceptance. We talk about what it means to fall in love with God. We talk about how our choices reflect what we value. Some of the girls come from Christian homes and some do not. (I now have two groups who meet separately; one for Christians and one for non-Christians.) But even the girls who come from Christian homes struggle with understanding God. They have few mentors to help them mature in their faith.
I also meet with them one on one, where we can get into more personal discussions. But it’s hard! Sometimes I just don’t see any progress in their lives, and I worry I’m not doing enough. Recently, I prayed that God would help me disciple them better. God just said to me, “Love them.”
I realized that these girls weren’t really being loved, not by their families or even at church. To love people sounds so simple. But it’s not; it gets complicated. It means living with people through their messes and mistakes. I began to understand discipleship on a new level. It was not enough to preach or teach them; I had to love them. God is helping me see that He is working in their hearts, and I hope to simply point them to Him.
How do we point people to God? Through loving them and living our lives with consistency and without hypocrisy. Those girls observe my relationship with Bill. They see how we parent our son, Denis. They know that we are the same, whether at church or at home. No, we’re not perfect. But we are able to show them that walking with God is a journey and that there is hope that can be found.
ACT: Is God calling you to lead a discipleship group? Unlike for Oksana, several resources are available in the United States to use. May we recommend the World GO! Manual for starters.