Luca* and Elena* told God, “Lord, whatever you want to do, you will have to do out of nothing.”
That is what happened.
After years of ministry in Russia, the couple had just moved to another former Soviet country in early 2017 with the objective of meeting unmet needs in their new city when a young adult ministry team in Germany, called “paXan,” reached out. The team asked if they could come in the summer of 2018 to help with a ministry project. But having been there for just six months, Luca and Elena had not yet made the connections within the community that would be necessary to create projects for an entire group. Despite this challenge, the German team still wanted to come.
So they all agreed to pray and fast, asking God to provide projects He wanted the team to do.
And God did.
Shortly after, Luca and Elena began developing relationships with leaders of several social service agencies. Although the agencies are associated with the government, they unexpectedly welcomed the couple with open arms and eagerly provided projects for the team.
The paXan ministry team was in country for 10 days. Through partnerships in the city, they were able to create a woodworking shop in the social center for people with disabilities to be able to work with their hands by building birdhouses. The birdhouse project has been a long-term success.
“They started producing these birdhouses, and the Minister of Social Services happened to be at an exposition here where all those social services brought their things. She saw the birdhouses and she bought one…. That was a huge boost [for them],” Luca said. “They’re continuing to do it. They’re actually making enough money to buy the wood and all the necessary stuff.”
In another building, the team created a room for the care of small children. Single mothers who are students, or who need childcare while they’re at work, now bring their kids to this safe environment for care. To kick off this program, the paXan team hosted a distinctly Christian Vacation Bible School in the social center.
“Because of this really good relationship we have with social services, they provide the space for free and they even helped us recruit the kids for VBS.”
These projects – designed to support needs of the local community – allowed the couple to develop positive relationships with the social services center, and even attracted media attention across the city, and nationally.
“We were on national TV at that point because this was so brand new, having the Germans come in,” Luca said. “Nobody had ever done anything like that in [this country]. It was local and national news, plus a couple of articles on Internet newspapers. The journalist came back and said, ‘I’d like to do a story on you because this is just so unusual.’ They did a full article on the two of us, as to why we would do that. It was an interview about faith.”
Thanks to the positive experience of working with Luca and Elena and the ministry team from Germany, the social services center continues to partner with the couple in providing a faith-based Kids Club. The bi-weekly program has attracted involvement from other parents and adults who love the lessons and activities. First, the team hosts a program for deaf and hearing-impaired children. Afterward they work with hearing children.
A woman named Mary has become an enthusiastic, key partner in leading and planning the deaf children’s Kids Club, although she has not personally professed a relationship with Jesus.
“We do a story. Then we go back and ask questions and make sure the children understood the story. Mary is leading a lot of those discussions,” Luca said. “We prepare the questions beforehand. She’s been asking questions of herself about some of those things in the lessons.”
God has continued to provide new ministry opportunities for Luca and Elena. These opportunities truly came out of nothing, as the contact at the social center was not a connection the couple had when they agreed to host the ministry team. And it helps move them toward their vision of establishing a community center that will be “salt and light” to the whole city.
“We want to connect all the people here, making better neighbors, better homes. A community center where people can come and explore what it means to be in the image of God.”
*Names changed and location omitted for security reasons.
This article was written by Kaitlyn Haley Deisher and previously published in the June 2019 edition of Where Worlds Meet.