“You were all called to travel on the same road and in the same direction, so stay together, both outwardly and inwardly. You have one Master, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who rules over all, works through all, and is present in all. Everything you are and think and do is permeated with Oneness.” (Ephesians 4:4-6, MSG)
Led by NYI President Sasha Lyansburg-Ferns, and missionary, Joseph Sumi, a group of ten CIS youth leaders organized a Nazarene Youth Conference which took place in Tsakhkadzor, Armenia, in July. Over a hundred young people from six CIS countries – Moldova, Ukraine, Russia, Armenia and two countries in Central Asia – got together for worship and fellowship.
Considering the political events of the last two years, the tension between Russia and Ukraine, and (peaceful) protests in Yerevan, Armenia, right before the conference, one major concern was whether the youth would be able as Christians to rise above these political issues and live out their identity in Christ, and spend time together in worship and fellowship. With so many people praying for it, God answered the prayers, and there were no barriers at all.
“In these five days of the youth conference, God has reminded me that Christ has defeated the powers of this world on His cross and our God is much stronger than the one who is trying to divide us,” said Davide Cantarella, speaker at the conference as well as a missionary on the CIS Field. “Also, I was reminded that the young generation of the Church of the Nazarene might actually be wiser beyond their years, because they understand who the enemy is and who are our brothers and sisters in faith.”
“Everyone was divided into mixed-nationality groups with the purpose of meeting people from all over the region,” said Volodymyr Masyuk, Ukraine-Moldova District superintendent, “but I was amazed to see that people purposefully mixed during the lunch and dinner times, as to get to know as many people as possible, not just stay within the safety of one’s national group.”
Andrei Manakov, one of the group leaders from Ukraine, also expressed his feelings regarding the conference: “I’ve been to so many conferences and I have never felt anything like this before. I really have felt God’s Spirit present in this gathering. Especially during the group meetings, when you see people from multiple nationalities sharing how God is touching their lives and mending hearts; it is incredible. I am so glad God blessed me with this experience.”
“I have been reminded that praying the prayer and becoming a Christian is only the beginning of the journey. The real task is to get to the finish line gracefully. There have been difficulties on our way and sometimes we forget about unity, we fear conflicts, troubles, and giants that are standing in front of us. But we have heard in Revelation 2:10 ‘Don’t quit, even if it costs you your life. Stay there believing. I have a Life-Crown sized and ready for you,’ and one day, we’ll hear those long-awaited words as we stand before Him: ‘Well done, good and faithful servant. Come enter your Master’s joy,'” said Evelina Nem, from Rostov-on-Don, Russia.
No matter what language you pray in, no matter what passport you have, no matter what country you were born in…we all belong to the kingdom of God, and He reminds each one of us that we are the citizens of His city and we’re here to learn to worship together as one body.