Ukraine (MNN) — There is a crisis brewing in countries of the former Soviet Union. It's a self-proclaimed crisis by Christian leaders. The church is in decline, funding is scarce, religious freedom is waning and the evangelical church isn't willing to cross denominational walls — until now.
Nearly 200 evangelical leaders from various denominations and ministries gathered for a unique meeting in Irpen, Ukraine. The two-day International Evangelical Missions Forum sponsored by Russian Ministries helped tear down a few of those walls. Both national and expatriate mission leaders provided valuable input into what's going on in the region.
Steve Wooden, Ukraine Director for SEND International, says while the forum didn't do a lot with providing answers to the crisis, it was valuable information. "Sometimes I think we get ourselves in our own narrow focus of what's happening in this country, we forget about how big this place is and how many mission organizations are working here and how huge the work is and this gives us a perspective on what's happening here and what these other organizations are doing."
While Wooden was hoping the forum would have developed a strategy to address the crisis, he believes good will come from it. "Perhaps another forum, or get a task force together to take a look at this and try to put together some strategies on how this might look in the future."
SEND International has been trying to motivate the church to be missions minded beyond their borders. Wooden says, he was surprised by what he heard at the forum. "Even as much as two years ago we didn't sense that this was happening anywhere. Today, I heard from almost everybody here that they understand their call to missions isn't just local, but global. I think we've got partners who we can begin to work with to truly motivate this place to become a missions force, not just a mission field," Wooden says.
In light of the forum, He says SEND International is going to be proactive. "We'll take the initiative and take concrete steps to say, 'okay, you said you were interested in sending missionaries, how can we partner with you to get that done?' We believe that not only can Ukraine be used in Eastern Europe, but Ukraine has an opportunity to go back to Jerusalem through the Mideast."
Wooden is asking Christians to pray that other groups will make similar decisions to begin partnering together to reach the lost at home and abroad and that strategies will be developed to answer the church crisis in the region.