Rising nationalism and instability won’t stop a school without walls

By March 15, 2012

Kyrgyzstan (MNN) — Kyrgyzstan's new leaders are trying to figure
out ways to bridge the divisions that breed ethnic tensions in their country.

Unrest has also accompanied a rise in nationalism at a time when
stability is critical to the world stage. In June 2010, fierce clashes between Kyrgyz and Uzbek communities
erupted over political races. Uzbeks
feared that without representation, they would fall prey to unchecked violence, a
fear borne out in the months since that clash.

Wally Kulakoff with Russian Ministries, speaking from
Kyrgyzstan, says the problem is much deeper. "What is demonstrated today–the unrest that's happening within this part of the world–is not just a
political problem or economic problem, it's a spiritual problem."

The unrest was born out of frustration. "People are fed up
with corruption, fed up with lies, fed up with people cheating other people. They realize there is a different standard, and the standard is some of the
standards that we have in the Scriptures."

Kulakoff says integrity really stands out in times like these. "What has happened is that our graduates
of School Without Walls are demonstrating that their life and their talk is the
same thing. People have realized that
politics, the economy, and corruption is a problem (sic) that they're facing,
and they would like to have change; but change is very difficult to come
by."

However, new religion laws could check ministry growth. "Because of the new laws that have come
in, all the organizations are being checked. The secret police are coming into churches
and looking at all their literature: the literature that wasn't printed
legally is subject to fine, to confiscation. The literature is subject to be
burnt."

The idea was to keep extremist ideology from spreading. However,
the practical application of religious restrictions often falls hardest on the
evangelical church. "Many
organizations today have to re-register," says Kulakoff. But even that doesn't
come easily. "Evangelism is prohibited, and churches that do not have 250
members are illegal. The new laws, if they are put into place, will close a lot
of churches."

As the restrictions put pressure on the Church, that's when "out
of the box" thinking works best. School
Without Walls (SWW) is one of Russian Ministries' most fundamental–and most
innovative–programs to equip the Next Generation of Christian leaders in the
former Soviet Union. Kulakoff explains,
"They will be going through training not only to understand the current situation,
but then how to live within the situation and reflect Christ, how to actually
be the person that they say they are within the culture that they are (in)."

SWW is strategically designed to provide an effective, non-formal,
affordable, flexible, local approach to spiritual growth and evangelism
training. That builds outreach into
place, should the traditional forms of Gospel work be forced closed. "The difficulty we see is that as
persecution increases, will the next generation stand up and say 'We will
suffer for Christ, we will be open,' or 'Should we go underground and be irrelevant
in society?' and just survive rather than thrive in a situation where there is
pressure upon an evangelical?"

Specifically, the older generation that has survived Communism
will likely go into survival mode. Young
people, notes Kulakoff, have the optimism of their youth. "The young people want
to thrive. They've got energy, they've got initiatives, they've got plans, and
they want to do things. Sometimes, the new churches are allowing the young
people to become the initiators of some of the social programs."  

During the two-year program, students take classes in
theology, biblical interpretation, and evangelism techniques for a wide variety
of audiences. Hands-on learning is also strongly emphasized, as SWW students
practice their ministry skills in orphanages, prisons, sports camps, and more.

In the 2010-2011 school year, your generous support helped 2,262
young men and women attend SWW classes. That's an increase of more than 35% over
the previous year.

These same funds also helped plant six new churches and seven new
house groups, started by SWW students, in the volatile and Muslim-dominated
Northern Caucasus. These churches and groups reach around 800 newcomers to the
church, 300 of whom regularly attend meetings and Bible studies led by young
graduates of SWW. 

Kulakoff summarizes Kyrgyzstan's restlessness this way: change is
coming, pleasant or not. However, "There
is great potential within this country, especially amongst the young people who
do not want to leave the country. They want to stay in the country. They love
their country, and they want to make a difference. School Without Walls is training people to
lead and equipping young people to serve."

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