By Heather Sells and Steve Little
September 3, 2007
CBNNews.com – The countries of the former Soviet Union are wracked with social problems stemming from the moral vacuum created by decades of atheistic communism.
AIDS, drug abuse, and corruption plague those societies. Christians say that young people are the best hope to reintroduce biblical values to society.
Now one unique program is helping them fulfill that goal.
the Future of Ukraine
In one Ukrainian clinic lie young children, many of whom suffer from tuberculosis and are without parents. They are the future of the Ukraine.
Most come from homes devastated by alcohol and drug addiction, and all of them need much more than Ukraine’s government can provide.
"These children are orphans. They have no guardians; they have no shoes and no clothing. We ourselves have to be merciful and provide for them," said one doctor.
The medical equipment is ancient. There are only three full-time doctors and a handful of nurses to care for as many as 140 children.
But there is also Oksana Chernota, a volunteer who tells the children about Jesus.
Every week she comes to the clinic to sing with them, play games, and teach them the Bible.
"My heart is just for them, to teach them the Bible because that is their only hope. There is no other hope but God," she said.
For three years she’s worked with orphans, investing her time, her money, and her life. She says that’s the only way to really help them.
"Children open their hearts only if you’re with them and around," Chernota said. "If you spend time, not just academically teach them the Bible, they would never listen to you."
"You have to play; you have to talk to them; you have to know their need; what their pain is; what their sorrows are; what they like to do. Then they open their hearts, then they attach to you, and then you can show them what Jesus can do for them," she said.
The doctor says many of these children have stopped smoking because of Chernota’s influence. One young girl says she wants a Bible to learn more about Jesus.
Chernota is a part of a new movement that is fighting for Ukraine’s future. It’s a movement of Christian young people who bring biblical values into a broken society.
Ukraine is a land where drug and alcohol addictions are epidemic, with one of the highest infection rates of HIV/AIDS in Eastern Europe, and with more than 200,000 orphans in state facilities.
School Without Walls
For Chernota, standing up to the giants that are destroying her country takes not only faith, but training.
That’s why there’s the School Without Walls , a unique training program that’s turning passionate young Christians into agents for social change.
Mikail Chernekov is the vice president for the Association for Spiritual Renewal in Ukraine.
"Our goal is to lead them from fisherman to disciples, to take ordinary Christians and make them ministers," Chernekov said.
ASR is training more than 2,200 students in 44 Schools Without Walls programs in the Ukraine and the former Soviet Union.
The goal is to create a ministry force strong enough to counter the tide of materialism and hedonism that has filled the moral void left by decades of atheistic communism.
"Dostoevsky said the Devil is fighting with God and the battlefield is people’s minds. We have to tell young people that battle is still going on today. God is calling young people to fight this spiritual war. Heroes should appear in our churches," Chernekov said.
Candidates are drawn from local congregations, and pastors and church leaders teach the courses.
Students meet to study topics like theology and biblical studies in church buildings and do practical ministry under the guidance of experienced ministers.
Steve Patty, an independent ministry consultant, says it’s a powerful combination.
"I believe SWW is a unique model," Patty said. "In formal education we take students away from homes and churches and take them away from their world in order to get trained. SWW trains them in the middle of their world.
He said, "This gives the opportunity for practice, the kind of learning that connects theory with experience in ways – it appears – are transformational for these students."
They’re also reaching Ukraine’s next generation of leaders.
Historic Ostrog Academy is one of the oldest institutions of higher education in Eastern Europe. SWW students are allowed to hold lectures on HIV/AIDS and drug prevention on campus.
The academy’s president says their work fits with his university’s mission to re-introduce Christian values to society.
"The Ukrainian nation is a Christian nation and I believe we’re called to show how these Christian ethics can be inserted and can change a nation. Young people can change a nation and this is the way to our future," the Ostrog Academy president said.
A future that can only be realized when young Christians are able to take their faith outside the church walls and into society.
"That what SWW is all about to train next generation of church leaders how to penetrate this world; how to become Christian leaders in business, political, social sectors; how to fight corruption, AIDS, poverty; how to bring the moral values based on Christian Biblical values into this world and change the entire former Soviet Union for Christ," Sergey Rahkuba, with ASR, said.
As for these orphans, the doctor says Chernota’s work is changing their lives in more ways than one.
Several have stopped smoking and drinking, and they’re learning how to forgive the family members who abused and abandoned them.
One girl made a special request – she wanted a Bible.
"I love to read the Bible," she said. "It’s a very interesting book. In it we read about the life of Jesus. It gives us directions on how to live our lives."
They are directions that may lead Ukraine and the entire former Soviet Union towards a brighter destination.
*Original broadcast August 17, 2007.source URL: http://www.cbn.com/cbnnews/215001.aspx