DO NOT USE: Far Reaching Ministries in Eastern Bloc

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Behind Closing Doors—Part 2

Story by Tim Hoelle
Photos by Steve Shambeck

Far Reaching Ministries Sponsors Youth Conference in the Former Eastern Bloc

As the door closes for sharing the Gospel in former Eastern Bloc countries, believers are finding themselves in jeopardy for sharing the Good News of Christ. Persecution has risen dramatically, so Far Reaching Ministries (FRM) has begun to regard Eastern Bloc countries with the same caution they regard mission work in radical Islamic areas. This division of service is dubbed “Ghost Operations”.

This article omits specific locations and names of countries and people due to heightened security and danger to Christian workers on the ground. In the Eastern Bloc there are pastors in prison for sharing the love of Christ. However, due to the lack of fellowship for believers, FRM hosts several youth conferences a year so that young people can be encouraged in their faith and grow in Christ.

*Name changed to protect identity

Click to read Part 1 of this story.

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Jesus’ love is shown as participants encourage each other throughout the youth conference.

Wes Bentley, founder of conference sponsor Far Reaching Ministries (FRM), spoke at the Eastern Bloc youth conference. This ministry has been on his heart for a long time. “I felt a great burden after reading the book Tortured for Christ,” shared Wes. “My first love was for persecuted believers in communist countries. I prayed for 13 years before God sent me to the Eastern Bloc, and it would become the joy of my life.”

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American Amber Clausen (right) shares Scriptures with two nationals.

Contending for the Faith

As a result of the time Wes spent there, he can relate to the souls in this region in a unique and deep way. “I remember the testimony of a grandmother,” Wes continued. “Her father was shot for his faith, and she was threatened many times to be killed. She’s 84 years old, and she shares all the persecution that she went through, but you can just see the joy of Christ in her life. They brought out a Bible that was over 100 years old and showed it to me. It was the only Bible in the church during the years of communist reign and it cost six months’ wages. They had to hide it because of the times that they lived in this country; if it was found, they would go to prison. The Christmas I spent with this grandmother felt like one of the most holy nights of my life, because I was sitting and eating and having fellowship with some of the giants of the faith.

I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Finally, there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give to me on that Day, and not to me only but also to all who have loved His appearing. 2 Timothy 4:7-8

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A teen tries to sink a long basketball shot while his friends cheer him on. Despite the frigid weather, participants got outside for fresh air throughout the conference.

FRM fully sponsors the conference, and their support allows those attending to have free lodging and meals, along with an immersive, Christ-centered experience. “One of the cool things to see was a special time of sharing from each of the various churches represented,” said *Sasha, the conference organizer. “We had each youth group set up around the meeting room and they had five minutes to share something about their city and their group. Then other groups would walk around the hall and meet them, talk, and then pray for them. So then, each group was being prayed for and was praying for the others.”

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Americans Amber, Chase, and Jonathan share God’s Word in a breakout session.

Encouraging Signs

There were many encouraging takeaways for those involved as teachers, leaders, and volunteers. It was clear to see that young people were being strongly influenced for Christ. “It was incredible to see the hunger they had for God’s Word, and the sense of calling they had on their life,” noted Jonathan Domingo, lead pastor of Calvary Chapel Horizonte in Ensenada, Mexico, who was a guest speaker. “It is so amazing to think that this is the next generation of young people that are falling in love with Jesus and are getting trained.”

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Two young men pray for each other.

Not only has the conference increased in size, but also in its reach. Sasha offered, “Some of the groups have said that interest at their local church has increased. We believe that’s the grace of God as He’s using these young people who have been strengthened and encouraged in their faith.” The youth who attend stay in contact with each other and continue the work back home, sometimes gathering in smaller retreat groups. “A small group of 30 or so have recently held a retreat,” said Sasha, who can’t wait to see everyone again. Others can’t either. Pastor Jonathan declared, “I’m still in contact with many of the Christians from the various local churches, and I’d love to go back at some point.”

The young people recognize and appreciate this event. “It’s incredible to have all the youth from the wider church family gathered in one place to worship, grow, and have fun,” commented an 18-year-old man. “Small groups and individuals discover their larger context in the church. Groups from different cities and lifestyles unite to worship the same Lord. Pastors and missionaries are excited to teach, encourage, counsel, and answer questions. It was at one of these conferences that God’s Spirit began to draw me into a deeper and more mature relationship with Him. I have no doubt God has and will continue to delight working in these gatherings.”

                  

Click to learn more about Far Reaching Ministries and to follow this series at Part 1.

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Students share their personal photos during a break.

 

All verses above are quoted from the New King James Version, unless otherwise noted.

© 2021 Calvary Chapel Magazine (CCM). All rights reserved. Articles or photographs may not be reproduced without the written permission of CCM. All Scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the New King James Version. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc.® Used by permission.

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