Brendan Jorgensen and Sara Thelen are leading together in Karaganda. Last year, Sara led the Serbian team and Brendan was in Astana, Kazakhstan. This is not only their first time in Karaganda but the whole team’s.
Sara, who as our Valentine celebrates a birthday tomorrow, says, “Since we have been here, we have really been amazed at what God is doing. There are thirty believing students involved in the ministry, so one of our major focuses has been discipling these students and training them in sharing their faith and discipling others. We have three ministry teams that the students are involved with: prayer, outreach, and community. In December, we focused on training the students in sharing their faith. Many of the training times were led by some of the older students and student interns. After that we had two weeks of outreach on campus. This was an amazing time because there were several new believers out sharing their faith”, Sara explains. “And from that time we saw four people pray to receive Christ. At the end of the month we got together as a ministry and celebrated everything that we saw God do.”
Sara goes on to add, “Our team has learned a lot about discipleship this year. We have been focusing on the example of discipleship that Christ set. We try to include the students in every part of our lives. We invite them to the English classes we teach, to campus with us when we are sharing our faith, to spend the night at our apartments, and to run everyday errands (grocery shopping, exchanging money, etc.) with us. This way the students aren’t just seeing us for an hour a week, but they are becoming a part of our lives. It’s been encouraging to see how God has used this to deepen our relationships with one another, and grow us in unique ways (we find that we are learning just as much from the students, as they are from us).”
Ironically this past week, I ran into an old teammate of mine – John - when I was on STINT in Almaty, Kazakhstan back in the day. John and I spent some sweet time getting caught up on each other’s lives and reminiscing about our year together. (John was in Almaty a second year so often he was like ‘now were you there when we rode down the mountain with our headlights off and night vision goggles on? ' and stuff like that.)
John and I also talked a lot about ministry philosophy and the things we learned in Almaty. Given that the movement is still going and national leaders were raised up, it’s safe to say we did a few things right (as well as a lot of things wrong). Reading Sara’s update its eerily similar in terms of what we did: building community, training in the basics, letting young believers own the mission very early, etc. I could throw in a few other things that we did or that you are doing right now but why bother.... all good tactics, yes... but...
Even with all the ‘right’ things, lest we fool ourselves, it really comes down to one thing ... or rather One Person. (One in a Trinty sense.) Studying Hebrews, this passage jumped out at me the other day: “For every house is built by someone, but God is the builder of everything.” Paul writes something similar in 1 Cor. 3 using a planting analogy… “Neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow.”
Sara also wrote, “We have found that it has been easy for us to find our identity in the ministry, in how well things go or don’t go, and how many students we are sharing within a week. The crazier things got in our schedule, the easier it was to confuse our priorities. We have come back this semester with this in mind, and we are making a commitment to encourage each other to focus on Christ and to find our worth in Him (the other things will fall into place).”
May we all trust in Him... keep our eyes on Him... cling to Him... even as we do His work. May what the Psalmist says be true for us: “Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the LORD our God.”