International Ministries

"Pray for my people."

April 20, 2011 Journal
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"Pray for my people."                                                   

D had tears in her eyes as she spoke.  I, too, was moved.               

You might not think it would be a very moving experience to attend the board meetings of a theological seminary.  And, truth be told, it is easy to lose sight of the real point of it all when one is wading through the details of financial statements or the accreditation procedures and policies that are necessary to undergird a formal theological education program.  The real point is the students.

In my brief experience on the board of trustees of the International Baptist Theological Seminary (IBTS) in Prague, Czech Republic, I have found the students to be endlessly fascinating.  Their stories are often very moving.  So, spending time with students is always one of the highlights of board members' semi-annual visits to campus.

Last weekend was no different.  I was delighted to see some of the students I had met on previous visits, including a couple of students I spent extra time with during my volcanically-extended stay at IBTS in April of 2010.  And it was great to meet some of the new students.

D is a very determined young woman from the former Soviet bloc.  After the disintegration of the Soviet Union, part of the surge of local/national pride and identity took the form of a religious revival.  After years of political and cultural domination by Russia, the people of D's country were eager to assert their independence in every way.  In the religious realm, that meant reacting against both Soviet atheism and Russian Orthodoxy by reaffirming other religious identities.

D's parents had been mostly uninterested in spirituality during her childhood years, but they joined in the religio-cultural resurgence and became quite active in the majority faith of their (ancient land and) new nation.  Then, at the age of 20, D's own spiritual search led her along a divergent path.  When she began to follow Jesus, the result was violent rejection.  Beaten bloody by her own mother, D nonetheless persevered (and, amazingly, is still able to speak very lovingly of her mom).

D has come to IBTS to gain knowledge and skills that she can put at the service of the gospel among her people.  If that were not enough, she feels deeply an additional burden to make a difference in the situation facing so many young women in her country.  Jobs are scarce.  Human trafficking flourishes.  And even women who are not snared by the traffickers may find themselves driven toward prostitution in order to put food in their children's mouths.

In the face of such a daunting panorama, D is a woman of courage and hope--and, at least as important, dogged perseverance.  She is getting what she came for at IBTS.  She has also gotten involved with the global network of people working against prostitution that God is so powerfully using my friend and colleague Lauran Bethell to nurture.

As we parted company, D turned to me and repeated her request, "Pray for my people."  How could I not?

I, in turn, invite you to pray for the Ds of our world, giving thanks for God's work in their lives and asking God to strengthen, encourage and equip them for the ministries to which they are so clearly called.  While you are at it, pray for IBTS and the strategic work that God continues to accomplish through it.  This vital ministry is continuing to go through a special time of discernment, related to the pursuit of long term financial health.

Thank you for providing the prayer and financial support that enables me to make a small contribution to the life of IBTS and to students like D.