From 1992-1993, I served as a missionary in the Republic of Georgia, and from 1993-1996/7, I traveled to Tbilisi (in Georgia) and Baku (in Azerbaijan) about three times a year, sometimes for a month at a stretch.
I was recently contacted by Tatiana Kopaleishvili, the General Secretary of the Christian Student Union, SKSK, in Georgia. Tatiana was trying to establish the history of their organization and find those who were involved from the very beginning. She has now updated me on the ministry today which has been of great interest.
What follows is a letter from Tatiana to the church providing them with this information as well, which may serve as an encouragement to you in the work God has called you to do.
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I have planted, Apollos watered; but God gave the increase. 1 Corinthians 3:6
You may know this verse by heart, but it is always encouraging to see how God makes it real in our lives.
Twenty years ago, your pastor was one among a small but enthusiastic team sent by the International Fellowship of Evangelical Students (IFES) to the Republic of Georgia. They arrived in a former Soviet country challenged by poverty, political instability, civil war, and an atmosphere of hopelessness.
After two years of planting, the IFES team left. A tiny seed had been placed in the soil, but there was no certainty of any fruit.
After this group of ‘Pauls’ left, ‘Apolloses’ came and watered the freshly sprouting seed. These ‘Apolloses’ were people from many backgrounds, foreign and local, with different gifts and interests; and through them God was at work increasing the number of students attending Bible study groups, summer camps, and conferences. At these activities students were coming to know Jesus, and the ministry was bearing fruit.
Our goal in student ministry is to equip students with Jesus: to show them a life of purpose and meaning; to teach them to reach other students with the gospel; and to prepare them to lead lives of integrity for Christ at home, at church, and in the workplace. Our goal is to change the world for Christ, by changing the students.
Today SKSK (our local name in IFES, analogous to InterVarsity in the USA) has fifteen groups in three cities: Tbilisi (our capital), Batumi (by the Black Sea) and Gori (Stalin’s birthplace). Our graduates strive to be salt and light in their workplaces as bankers, doctors, sailors, lawyers, etc.
I would like to share with you the testimony of one graduate, Gia Bakhtadze:
While studying law at university, I was looking for the meaning of life by trying anything and everything – from religious practices like Hare Krishna to idolizing rock music – to fill the emptiness I felt inside. In 1998 a friend invited me to the student group. I was told that there are “Hallelujah” people gathering in an apartment and reading the Bible. I went but spent the time making fun of them and causing trouble for the leaders. Yet God touched me through the faithfulness and patience of these people and I became Christ’s follower. Today I am a pastor of a small congregation in my city and chairman of the SKSK Student Ministry Board in Georgia.
Paul planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the increase. We pray that what He has started, He will accomplish, for the sake of His Kingdom. Join us in this prayer (or in person!) as we prepare for the coming months:
- Student leader conference on March 14-16, 2013;
- Summer evangelistic outreach in Tbilisi, Batumi and Gori;
- God to send new staff workers to expand existing ministries and pioneer a new group in the city of Kutaisi.
General Secretary, SKSK Georgia