Ukraine Update #3

2019-04-18

I got to honor a special servant of God last night. We all did. And it was wonderful.

As I mentioned in my first update, Yuri Shelestun and his wife Natasha are hoping to immigrate to the US soon to join two of their kids and Yuri’s aging parents. This conference marked the official passing of the regional leadership for Northern Eurasia from Yuri to Boris Volkov, a strong, capable, young leader.

Last night was dedicated to celebrating Yuri’s 25 years with Walk Thru the Bible. We began with a traditional Ukrainian feast. It was mostly farm-to-table and all delicious. So many organic vegetables and unending platters of grilled salmon, pork, and chicken.

Yuri presentationFellowshipDinner

Our new VP of International, Rich Leland, shared about meeting Yuri in 1993 on one of our first ministry ventures into the former Soviet Union. We were all stunned when Rich read this 9/17/94 entry from his journal:

“This is my second time working with Yuri here in Ukraine. I trained his wife Natasha 6 months ago in Odessa. They’ve been missionaries near the Black Sea for two years. Yuri has already taught 12 seminars and Natasha is close on his heals having taught 11 herself. They’ve been on TV here describing their innovative teaching. They are working with the “Light of the East” mission. I believe Yuri may be a possible staff person for WTB!"

Talk about discerning and prophetic! All of us who met Yuri years ago recognized he was one in a million. Communism robbed entire generations of ambition and the desire to excel. This was especially true for boys whose mothers often told them, “The tallest blade of wheat loses its head first.” The message stuck, and most set mediocrity as their target and often failed to achieve even that.

Yuri was different. Counter-cultural. Despite oppressive persecution for his faith, he pursued big goals and often exceeded them. His personality was winsome and his eyes flashed with a unique blend of passion and mischief. And his humor opened closed hearts because everyone sensed it was sourced in his deep personal joy.

Yuri was from a conservative Baptist background but soon grasped that Walk Thru the Bible’s tools were also needed by charismatic and Orthodox believers. In so many ways, Yuri was ahead of his time and wise beyond his years. His welcoming heart aligned perfectly with Walk Thru the Bible’s focus on the essential truths of Scripture that transcend denominational distinctives.

Add to all that, Natasha’s full support and formidable personal gifts, and it was clear that Yuri was a leader upon which we could build a movement. Thankfully God was quietly working in Yuri’s heart to confirm His will.

Now 25 years have passed and all of us would agree our high expectations were still too low. Yuri is deeply respected by all of our global leaders. He is loved by our many donors who have been blessed to meet him. And he’s become one of the closest friends and ministry partners I’ve been blessed to equip, encourage, and learn from.

Our evening ended with a sweet time of prayer for Yuri and Natasha. But right before we prayed, Rich presented Yuri with a beautiful plaque. In part it read:

“In grateful recognition of your nearly 25 years as Walk Thru the Bible’s Regional Leader in Northern Eurasia.

Your wisdom, energy, joy, and teaching gifts have inspired many thousands in Ukraine and across the nations. We will not know in this lifetime how many will be in Heaven because you opened God’s Word and gave them spiritual food. You have built a team that will ensure many more will come to know Jesus Christ and the power of His Word in the generations to come.”

I know many of you wish you could have participated in last night’s celebration. Whether you’ve known Yuri and Natasha for years or just met them through this update, if you’ll comment below and send them a greeting, I’ll pass your words of encouragement to them. Thank you for joining me in honoring these faithful servants of our Lord.


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Debbie Millette 18.04.2019 14:55  
Greeting for Yuri & Natasha Yes No   Wow! What a blessing to have you both in leadership with Walk Thru the Bible! Thank you for all you have accomplished in the past 25 years. May God guide your steps as you move into the next phase of your life and bless you beyond anything you can think or imagine.  
 
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