After years of ministry in Russia, Luca* and Elena* moved to another former Soviet country in early 2017 to serve a new city.
Shortly after they arrived, a young adult ministry team in Germany called paXan reached out to them in hopes of collaborating. paXan is a joint effort by Nazarene Youth International Germany and Helping Hands e.V. where young adults ages 18 to 30 from Nazarene churches in Germany travel to another country to serve and witness to families in need.
The team asked if they could come in the summer of 2018 to help with a ministry project. Having been there for just six months, Luca and Elena had not yet made the necessary connections within the community to create projects for an entire group. Despite this challenge, the German team still wanted to come, and they all agreed to pray and fast, asking God to provide projects He wanted the team to do.
Luca and Elena began developing relationships with leaders of several social service agencies. Although these are government agencies, they unexpectedly welcomed the couple with open arms and eagerly provided projects for the team.
The paXan ministry team was in the country for 10 days. Through partnerships in the city, they were able to create a woodworking shop in the local social services center for people with disabilities to be able to work with their hands by building birdhouses.
“They started producing these birdhouses, and the Minister of Social Services happened to be at an exposition here where all those social services brought their things,” Luca said. “She saw the birdhouses and she bought one. That was a huge boost [for them]. Now, they’re actually making enough money to buy the wood and all the necessary stuff.”
In another building, the team established a daycare service. Single mothers and students now have a safe place to bring their kids while they work. To kick off this program, the paXan team hosted a Vacation Bible School in the social services center.
“Because of this really good relationship we have with social services, they provide the space for free and they even helped us recruit the kids for VBS,” Luca said.
These projects were designed to support needs of the local community. They have allowed Luca and Elena to develop positive relationships with the social services center, and they even attracted media attention across the nation.
“We were on national TV at that point because this was so brand new, having the Germans come in,” Luca said. “Nobody had ever done anything like that in [this country]. It was local and national news, plus a couple of articles on internet newspapers. A journalist came back and said they’d like to do a story on [us] because this is just so unusual. They did a full article on the two of us, as to why we would do that. It was an interview about faith.”
Thanks to the positive experience of working with Luca and Elena and the ministry team from Germany, the social services center continues to partner with the couple in providing a faith-based Kids Club. The bi-weekly program has attracted involvement from other parents and adults who love the lessons and activities. First, the team hosts a program for deaf and hearing-impaired children, and afterward, they work with hearing children.
God has continued to provide new ministry opportunities for Luca and Elena. Now, the couple has a vision of establishing a community center that will be “salt and light” to the whole city.
“We want to connect all the people here, making better neighbors, better homes, and a community center where people can come and explore what it means to be in the image of God,” Luca said.
*Names changed and location omitted for security reasons.