Anna knew that God led her to study at Saratov State University, located beside the famous Volga river in Russia. Now she was graduating with a degree in biology. Eager to put her knowledge to work, Anna began looking for a job, but no work could be found.
“God,” she prayed, “I can’t find a job, and I don’t know why. But I know you provided this education, and I know you have something in mind for me.”
God did indeed have plans for Anna—much bigger than she could have imagined. One day, the youth director of the Volga Conference asked Anna if she would be interested in serving as a missionary in the new One Year In Mission (OYIM) program, a special General Conference initiative to train young adults and give them opportunities to participate in the world church’s Mission to the Cities outreach.
The conference youth director told Anna that the Euro-Asia Division (ESD) was considering many applicants, so he couldn’t guarantee that she would be chosen. After indicating her interest, they prayed together, and then Anna put it out of her mind.
Sometime later she received a call from the Division youth director, asking if she was really interested in participating in One Year in Mission.
“Yes, I really want to do something for God,” Anna responded.
Soon afterward she learned that she was chosen to represent her division in the OYIM program, launching in New York City in 2013.
After overcoming some challenging visa problems, Anna arrived in New York on January 24, 2013, and immediately joined the other 13 young adults representing all divisions and attached fields of the Seventh-day Adventist Church.
Together the young people received leadership training in community service, evangelism, medical missionary work, and communication. The missionaries would then take their practical experience and training back to their divisions, where they would train a team of 10 volunteers from each union of their division. In this way the missionary effect would multiply. Christ’s Method Alone
“The main thing for us was to revive the church, so we tried using Christ’s method alone—mingling with people, realizing their needs, giving Bible studies, and inviting them to follow Jesus,” Anna said.
Day after day the OYIM missionaries went around their neighborhood knocking on doors. “Hello, we have recently moved here and just wanted to greet you. We are your new neighbors and want to be friends.” Most of the neighbors were from India or Nepal.
“When we talked together, they became our friends and would listen to us,” said Anna. “Many wanted to study the Bible, and often we would pray with them.
“Sometimes I made blinis [thin Russian pancakes], and delivered them to the neighbors, telling them that I just wanted to give them some pancakes and let them know that God loves them. It was just a little piece of God’s love.”
In addition to reaching out to her neighbors, Anna was assigned to work in a church located in a Spanish-speaking community in New York City. Many of the nearby residents wanted to obtain U.S. citizenship, but they needed to know English. So the missionaries started free English as a second language (ESL) classes at the Adventist church.
“It was really great,” remembers Anna. “People were so happy that we could help them. We began every lesson with a Bible verse, explaining the grammar and the meaning of the verse. After the lessons we invited them to come to the evening evangelistic programs where they could check their English. We made many contacts in this way!”
As local church members watched these enthusiastic OYIM missionaries work, they understood that they, too, could do something special for the community and began to follow the example of reaching out to their neighbors, rather than simply focusing on programs and activities that were primarily pointing inward.
“I can tell you honestly,” said Anna, “that I didn’t used to think much about working in the big cities—I didn’t see what the real problems were. And it’s easier to go to a village. But after being involved with this project, I understand that we really, really need to be here.
“I learned how to look at the church with different eyes. I realized that we need to work differently—we need to be real Christians. Something in my mind had changed; I understood how we need to live, and how to work.
Next week we follow Anna as she continues her One Year in Mission experience in the Euro-Asia Division.