Anna Gavelo, 23, represented the Euro-Asia Division in the pilot program of “One Year in Mission.” She, along with 13 other young adults worked in New York City as part of the Mission to the Cities outreach.
When I was in New York, I was dreaming about coming back home and doing something really special,” Anna recalled. “I was so inspired in New York, and began praying about what could be done in ESD.”
In June 2013, hundreds of leaders, pastors, and evangelists from around the world descended on New York City to participate in the General Conference International Field School of Evangelism. The program included classes in the day and practical experience in evening evangelistic meetings held across the New York metropolitan area.
Leonid Rutkovsky, a pastor from ESD, gave presentations at the Ukrainian and Russian churches in New York. When he wasn’t in class or meetings, Leonid and Victor Kozakov, the Adventist Mission director for ESD, discussed how they could do something similar in their division.
“We decided that if people were preaching in New York, and having good results, then why not in our territory?” Leonid said. “If it can happen in New York—a difficult city—then it can happen in Moscow or Kiev.
“The field school gave us clear direction for reaching the big cities. Now we were focused, we had a purpose in mind, and a goal to reach.”
When Anna met Leonid, she was excited to hear about the developing plans. “We have a goal to knock on every door in Kiev,” he told her. “There are 700,000 doors in Kiev, and we want every one. We will have special maps showing every street, every block, and every house.”
Anna was delighted. “I could see God was leading, and knew I needed to go to Kiev. He has His wonderful plan—we just need to follow it.”
Following the meetings in New York, the OYIM missionaries returned to their home divisions to begin the second phase of their work. Anna went to Kiev where she worked with Leonid.
As the Mission to the Cities director in Kiev, Leonid provides training in preaching for church members and oversees the work of Bible and literature workers and medical missionaries who provide simple remedies to the community and offer health education—including 16 classes such as smoking cessation, cooking and weight loss, alcohol recovery, mother and child health, and more.
“Here we have done even more than we could in New York,” said Leonid.
One hundred fifty missionaries came to Kiev—all were chosen by their unions or conferences. In addition a youth team was formed, with 18 members from across the Euro-Asia Division. During the nearly six-month training program, the missionaries worked alongside Bible workers and medical missionaries, and helped in the health stores. Additionally, 400 pastors came during two-week rotations to prepare for similar programs to be held in other cities throughout the division.
Anna, who led the youth group, was involved in several facets of the program. Describing her first day in Kiev, she said, “We went prayer walking, and walked close to the doors of the houses where we would be returning. At each house we would pray, “Please, God, give us this house. Give us these people. Prepare them for us.”
The next day team members went two by two, with one speaking while the other prayed. “First, we talk with the person about events happening in the world,” Anna describes. “Then we ask if they have ever read the Bible, and if they think there is a connection between spiritual life and health. We try to continue the conversation and become acquainted with the people.”
“What works in this method,” adds Leonid, “is not our faces or our questions. It is that God prepares a special person for us. I believe that God has this person prepared to hear what we have to share with them. This is very important.”
After just two weeks of going door to door the team was rejoicing that 26 new people came to church. Additionally, the health program participants were delighted to learn how to live longer and better, and were enjoying being with the missionaries. “You have such a wonderful team,” they told Leonid and Anna. “We want to be with you. We like what you are doing.”
Anna is especially pleased with the effect the project is having on the youth. “I’m so happy when I hear them say, ‘You know, we feel like we’re in heaven. We feel like we are really living here.’ At home, they have other worries, but here they feel the love of Jesus. When we work with Jesus and for Him, it’s real life.”
“Our youth program is part of the larger Mission to the Cities project,” said Leonid. “Here we are all involved in one project—one mind, one spirit, and it’s really great, we can all move together.”
“This project is the result of a lot of prayers,” adds Anna. “Our entire world church has been thinking about how to reach people in the cities. If we are all together, we can really do wonderful things—and Jesus will come!”