I was invited to conduct a week of intensive lectures on “Effective Evangelism” at the Slavic Missionary Bible School (SMBS) in Jacksonville, Florida. This vital ministry was founded about 8 years ago by visionary pioneer, Bogdan Bondarenko who serves as Director, and supported by a strong team including Andre Zakharchenia (Manager) and Dina Nazarchuk (Administrator). 2012 has seen by far the largest number of students enroll at SMBS, with all 88 of them coming from 25 different States in the US, with 3 came across from Germany.
SMBS is a Christian education centre designed for young adults with a Slavic background as well as for those with a passionate heart for the Slavic people. Most of their students are children of emigrants from the former Soviet Union who endured persecution for their faith. Their goal is to minister to this new generation by instructing them in Biblical studies and inspiring them to serve people on the mission field and in the local Jacksonville community. Please visit their website to learn more about their amazing ministry: http://www.slavicmissionary.org
The SMBS faculty scheduled me in to their programme to deliver approximately 30 hours worth of lectures throughout the week where I covered subjects such as Effective Evangelism, Biblical Foundation to understanding the Gospel, as well as a hands-on-training in Practical Evangelism in the local community, which also included “One-to-One” Street Evangelism in Down Town, Jacksonville. I probably shouldn’t be saying this, but I speak at such a lot of meetings around the world in over 83 countries, and yet the 2012 SMBS students were by far one of my favourite groups to work with! During the week, I took the entire group through a session called “Match-Stick-Testimonies”, were I trained each student to share their testimony and the Gospel message in the time it takes to burn a match. Every student was brave to take on the challenge and nervously stand in front of the class as they lit their match to swiftly communicate their points. Nearly all of them commented on how much they loved the exercise. I have never heard such dramatic and powerful testimonies of young adults that have survived all manner of persecution in their home countries, whilst others spoke bravely of having been raised in dysfunctional families, and one boldly declared how the Lord had brought her through from rape to restoration. I can actually say that I love every one of these young believers that are eagerly seeking to be equipped to serve God effectively with all their heart and soul. The Body of Christ needs more believers such as these precious ones!!! I, for one, will be keeping them in my personal prayers for many years to come!
Further meetings were also packed into the schedule during the week, including a special visit to the Duval County Juvenile Facility Centre and the local church that SMBS is part of. Jail Ministry Leader, Tanya Kanifolsky was able to make a last minutes arrangement for me to join a team of 12 Bible students that was visiting the Juvenile Facility Centre. This was probably the youngest group of inmates that I have ever spoken to in all my travels. The groups age range spread from as young as 7 years old and up to about 17 years. The young people are held at this facility for a variety of crimes including assault, theft, violence, murder, robberies and possession of drugs to name but a few. The facility serves as an initial holding centre for juvenile offenders, before a complicated process of working out whether they will go into foster care, a secure facility or in many cases, prison. The group sang a few songs in English and one in Russian (…which the young people liked), and all 21 youngsters sat like angels as they listened to me share my testimony and the Gospel message. It was a joy to see every one of the youngsters raise their hands to accept Jesus into their hearts. We were tight for time, as the jail was understaffed but there sure was a lot of joy in heaven for those that repented. Please pray for the youngsters in this vital juvenile prison, and for those that faithfully serve on a week to week basis!!
Dates are already in place for me to return to SMBS to teach the students that enroll for 2013.
Jacksonville is located on the shores of the Atlantic Ocean in the north-eastern part of the state of Florida. It’s the largest city in the U.S. by land area with a population of approximately 1.3 million. The city is divided by the St. John’s River which flows into the ocean. The downtown area is lined with skyscrapers, bridges, river walks, and of course palm trees. Since Jacksonville is located in the north-eastern part of Florida, it has a temperate climate and a very subtle change of seasons. Year-round, during the day, there are plenty of blue skies and sunshine. Jacksonville is located approximately two hours north of Orlando, four hours north-east of Tampa and six hours north of Miami.