Brilliantly green from spring through summer, the North Caucasus Mountains in northern Azerbaijan are only slowly awakening in March. IMB photo
EUROPE – More than 125 people put their trust in Christ during a three-day mountain retreat in the Caucuses region of Europe. National church partners organized the weekend, with the help of some funding from Southern Baptists through SEND Relief.
This region of Europe has been severely affected by both the COVID-19 pandemic and a regional war that has left thousands displaced and in need over the winter months. IMB missionaries Cade and Jenny Wheeler* have lived and worked in this region for years, helping to meet the physical and spiritual needs of the people. During these latest days of crisis, however, they are stuck in the U.S. because of travel restrictions.
In their absence, the churches they helped to start and multiply, took on the mantle of leadership. Two of the three churches worked together to host the retreat.
“Our team has worked a long time in tandem with national believers. This is what we wanted to see—our partners doing it without us. We’re thrilled. Overjoyed,” Cade said.
The Wheelers say this type of response to the gospel is not something they’ve seen in many years. They were amazed when they heard the first night of the retreat that eight people came to Christ, the second night 30 more, and by the last day every single person had responded to the gospel.
“I’ve never seen anything like this,” their national church planter said.
“But three days of pouring into these families — meeting their needs, building relationships, and taking them away from their daily stresses, opened their hearts to the gospel,” Jenny said.
This retreat was not the first step though. This church has been ministering night and day to those in need. The massive crisis created by the war and the pandemic gave their new church a chance to really love people well. They hosted displaced people in their homes. They gave out food, clothes and medicine. They provided a listening, prayerful ear.
Cade and Jenny ask for you to join them in prayer.
- Pray for the new believers to be established in their faith and in the Word.
- Pray for a new church to be established as a result of this retreat.
- Pray for the survivors of war. Five thousand were killed; at least 4,000 of those were 18-20-year-olds. The nation is grieving and afraid for their future.
*Names changed for security
Karen Pearce is an IMB worker among European peoples and a contributing writer.