Led by Nazarene Youth International President Sasha Lyansburg-Ferns and missionary Joseph Sumi, a group of 10 youth leaders from the Commonwealth of Independent States Field organized a Nazarene Youth Conference in Tsakhkadzor, Armenia, in July. More than a hundred young people from six CIS countries — Moldova, Ukraine, Russia, Armenia, and two countries in Central Asia — gathered for worship and fellowship.
Given the (peaceful) protests in Yerevan, Armenia, prior to the conference, the tension between Russia and Ukraine, and other recent political events, one major concern was whether the youth would be able to rise above the political issues to live out their identity in Christ and spend time together in worship and fellowship. God answered the many prayers of leaders, parents, and youth, and there were no barriers.
“In these five days of the youth conference, God has reminded me that Christ has defeated the powers of this world on His cross and our God is much stronger than the one who is trying to divide us,” said Davide Cantarella, speaker at the conference and missionary on the CIS Field. “Also, I was reminded that the young generation of the Church of the Nazarene might actually be wiser beyond their years, because they understand who the enemy is and who are our brothers and sisters in faith.”
Youth from different parts of the continent used the conference to get to know one another.
“Everyone was divided into mixed-nationality groups with the purpose of meeting people from all over the region,” said Volodymyr Masyuk, Ukraine-Moldova district superintendent, “but I was amazed to see that people purposefully mixed during the lunch and dinner times, as to get to know as many people as possible, not just stay within the safety of one’s national group.”
Andrei Manakov, a group leader from Ukraine, was blessed by the conference.
“I’ve been to so many conferences and I have never felt anything like this before," he said. "I really have felt God’s Spirit present in this gathering. Especially during the group meetings, when you see people from multiple nationalities sharing how God is touching their lives and mending hearts; it is incredible. I am so glad God blessed me with this experience.”
Evelina Nem, a participant from Rostov-on-Don, Russia, left with a deeper understanding of what it means to be a Christian.
“I have been reminded that praying the prayer and becoming a Christian is only the beginning of the journey," she said. "The real task is to get to the finish line gracefully. There have been difficulties on our way and sometimes we forget about unity; we fear conflicts, troubles, and giants that are standing in front of us. But we have heard in Revelation 2:10 'Don’t quit, even if it costs you your life. Stay there believing. I have a Life-Crown sized and ready for you,' and one day, we’ll hear those long-awaited words as we stand before Him: 'Well done, good and faithful servant. Come enter your Master’s joy.'"
The conference reminded attendees that no matter what language you pray in, no matter what passport you have, no matter what country you were born in, we all belong to the kingdom of God, and He reminds each one of us that we are the citizens of His city and we’re here to learn to worship together as one body.