Saturday, September 23, 2017

Lithuania Mission Trip: An Opportunity to Give Back

By Vitali Turlac

Summer for us at Turlac Mission is a season of mission trips. I was excited about going on mission to Lithuania because this was my first trip after having received treatments for my back issues. By the end of the summer, after months of medical procedures, I felt like to could handle an airplane flight and a week of ministry in the Baltics. Thank you for your prayers for me, friends! What a thrill to be able to continue the Lord’s work in the former Soviet Union!

On August 29th, I departed from Moldova to Lithuania with a layover in Warsaw, Poland. Because my flight got cancelled, I had to spend the light in Warsaw. But early in the morning on the next day, I boarded the plane that headed to Vilnius, Lithuanian capital.

Lithuania has a special place in my heart. I came to this country first in the summer of 2000 when I was just 17 years old. This was at the time when Lithuanians were still trying hard to deal with their Soviet past. Because of generosity of a dear friend from America, I was able to receive a scholarship to study at Lithuanian Christian University (LCU) in Klaipeda. LCU is a school, which offers to students instruction in liberal arts. Students are required to take core Bible courses.

I spent 4 years at LCU preparing for the mission work ahead. It was in Lithuania that received my calling to ministry and was firmly convinced that the Lord is calling me to Christian work. Through good instruction from my teachers and mentors, God was shaping me to become His servant. After graduation in 2004, I joined Turlac Mission started by Oleg and Natasha. Since then, the Lord gave me a ton of opportunities to serve Him through preaching, evangelism, youth work, anti-trafficking and cross-cultural missions.

It was with great joy that I arrived in Lithuanian capital. Right away I connected with the local Christian community. You think that when you go on mission that you are going to bless people. This is true. But God knows how blessed I was when I sat in the circle of Christian friends that were sharing with me stories of their strong faith and struggle against Communist oppression.

Those of you who remember the 1990’s, you might recall the phenomenon called “the Baltic Chain.” It was on August 23, 1989, at the time when Soviet Union was crumbling that close to 2 million people from three Baltic republics (Lithuanians, Latvians and Estonians) formed a human chain spanning more than 300 miles. They stood together, hand in hand, stating to Kremlin authorities that they no longer wished to live in a totalitarian Red Empire but wanted to be free. Two years after this, the Soviet Union collapsed and Baltic republics received their independence.

While I was standing on Gedeminas Boulevard in downtown Vilnius, I thought of my great grandfather Konstantin Gaydarzhi who was a Christian minister and who in 1940’s was sentenced for 10 years of Stalin’s camps because of preaching Christ. Only faith in Christ helped him endure all these long years of imprisonment. Only faith in God and belief that one day freedom will come, helped people living in Lithuania persevere through years of Soviet oppression. Thousands of them were exiled to Siberia and murdered. But some of them lived to see freedom come.

From Vilnius, I departed to Klaipeda by bus. While in Klaipeda, I spent a lot of time on campus of the LCU, my Alma Mater. Since 2015, we have partnered with the school in providing PC tablets to students of Christian missions. This year, we committed to providing a scholarship for Megi Laska, 18-year old Christian student of missions and business from Albania, European nation recovering from its Communist past. I brought with me funds for purchase of all necessary supplies that Megi needed for her studies and dorm room. It was so great to see the campus full of new students that were moving in and getting ready for the very first academic year. This reminded me of my first days at the University. It brought me extra joy that now I am able to help someone else just like 17 years ago dear friends helped me.

When I talked to Megi, I asked her to share why she wanted to study missions. She said, “It is a dream come true for me, a simple girl from a poor post-Communist country, to come and study at LCU. I would like to be a good student so that everything I do would bring glory to God. I want to be useful for God’s Kingdom and particularly in mission work in my home country of Albania. My dream is to impact lives of young people in Albania and tell them about Christ while teaching them about business principles that will help them serve people in my home country.”

It was a joy for me to meet with the University President Dr. Marlene Wall who provides good leadership for LCU, which was founded in 1991. Currently, it serves more than 600 students from dozens of formerly Communist countries, offering education in English language.

The Baptist congregation in Klaipeda has a special place in my heart. I attended this church during my student years. Oleg and I preached in it during our visit to Lithuania in 2015. The is more than 100 years old. Its members saw Nazi occupation and Communist persecution. The church in Klaipeda is a living testimony that the gates of hell will never destroy Christ’s Church. It was special to receive an invitation to come back and share from the Word of God (Mat.16:18).

On Sunday morning I preached on “Unity in Diversity” based upon 1 Corinthians 12. I emphasized that on one hand, we all are different, being unique members of Christ’s Church. On the other hand, we all are one Body of Christ with Him being the Head of the Church. As God’s children and brothers and sisters to each other, we should not only rejoice together but bear each other’s burdens, as Paul writes in 1Cor.12:26: “If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it.”

This biblical text brings me to the thought that you and I, dear friends, are God’s co-laborers in mission work. We not only rejoice and suffer together. We do mission work together. Thank you for enabling me to go on mission to Lithuania. Because of your generous contributions, I was able to touch many lives. Now we all have to live up to our commitment to support Megi. It takes just $200 per month to provide for her room and board. We count on your faithful support for this as you feel led by God. Please, pray for Megi that God would shape her into His servant that will touch lives of many people in her native Albania.

I write these lines while on the plane that takes me back to Moldova. My trip comes to an end but there is a lot of work that is ahead of me. In just a few days I will take another mission trip. Please, keep us at Turlac Mission in your prayers and thank you once again for being our partners in mission.