"From Communism to Christ" Global AFCOE in Ukraine By Wes Peppers, Global AFCOE Coordinator
Not long ago, no one in America would have thought about preaching the gospel freely in communist Ukraine, much less having a permanent Bible and evangelism training school where students come from all over Ukraine to learn how to share their faith.
Yet by means of much prayer and many miracles, God has done just that and much more. Amazing Facts launched its first-ever international AFCOE in 2010, and God has taken it to amazing heights. In our first class, 31 students from different parts of Ukraine and a few other countries gathered together for a four-month experience that would forever change their lives.
Laying the Groundwork These eager students began their course with two weeks of health evangelism training that included hydro and massage therapy. After this, they began door-to-door training under former ASI coordinator Kevin Sears, who now serves as the director of the school. The students conducted surveys in the community that offered free health programs and Bible studies.
There was concern over how well this would be received, as it had never been done before in Ukraine. Hours were spent in prayer before the students went out.
After just the first two days of outreach, more than 300 people had requested Bible studies!
One man with a terrible headache answered the knock on his door and discovered two of our young students smiling back at him. The man said, “You want me to study the Bible? I can’t study anything. I have had a migraine headache every minute for three solid weeks now!”
They responded, “We believe we can help you with that. If you let us in, we’ll show you how.” They then gave him a simple hydrotherapy treatment and a light massage.
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After 15 minutes the man exclaimed, “My headache is gone! You guys truly helped me. Let’s sit down, and I’m ready to study anything you want!” They had a Bible study together right there! This is what we teach at AFCOE, including our course here in the United States. Christ’s method of helping, healing, then teaching wins the confidence of people and opens their hears to hear about Him. In fact, so many people were interested that an additional day of outreach each week was added.
Heartfelt Preparation After eight weeks of training and hundreds of Bible studies going in the city of Vinnitsa, a 24-night Bible prophecy seminar was planned for the public. One hundred thousand invitations were printed and passed out personally by local church members and AFCOE students. Talk about dedication! I was quite amazed at how everyone worked so closely together to deliver 100,000 pieces of paper in a matter of days. Plus, about 40 giant billboard ads were also placed throughout the city. Advertisements were plastered on city buses and on public television. Every preparation that could be done from a human standpoint was done.
The most important preparations, however, were those of our own hearts. God’s blessing was desperately needed if anything positive would come through these efforts, and we needed Him to cleanse us and fill us with His Holy Spirit so that we could be used to the fullest by Him. Many long hours were spent in prayer as the series’ first day drew near.
Health Expo a Key Component On the night before the Bible seminar began, we hosted a free public health expo. Attendees were able to go through several stations that included the eight crucial lifestyle principles found in the NEWSTART® program.
They learned about the importance of proper nutrition, exercise, water, sunlight, temperance, fresh air, rest, and trust in God. Our students gave free massages, blood pressure and heart rate checks, and health food samples. We didn’t know how many people would come, but we weren’t ready for the number that did! More than 500 people rushed through the doors when we opened, each eager to take advantage of the free health advice. It was elbow to elbow as people waited in long lines for their turn. At the end of the night, more than 600 people had funneled through. This again demonstrates the need to use health when reaching out to people spiritually, just as Jesus did.
The dedication of students was incredible; they just kept working hard all night long. When I suggested to one student that he take a break, he replied, “This is a work for God; He will give me the strength I need to keep going. The people need to experience Jesus.” True to His promise, God did just that. Another dedicated student, 22-year-old Natasha, had an experience in life that most young ladies her age don’t struggle with—breast cancer struck her in her late teens. “All I wanted to do in life was work for God,” she said. “I told him that if He would heal me, I would give my life unreservedly to His cause.” She is now cancer free and faithful to her promise. She has led dozens of people to Jesus and His truth. She told me, “If I didn’t work for God, I would lose my purpose in life and likely die.” May God help us all have this level of dedication!
God’s Promised Blessing Poured Out On the opening night of the seminar, we knelt down in prayer seeking God’s blessing. We had rented the largest public auditorium in town, which seats 600 people. I had the joy of preaching and sharing God’s Word each evening. With the meeting hall packed, I preached about God’s love, His pardon for sin, the prophecies of Revelation, and the soon return of Jesus.
Night after night, I stared into the eyes of hundreds of people who were hungry to hear the Bible messages of hope. They were looking for hope they had never had before, and they found it in Christ. They eagerly shook my hand on their way out, telling me how they “just couldn’t wait till the following evening.” Some even told me they couldn’t sleep at night in anticipation of the next message. Others said they had never studied the Bible for themselves or prayed to God in their entire lives till now. What a delight it was to see them come forward during the altar calls to invite Jesus into their hearts!
One such lady was Tatiana, a middle-aged woman who attended every night. She said, “I am so thankful that I have found Jesus at this seminar. I was raised in an atheistic home to believe that God doesn’t exist, but now I know He not only exists but also lives within my heart. I have found a new hope and joy in life through Christ I never knew was possible!” This is the power of God’s Word; no man can take credit for these things.
Changed Lives Because of such high interest, we had to have two sessions per day. Some people attended both meetings even though they were the same!
One such young lady was 19-year-old Veronica, who had been contemplating suicide. “I didn’t feel like there was any meaning in my life, and my family didn’t really care about me. I saw no reason to live.” One day, she was walking down the street alone and cried out loud, “God, if you are real and care anything about me, you must show me that you are real.” The very next moment, she noticed a giant billboard advertisement for our meetings above her head! Her heart jumped, and with tears in her eyes she prayed to know more. She divinely found one of the brochures crumbled nearby on the ground. She came every night to both meetings. “I have found in Jesus everything I have always hoped for, and I can’t get enough of His Word. Even though my life’s circumstances are hard, I have peace that I have never had before.”
Another man had been in prison for 11 years. He began Bible studies with the prison ministries pastor but wanted to learn more. Then a miracle happened—he was suddenly released from prison just one day before the meetings began! He attended and gave his life to Christ through baptism. He is now working faithfully in a children’s orphanage. Two other young men also responded to the voice of Christ. Victor was a young man who had a long history with drugs and violence. He thought he was living the life he always wanted—one full of money, women, and anything he desired. He soon realized that this lifestyle led to nothing but emptiness. Desperate for change, he attended the meeting through the invitation of a friend. “When I found Christ, I found freedom.”
Sergey, a young boxer, had a bright future ahead of him in the sport. Unusually talented, he was offered several professional opportunities. While visiting his sister after training, she showed him one of the seminar brochures. “I decided to attend just because she wanted someone to go with her. I never knew it would change my own life forever!” They both attended nearly every night and were baptized together. Though he loved boxing very much, he decided that wasn’t something God wanted him to pursue anymore. “Christ said to love your enemies, not fight them.” He has given it up to take up the cross for Christ. Surely, the power of the Holy Spirit to change lives is remarkable, and God is moving young people everywhere to follow Him in these last days. There isn’t much time to wait!
A Very Unique Story Indeed One of the most amazing stories was that of Luda.
She had attended a previous seminar but had to go out of town toward the end. She had almost accepted Christ and joined His church but hesitated and backed away. She gave her number to the speaker, and he put it in his cell phone. But when he went to call her, it was gone! It somehow was deleted.
He knew that she desperately needed to come to our seminar. Several months passed. He shared his burden with our AFCOE students. The entire school began to pray that they would somehow find her. Then another miracle happened. Only one day before the meetings began, one of the students was on his way to a local university to pass out invitations. Luda was in her home, and she felt heavily impressed to go for a walk. “Go for a walk? I don’t want to go for a walk. I want to take a nap,” she grumbled to herself. The impression only grew stronger, so she decided to follow it thinking God must have a reason.
While outside, she walked right past the student, and they both stopped at the same time to look back at each other. He stretched out his hand offering an invitation, not knowing why but feeling that he should. When she saw it, she immediately recognized that it was similar to the meeting she had previously attended. She was filled with joy at the thought that God had led her to that moment. This time, she came every night except one. For one particular meeting she needed to listen to, she became very sick. “I was certain the devil didn’t want me there, and I was so sad that I could not attend.” Instead, we brought the meeting to her! She was so thankful, and she knelt down with us in her apartment that evening and unreservedly dedicated her life to Christ. She was baptized soon after. The odds that our student would find her in a city of 350,000 were slim to none, yet God had a plan for her life that the devil could not hinder through lost phone numbers or sickness. She said at her baptism, “I am so thankful for God’s compassion, and I know He has a purpose for my life. I can’t wait to spend eternity with Him!”
Just the Beginning At the end of the series and with the dedication of our AFCOE Global students, 42 people dedicated their lives to Christ through baptism, with several more preparing through Bible studies. What a joy it was to see firsthand God’s miracle working power in the lives of these people as they overcame every obstacle to come to Christ. It reminds me of this text in the Bible: “Look to Me, and be saved, all you ends of the earth! For I am God, and there is no other” (Isaiah 45:22 NKJV). God fulfilled His purpose in the lives of these people when they looked to Him. He deserves all the glory.
Today we are now in the third session of AFCOE Ukraine. Several students are preparing for the next evangelistic meeting that will take place soon. I have confidence that even greater stories will be told as God continues to work mightily not just in Ukraine, but also in India, England, and the Philippines later this year and next.
Truly God’s message is spreading exponentially as AFCOE around the world continues to reproduce gospel workers that will herald and hasten the second coming of Jesus. God has surely done great things, but we need much more! Our desire is to continue planting these schools everywhere so that many will be trained to share God’s last-day message of mercy with every person.
If you would like to help with this effort, please pray for these schools, that God will continue to pour out His spirit on them. Financial support is also needed. If you would like to help financially with these schools, send your donation to Amazing Facts, marked Global AFCOE.
And remember, “this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in all the world as a witness to all the nations, and then the end will come” (Matthew 24:14 NKJV). If you are interested in attending the 4-month or 10-day AFCOE programs in the United States in the fulfillment of this precious promise, please visit our newly updated website (afcoe.org) today.
Wes Peppers is in Ukraine for another AFCOE evangelistic series next month. AFCOE students have already done pre-work and outreach for the meetings, which are scheduled to begin April 15. Please keep our team in your prayers!
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