MB Foundation released a resource in 2018 to inspire generosity among the U.S. Mennonite Brethren family as part of its “Championing Biblical Stewardship” efforts. The Seven-Day Generosity Challenge was developed for churches and small groups to encourage a life of joyful, Christ-centered generosity.
Two years later, the devotional has become popular in Eurasia and is available in Russian, Ukrainian and Georgian, thanks to MB Foundation’s partnership with Mission Eurasia, an international agency focused on training and mobilizing Christian leaders in the 14 countries of the former Soviet Union (a region now called Eurasia) and Israel, where a large Russian-speaking population from the former Soviet Union has emigrated. https://missioneurasia.org/
The book has been reprinted three times in Eurasia, for a total of 10,000 copies.
“We had been thinking about the importance of this topic in the churches of Eurasia for a long time,” says Michael Cherenkov, Mission Eurasia executive field director. “When I read this book in 2018 I knew right then that we had to translate and publish it for our partner churches in Ukraine. The book was a simple, clear and inspiring invitation to be generous and I wanted to pass on that message as far as possible to change both the mentality and daily ministry practices.”
The first recipients of the devotional were 11 MB churches, and it was like a breath of fresh air to them, says Cherenkov.
MB churches in Ukraine are young and small. On one hand, they are constantly faced with a lack of resources. On the other hand, they are actively involved in many ministries and are very open to fresh ideas. They were very happy to implement the idea of generosity and make it a foundation for their ministry practices.
Pastor Aleksei Yuditsenko, of Heart for Christ MB Church in Berdyansk, Ukraine, describes the Seven-Day Generosity Challenge as compelling and personally encouraging.
“I have used the material of the book in my sermon and was planning to study it in our home groups but that was when our country announced a lockdown” (due to the coronavirus), Yuditsenko says. “So, as soon as we are able to meet in groups we’ll go through Seven-Day Generosity Challenge as a church in our small groups. This book is a great tool to study in groups.”
Sergei Ryadnov, of Light to the World MB Church in Novomoskovsk, Ukraine, says the resource broadened his understanding of generosity and helped him in his personal life and ministry. “There were many helpful ideas there that I now teach in my church,” he says.
Roman Rakhuba is a leader of MB churches in Ukraine who also teaches at School Without Walls (SWW), a specially designed program for young leaders of Mission Eurasia. Rakhuba has shared the stewardship resource and his experience using these ideas with others.
As a result, Seven-Day Generosity Challenge became part of SWW’s curriculum in 14 countries of the former Soviet Union. Thousands of young leaders can read the book, download electronic versions and see the lessons in video format.
Seventy years under the Soviet regime taught people to keep the mentality of scarcity which also affected the church, Cherenkov says. Today, the topic of generosity helps to repair the defects in theology and practical church ministry and also unlocks the potential of the church for a more active and effective ministry. And in this regard, the legacy and experience of MB churches is valuable and relevant for the sister churches in Ukraine and other countries of Eurasia.
Mission Eurasia is also developing additional resources to complement the devotional, including digital devotional books in Russian and Ukrainian and videos for each lesson currently available on YouTube. It is also in the final stages of recoding the devotional as audiobooks. As Mission Eurasia built on the idea of the “generosity challenge” they also initiated a TV program, “Time to Be Generous.”
Mission Eurasia has received stories and testimonies of the Seven-Day Generosity Challenge’s impact for individual studies, home groups and churches.
Denis Gorenkov, of Mission Eurasia in Ukraine, describes the book as relevant in different cultures and Christian communities. “I have witnessed how this message was received by young leaders in Eastern Europe, Central Asia, Caucasus and Russia,” he says. “They live and serve in different countries and contexts and (this book’s) universal and holistic (message) helped our leaders grasp it and live it out.”
Youth leader Sergei Semenov, Zaporozhye, Ukraine, anticipates using Seven-Day Generosity Challenge with young people in his church, and Mariana Vakula, Kharkiv, Ukraine, is planning to use the book in her women’s group.
“This book inspires, challenges and changes you,” she says. “Because of the challenges at the end of each chapter, the biblical principles of generosity get implemented in our everyday lives.”
Pastor and home group leader Igor Syrbu, Chisinau, Moldova, says he’s always on the look out for resources and is “impressed” with the devotional. “The material resonated with my heart and helped me personally to be more deliberate and disciplined with generosity…. Recently I started to think how I can financially support a project, especially now in time of crisis and pandemic.”
Seven-Day Generosity Challenge was first compiled by The Global Generosity Network, and it gave MB Foundation permission to customize the resource for its use. MB Foundation has published almost 4,000 copies of the Seven-Day Generosity Challenge in the U.S. This includes 2,727 in English, 194 in Spanish and 1,014 in Russian.
“Only God could take a resource for our U.S. Mennonite Brethren constituency … and use it across the former Soviet Union to encourage our Mennonite Brethren churches in Ukraine and as a resource for the Christian church at large,” says Jon C. Wiebe, president and CEO of MB Foundation.
This article has been written by Michael Cherenkov, Mission Eurasia, and Jon C Wiebe, MB Foundation.