Communitas starts and shapes communities of faith that love like Jesus in their neighborhoods. We do this by sending missionaries to new cultures and by training people in their home contexts to start churches. Some of our work is happening in the disputed territory between Ukraine and Russia, which is currently very much in the news. Will you join us in praying for peace?
Pavel, one of our current trainees, lives in the disputed territory between Ukraine and Russia. He had been wrestling for a long time about whether God was calling him and his young family to start a new church, feeling completely unprepared and yet yearning for something new for the city he loves so much.
Before he joined our training, during the active war on that country’s border with Russia a few years ago, Pavel and about 50 other pastors and Christian leaders were kidnapped and taken to a nearby forest. Soldiers began to tie them to trees and then began to systematically shoot each one in the head if they did not promise to stop preaching.
All around him, pastors were being shot while tied to trees. Pavel was tied to a tree, as well, waiting his turn. They had killed dozens of men. He could hear the soldiers demanding the pastors deny Jesus Christ, but then realized they were shooting them regardless of the answer. Pavel was praying for God’s mercy, of course, and especially for his young wife and child who were at home when he had been kidnapped.
As he tells it, “I’m hearing all the men being asked these questions and to deny Christ. But then they’re shooting them anyway, so I said, ‘Lord I’m not going to deny you. If you spare me, I will go back to our city and take over the church plant and do it however you want. But I’m also ready to die now.’”
As a soldier came up to him and told him to deny Jesus, the commander of the operation walked up and looked at Pavel. He said, “I know this guy.” Years earlier, they had both been in prison together due to alcohol and drug convictions. The commander got out of prison and went into the army. Pavel got out of prison and went into ministry.
Pavel was standing there, tied to a tree, and the commander dismissed the soldier. The commander asked Pavel why he believes this Christianity nonsense. “Because I do,” was Pavel’s response. “Because it’s real.” “Well, I won’t let them kill you today,” replied the commander. He fired a bullet above Pavel’s head and then cut him loose from the tree. “You better leave now and hope that I never see you again.”
He started to run, and ran three to four miles back toward the city, praying not to be caught. When he got home, his family was all there, terrified and surprised at the same time. Pavel’s wife said to him, “God has given me a vision!” He replied, “He gave me a vision, too… but you go first.” Pavel’s wife described how she had prayed that God would save him and that God assured her He would save Pavel and they were to dedicate their lives to the church in their city. This was Pavel’s vision, too!
After a few weeks, they had to move, but they started the church without any training, and Pavel started attending a Christian university in Krasnodar to study to be a pastor. He got connected to Communitas International’s Dynamic Adventure training that developed and coached him in church planting. He continued to increase in his boldness for Christ.
Now, as a taxi driver to support his family, every morning he drives to a larger city an hour away in order to make more money. Every day, he gets lunch at a little bakery. The two ladies in the bakery can hardly make ends meet; they don’t have money to even buy a coffee maker for customers, but Pavel always wants a coffee.
So Pavel told his small developing church about the ladies at the bakery, about how poor they are, just trying to keep their bakery open. He asked them how their church could be a blessing to these women. The church members decided to buy the ladies a coffee maker! Now, Pavel is doing a Bible study with the ladies in their bakery, as well as text message Bible studies with other taxi drivers!
Pavel said this about our Communitas training: “Your training has opened my eyes! I don’t need to ONLY do church in my house or in a building. I can do it in this bakery, or any other place, and even via texting with my friends who are so busy driving taxis!” Soli deo Gloria—glory to God alone! God saved Pavel from death in the forest, giving him a second chance at life. Now Pavel is offering life to people every day, wherever he goes with the Gospel.
Note: As the tensions increase on this disputed border between Ukraine and Russia again, will you join us in praying for Peace? May our God of Peace be merciful to our brothers and sisters in Christ, and would His name be made famous through the witness of Pavel and so many like him!