We got up early at 6am to prepare for a 6 hour train ride that would take us to the extreme western side of Georgia. We traveled to the coast of the Black Sea to Georgia’s third largest city called Batumi. The train ride was very nice, winding it’s way through the lower caucus mountains from Tbilisi to the coast. We arrived at our hotel around 1:30 and connected with our Pastor friends for lunch at 2:30 or so. It was a great reunion. The Pastors had all been with us last year in Bakuriani and were thrilled to see us. It is amazing to realize that God has really tied our hearts to these people and places.
Jose Luis gave an opening devotional from Isaiah chapter 40. From there we reviewed a little from last years training. We discussed that there are behaviors and elements in evangelism and church planting that we can control. IE we can control how often we pray for the lost, or how often we share the gospel. But there are also elements that we do not control, such as: We do not control who might respond to that gospel, or what disciples might start obeying the commands of Jesus. We can teach and faithfully share, but the Holy Spirit must bring the harvest.
We finished our time with prayer and then went together to get dinner at a restaurant that is famous for “khachapuri” an wonderful tasting cheese bread with an egg cracked on the top of it. It was amazing!
One of the highlights of spending time with these 18 Pastors is getting to hear their stories of God provision, protection, and breakthrough. One Pastor named Omari is a gifted story teller. I am going to share a few of his stories below.
One time our church had visited a mountain village where the people seemed very open to the gospel. We went to the village several times doing evangelism. We played music, played with the children, showed the Jesus Film, and the village was very receptive. Several people surrendered their life’s to Christ and we started meeting with them every week to start a church. Then one week when we arrived the tone changed completely. No one came out of their homes to greet us, we set up and played music but no one would come. Eventually some young people came out of the houses, but the adults shunned us.
As the day began to fade we packed up and started the drive back down the mountain. As we left the village we were overwhelmed by the natural beauty around us so we stopped and got out of the van to see colors in the trees, the flowers, and the mountains in the setting sun. It was a heavenly scene. After a few minutes we noticed that one of our men had wandered off and I went to go look for him. I got a few steps into the woods and I saw a group of about 8 men. They looked very large, strong, and angry. I decided to share the gospel with them and look for my friend later. As I approached them they crossed their arms and looked so upset.
They asked me, “Who are you?” “Why do you keep coming to our village?” I answered them, “I love this village! It is beautiful! You and your families are so blessed to live in such a beautiful place. I come to this village because I believe that God loves this village, look at all the blessings he has give you. I am a Christian, and I know that Jesus loves each of you, and I come here to make sure you know that.” “I have New Testament books that I want to give each of you, will you take one?” The men seemed to get even angrier and said, “by whose authority do you do these things?” (You see 95% of Georgians are orthodox Christians... but the Orthodox Priests never leave the church... You always have to go to them). Omari again shared how much he cared about this village and the people in it. He continued to share that God loves the village and each one of them as well. Again he offered the New Testaments.
Suddenly the leader seemed to change. He smiled at Omari and took one of the Bible’s. Then the others followed suite. None of them made a profession of faith, but they did allow Omari to pray with them.
As they parted ways, Omari noticed that the friend he had been looking for was next the van waving at him. When they got in the van, his friend was terrified and said, “We have to go now, they are coming to kill us.” Omari asked him what he was talking about. The friend had seen one of the young people in the woods that warned him that there were 8 men from the village that had been sent out to stop the team’s van. They had planned to kill the team and push the van off the mountain side. Omari said, “They intended to kill us, but they went home with God’s Word.” God had protected them and even changed the hearts of the men that day. Omari praised God for his protection.
There was a small village we had visited. It was a very poor village, and the people were very hard. It took several visits before anyone welcomed us. The man that welcomed us eventually gave surrendered to Christ and his family did the same. After that the village began to open up to us and after a few more visits we had a substantial group meeting to study God’s word together.
During one such visit a group of men approached us and told us we could not come any more. They were angry and said we were a cult and leading people away from Orthodoxy. They were very angry. One of the men was the brother of the man who had become a Christian. We left that day. When we returned the following week we found that this brother had stabbed his Christian brother after we had left. The Christians were very sad and afraid and asked us to stay away. We never returned to that village.
(Chad Again) When I heard these stories I realized just what kind of pressure these Pastors are under. They want to see the gospel explode among the lost, but face a wide range of persecution. In some places people get angry with them, but in some places their lives and the lives of any would be disciples can be at risk. Pray for these Christians! Pray for their boldness, protection, and discernment. Pray that God would soften the hearts of the Georgian people!