If I had a battle cry, it would probably be, “Give me a team, or give me death!” Ever since learning the value of teamwork and the essential value of the Body of Christ as a real functioning organism while a camp counselor in 1988, I have been on a quest. It reached its peak, and its painful failure during my days in ministry in Richmond, Virginia (1997-2007). There I saw the potential of the Church of the city, rising together as one to reach the world for Christ. God granted us a vision and a core of pastors, ministry and business leaders who came together during that time, and it was exciting.
Until it wasn’t. I also learned that without depth, formed on the basis of a willingness to die to self for Christ, unity is an illusion. I came to Russia with a vision and passion to build the real McCoy, Lord willing. There was no option for me to work with Americans, or even foreigners, so I set to building the capacity for team among the Russians, which, I am confident is a better strategy anyway longterm.
It’s been a long journey to where we are today, but this summer we number 10 on our team, including me, and three others are seriously looking at the possibility of joining us. We gathered for the first time as a group for a significant time in June, and it was a marvelous time of fellowship, vision casting, and ministering to each other. This post will be comprised of their comments about the process.
Liliana (who is in the “potential” category, had this to say: “I needed this retreat to see everyone live. Taking this step was important to me, new and surprisingly important, a push, a leap forward, call it what you will. For the team it was imporant to discuss important questions and even to get to overcome a small conflict during our time together.”
“I deeply value the team for the fact that they are people who know they have room to grow and they really want to grow. I was impressed with their unique effort to grow in fellowship with one another, their desire to be always ready to serve with each one’s gifts, and their rare understanding of what the Body of Christ is.”
“Everyone needs this ministry. It strengthens and renews personal relationships. It gives hope that people can hear and understand each other. I think we don’t have enough of that in our country. Everyone can speak of himself and what personally hurts, but who answers them? Who discusses their needs with them? Offers healing? That’s what this ministry offers.”
Pastor Volodya said this: “Having suffered the trauma of a civil war and the Soviet repression, Russians’ capacity for intimacy, trust, or healthy interactions has been destroyed. We don’t know how to build teams because we can’t hear each other – at home, in the church, and at work. We can’t even hear God, because religiosity kills any real relationship with God and others.”
Olga (another potential team member) wrote afterwards: “Our parents were the first generation after WW2, whose task was to merely survive on the harsh conditions of the time of restoring our country. Adults all worked, and the kids helped out from a young age. There was no time for family conversations, fellowship, as everyone was busy doing what he had to do. Our parents grew up, started their own families, but they had no ability to have a heart-to-heart conversation. They couldn’t do it or teach it to us. In our day, during Soviet times, kids were to remain silent, obey adults, and we weren’t taught how to relate to each other at school either. Neither at home or at school were there examples of how to speak in a way that there would be a desire to listen or be heard. No one taught us how to deal with conflicts. Therefore most people are afraid to be honest and authentic in relationships, wearing instead their customary masks, manipulating and being malicious with others. But it’s possible to relate to others a different way and to learn how to do so! So the work this ministry does helps people become aware the need for a change of conversational style and more about how to build relationships well, how to build deep, authentic relationships with others.”
Marina, a new member of the team, had this to say: “I needed this trip to see people in person. Communication by Zoom is great, but it’s much more enjoyable to communicate face-to-face. For the team, I think it was a great time to relax, get filled, minister to each other, and worship and pray together. It was also valuable for me to hear the dreams and visions from both Lyle and the other team members.”
“What is unique for me in interacting with the team is that everyone is provided with care and support, both physically, mentally, and spiritually, even when we are in different cities. Also that conflicts and difficulties are not hushed up and not overlooked, but talked out and resolved. And everyone has a task to do in accordance with their gifts and talents, thanks to which a beautiful holistic picture is obtained.”
“For Russia, this ministry is necessary because in many families, churches and companies I have noticed an unhealthy culture. People are either focused on themselves and their problems, their needs, and how to get them taken care of, or even if they want to be attentive to others, they simply do not know how. Communication skills are often taken for granted, as though they do not need to be learned. And NOVO can explain why these skills are needed, teach them, as well as give the necessary practice in them, which ultimately leads to a healthier society as a whole and greater efficiency of each person individually.”