A youth discipleship program brought to Russia by a SEND worker more than two decades ago is spreading across that vast land.
The youth department of the Russia Baptist Union has partnered with Tree of Eternal Life Association (TELA), which has been running HiBA clubs in Russia for 25 years, to make the ministry available to all of its churches as a means of discipling their youth.
“When I heard about the Baptist Union’s decision, I was happy and scared,” said SEND worker Rick, who helped to start HiBA in Russia. “There is joy in thinking about the outcome — Russia’s youth becoming disciples of Jesus. But, I also realize the seriousness of equipping leaders to be disciplers, and to provide a quality tool for helping them do this. It’s a very big responsibility because Russia is a very big country with many church youth leaders looking to us for help.”
When HiBA began in Russia in 1993, Tambov was established as its base, and within six years it had spread into two neighboring provinces. Back then, there was no internet, poor phone service and inconvenient travel, which limited how far HiBA could expand.
Today there are web sites, webinars, Skype, blogs, smart phones, online chat platforms, and a variety of other tools available for maintaining regular contact with churches and training their leaders from 3,000 miles away.
Rick has seen firsthand how God has used HiBA, which stands for High School Born-Againers, to change young people’s lives. For example: “I think of one girl who was a Sunday church kid but lacked a relationship with Jesus as her Lord. While attending a HiBA group, she became a follower of Jesus. Her leader challenged each group member to invite an unsaved friend to camp, and she brought her friend from school. Her friend became a Christian, and she became her discipler. Now they both love the Lord and are very active serving others through their church.”
Much work has been done to launch HiBA nationally: reviewing and revising materials for the weekly discipleship meetings; publishing “how to” instructions for running camps and youth conferences; and providing leadership training resources. A training seminar in February introduced the program to youth leaders from all across Russia.
Rick describes HiBA as “basic small group discipleship,” including singing, fellowship, prayer, encouraging one another, praying for another part of the world or an unreached people group, and a biblical lesson on Christian living. HiBA emphasizes having a daily quiet time with God, memorizing scripture, and being a witness to others.
“This is a wonderful new day for TELA in its mission to evangelize and disciple Russia’s youth, and it’s a great investment in Russia’s future,” Rick said. “As young people become the Lord’s disciples, they will grow into influential adults in their workplaces and leaders in their churches. Some will become missionaries, taking the gospel to unreached people in Russia and in other part of the world. I feel very humble to think that God has given us this opportunity at a time like this.”
Banner photo: Russian youth study the Word together at a HiBA club.
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