SWW Festival—Innovations in Outreach
According to Alexander Belev, the second annual School Without Walls (SWW) Festival that took place earlier this summer was “the most powerful event in the history of School Without Walls.”
Belev, the Moldova SWW coordinator, described the three-day festival as a “winning combination of teaching, fellowship and music. By the second day, I saw the ‘generator principle’ at work as young people soaked up the atmosphere of the festival and began to generate new approaches, projects and ideas to implement in their own towns, regions or churches.”
Russian Ministries’ President Sergey Rakhuba echoed Belev’s enthusiasm. “I was so excited to see how much enthusiasm, excitement and strategic innovations in evangelism come out of the SWW festival, as its theme-‘Innovations in Evangelism’-came to life,” remarked Rakhuba from the Wheaton office.
“I was so proud of my young colleagues who ran this festival, encouraging young people to apply creative methods toward effective evangelism in contemporary society. I only wish that I could have been among the students and graduates who came together to celebrate God’s faithfulness, to worship and to learn how to more effectively expand God’s kingdom.”
Over the course of three days, young Christian leaders explored issues such as influencing society through non-government organizations, initiating Christian student groups, sharing the gospel with the disenfranchised and witnessing in an Orthodox context.
Workshops zeroed in on practical ways to share the good news of Jesus in six specific arenas: sports, youth ministry, journalism, drama, the Internet and small groups.
In one workshop, Mykola Malukha, a well-known Ukrainian blogger, gave tips on using blogs and other social media to influence people for Christ. Andrei Pismenyuk, from the More Than a Cup project, outlined ways churches could get involved in this project to reach the millions of soccer fans, who will flock to Ukraine during the Euro 2012 soccer championship matches.
Igor Malin-pastor, psychologist and lawyer from Nizhny Novgorod, Russia-was the keynote speaker the opening night of the festival. And Sergei Pankov, a youth minister from Moscow, Russia, concluded the festival, challenging these young Christian leaders to take advantage of the many opportunities to build bridges between God and modern, non-religious young people.
Festival Coordinator and SWW Director Konstantin Teteryatnikov quickly pointed out that the festival’s theme-innovations in evangelism-begins “with an ability to listen, an ability to share stories from your life, a search for God’s kingdom, and a desire to help young people meet the living God.”
For Teteryatnikov, the three days “passed by in a flash, and produced many impressions, new ideas, new friends, innovative thinking, creativity and fresh approaches to evangelism, which enriched each delegate and participant. The festival turned a new page for youth in innovative outreach and evangelism.”
After the festival ended, Michael Cherenkov, vice president of the Association for Spiritual Renewal, reflected on its significance, saying, “For festival participants from countries where Christians’ freedoms are severely limited-Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, and Belarus-the festival provided a rare opportunity to freely fellowship with other believers, share stories and experiences, and strengthen their missions vision. The festival also provided a second wind to participants from Russia, Ukraine and Moldova, where there is still relative freedom, yet at the same time, apathy and indifference. Missions is relevant to each of us, and God has a calling for each of us.”
The School Without Walls training effort this past school year had 2,007 students enrolled in nine different countries and graduated 853 students. The annual festival brought diverse students together, and they now return to their communities strengthened, encouraged and renewed for whatever lies ahead for them in their cities, towns and villages.