by Ralph Neighbour
While mentoring the Regeneration Church in Dnepropetskov, Ukraine, I was deeply impressed by their family spirit, first among the leaders. They would gather at the pastor’s residence to play, eat, pray, and share together. Every day!
Pastor Vladimir Muntieanu could call his key leaders at 8 p.m. to “come on over” and off they would go, to return to their homes after midnight. Their total love and devotion to each other and to their Pastor made them a family, rather than a church staff.
I sensed this same family spirit in hundreds of cell groups. They were authentic families, not just “weekly cells.” Their experience of true community was total!
I made five visits over 18 months. The cells multiplied rapidly as unbelievers came to faith at the rate of 200 a week, all the result of harvest in the home groups. I began to ask questions about why this Body of Christ had such unity and growth.
I found the answer had several sources. The first was the conversion experience of Pastor Vladimir. Under the Russian control of the city, no religion was tolerated during his younger years. He had been told he was terminal at age 19, not to return for treatment by the Communist hospital. This happened as Perestroika came to the city and the Gospel arrived through Canadian missionaries .
Walking home from this bad news, he was intercepted by a young man his age who witnessed and gave him a Gospel of John. Through reading it, he fasted and prayed that he would meet God. After several days, he was instantly healed!
For him, it was normal for God to heal and deliver. Now, after the worship time in every service, he invites the congregation of thousands to ask the Holy Spirit to touch their need. In silence he waits. Soon there are sobs, laughter, cries from the demonized. Scores are touched by God all over the auditorium; people are ministered to by cell members. My conclusion: these believers know God is among them! They do not question the Presence and Power of God in their midst.
The second source was learning about the fragmented family lives people experienced under Communism, where the State took children to huge camps to brainwash them, focusing their loyalty to the state ahead of the family. I visited a decrepit retreat site where thousands of children had been housed for months at a time.
Witchcraft and immorality also penetrated these families, often making them loveless collections of relatives. Christ’s Basic Bodies became the first place where agape love could be experienced! In a real way, the cells of this church have established God’s family in the Ukraine.