Joshua Steele: The vision of Carpathian Mountain Outreach is twofold. It's about advancing the Gospel in Ukraine while at the same time training young men in missions. CMO is unique in that it takes these men beyond the classroom and involves them in practical, front-line evangelism as they minister in a hands‑on capacity with veteran missionaries.
Nathan Day: While our primary focus is on reaching the people of the Carpathians, CMO team members also spend a fair amount of time ministering in large cities. Weekdays at CMO involve lots of walking as the men distribute thousands of leaflets throughout Ukraine's urban centers.
Joshua: One of the things that I think sets CMO apart from your typical short-term missions project is that we are, in fact, focused on evangelism. When guys come over here, even though they don't know the language or perhaps don't have any prior experience in foreign mission work, we've structured the project in such a way that we can immediately involve them in actually communicating the Gospel to people. So they're not out there painting a building or doing construction or humanitarian aid, although those things are good. We involve them directly in evangelism, and they're out there every single day on the field communicating Christ to people that would not otherwise hear.
Cesar Rodriguez: Well, city ministry is a very important ministry here at CMO. Basically, the way it works is, we gather around in the morning—the whole team. We meet at a ministry center. From there we go ahead and pack some tracts.
David Steininger: And we put seven to ten packs of these tracts into our backpacks, and we would go out from apartment building to apartment building, and just go into the doorways of these apartments. Right there, there are PO boxes. We would just put one tract into each box and move on to the next door, and do that over. We'd do that from 9 or 10 in the morning till 4 or 5 at night. [music]
Cesar: We've had pretty good days where we pass out 11,000 a day, which is a pretty decent amount. Other times we've done about 8,000 or so. [music]
Nathan: One of the reasons we're able to put out so much literature in such a short amount of time is that in Ukraine, or at least in the cities, most people tend to live in these high-rise apartments. If you go to an apartment building, there'll be anywhere from three to five entrances in the apartment building. You'll go into the first entrance and there'll be anywhere from 20 to 30 PO boxes in there. Here in Ukraine, it's totally legal to put advertisements and such in people’s PO boxes. We'll go through and we'll put a piece of literature in each person's PO box. Then we'll leave that entrance, we'll go around to the next entrance, and we'll do the same thing—go all the way through the building, and then we'll move on to the next building.
Joshua: Over the years, we've found that one of the most effective means of communicating Christ to the people living in the Carpathian Mountains is by showing Christian films. This allows us to gather a large group of people into a single area, and after showing the film, we can stand up in front of them and preach the Gospel. This also gives us an opportunity to encourage them to enroll in our Bible correspondence course. Our weekends in the mountains begin on Saturday morning when we gather at the ministry center and pack our gear. After we throw it all in the van, we drive usually about three-and-a-half to four hours down to the region of the mountains where we'll be ministering that weekend.
Phillip Payne: When we arrive at the village, we get our literature ready. We stamp up the invites with the date and the time where the film showing's going to be the following week.
Joshua: The villages in the Carpathians vary greatly in size, and some of them can actually be quite large. So in order to be as efficient as possible in passing out invitations and hanging posters, we split our team of guys usually into two or three groups. Often we'll take one group to, say, the north end of the village, a second group to the south end of the village. Each group will have their own stack of film invitations, and these groups will work towards each other walking down the main road of the village and leaving invitations in either the mailboxes or on the gates of every house.
Jacob Bruce: So after we get the showings scheduled in the village, we go travel to our campsite. [music]
Jacob: We set up camp, we cook dinner, and just bed down and stay the night. [music]
[soft acoustic music]
Jacob: Sunday morning we get up and cook breakfast, and usually one of the team members will give a short devotional. [music]
Joshua: Once that's finished, we pack up our gear. Once we get everything packed, we load it up and then we travel to the second village that we'll be ministering in that weekend. The first village was one where we passed out invitations for the film showing coming up the following week. The village that we go to this time on Sundays will be the village where we passed out invitations the week prior, so we've already been to this village, and we're now going to go there and show the film. Once we arrive in the village, then we begin to set up all the multimedia equipment. We have a mixer and a set of speakers that we carry with us; we have a big screen; we have a video projector and a DVD player, and a lot of those things. Usually as we're setting up this gear, the villagers begin to show up—15, 20 minutes early, whatever, the community center will start to fill with people. And then at the announced time, we turn the film on and we begin to play it.
Joshua: And usually depending on what film we're showing, the film itself will go for about two hours. And once the film is over, then either myself or Nathan will stand up at the end, and we'll give a short Gospel presentation, about 10 or 15 minutes. Once that's over, we encourage people to enroll in our Bible correspondence course. We give them a brief explanation of what that is. We stress that our goal is to encourage them to read and study the Word of God—that it's their final authority.
And as they exit the community center, the CMO guys are all standing at the back ready to hand them literature, and they hand them a couple different things. Everybody gets a copy of Good and Evil, put out by No Greater Joy, in Ukrainian, and they also get what we call a starter packet, which contains the first lesson of our Bible course, and an introductory letter which explains to the person receiving it how the course works, how they can continue with it.
And in order to enroll in the course, all that person has to do is just complete the first lesson, answer the questions, and mail that lesson to us. Once they do that, they're automatically entered into the system, they'll receive the second lesson, and at that point our relationship with that person really begins. We've opened that all-important channel of communication and we can now begin to correspond with that person, teaching them the Bible through the mail.
Joshua: Our group here in Ukraine is involved in a lot of different ministries. But over the years, one of those has come to be the core of all that we do. That is our correspondence Bible course, which we call Bible First. Everything that we do in terms of outreach—whether that be CMO or street preaching, one‑on‑one witnessing—it all filters back to involving Ukrainians in the Bible First course. Because as they join Bible First, these lessons turn their attention towards the Word of God. We have found through experience that it's the Word of God that is the most effective tool in bringing a person to Christ.
We're constantly suggesting to them that the Word of God should be their final authority, that it's the ultimate source of truth. As Ukrainians begin to study the Word of God, not only do they grow in their own understanding of the Gospel and ultimately, hopefully, come to salvation, they also get excited about the power of the Scripture and begin to invite their neighbors.
Another great benefit of the Bible First program is that it allows us to expand our influence to geographical areas that we wouldn't otherwise reach. Our team is small and there's a limited number of people here in our city that we could invite to a Bible study or teach personally or witness to.
But By traveling to other cities with our team of CMO guys, passing out literature, leaflets, and so forth by the tens of thousands, we've been able to reach out all across this country to, literally, thousands of people that we would not otherwise have reached.
Jessie Beal: One of the most important aspects of CMO is that of young men or any young man coming here and receiving hands‑on training. In the military, we called it “OJT,” on‑the‑job training.
Nathan: That's one of the things that we're trying to do here at CMO is not only give guys the tools that they need to be a missionary, but to inspire in them the confidence that, no matter where God may call them to be a missionary, they can go there and they can preach the Gospel.
Jessie: When that young man gets here, he hits the ground running as a missionary.
Joshua: They learn about effective evangelism, what works, what doesn't work, how to interact with different people groups. By the time they go home, they're well equipped to replicate those methods and become involved actively in evangelism in their hometown.
Jessie: What he does is, he takes back principles that he's learned here on the mission field back to his hometown. He finds out that he can, in fact, reach people using the same methods that the missionary on the foreign field uses.
Joshua: And one of the biggest activities that CMO guys are involved in while they're here is inviting people, whether that be through film showings or literature distribution, whatever, they invite people to enroll in our correspondence course. Long after the CMO guys have returned to their homes in America or Canada or wherever, those of us who remain here on a continual basis in Ukraine, we're following up with the Ukrainians that enroll in the correspondence course through the guys' ministry. In this way, what the short term missionaries are able to accomplish in one or two months continues to go on for months or even years into the future.
Phillip: Was it worth the time and the effort and the resources to be here at CMO for these two months? Yes, absolutely.
Jacob: CMO was definitely a life‑changing experience.
David: If you really, truly want to spread the Gospel, if you want to help people come to know Christ, THEN, I'd say, go. [music]
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