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Called to Connect

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“We send out hundreds of prayer letters over e-mail, but sometimes, especially toward the end of our term, we are tempted to wonder if anyone even reads them, let alone prays for the requests listed.” These words, penned by an Alliance global staffer, are too often the reality for many Christian workers on the mission field.

With this thought in mind, our Alliance staff members in St. Petersburg, Russia, decided to hold a week of prayer and fasting in January 2014. They extended an invitation to Lancaster (Pa.) Alliance Church to send a short-term team to observe the work and pray with greater understanding, renewing a passion for the salvation of central Asians in St. Petersburg.

Since its inception more than 125 years ago, The Alliance embraces the concept that international work involves the entire Body of Christ. The Alliance has done much in recent years to broaden the scope of opportunities for individuals to answer the call of global missions as career and support workers, relief and development specialists, marketplace ministers or short-term team members.

But even with a smorgasbord of options available to us, only a small percentage of our Alliance family will ever actually experience life on a foreign field. Annual global conferences and workers on home assignment whet our appetites with their reports, inspiring us to give to the Great Commission Fund and to pray, but how do we keep connected and truly foster a sense of commitment and ownership of the global mandate after the workers return to the field?

With confidence and enthusiasm, Lancaster Alliance began to recruit a team to go to St. Petersburg to pray in January. But what happens when God closes the door and a team does not come together? A closed door suddenly becomes an open window!

On a Saturday morning in January, 25 people from Lancaster Alliance met with two couples in St. Petersburg via a Skype connection and large screen projection, for a “virtual prayer walk.” As we gathered in Lancaster, our workers had just finished their evening meal in St. Petersburg. During our prayer walk together, the two couples in Russia introduced their families and then directed us through nine areas of ministry concern, complete with photos, explanations, and hopes and prayers for the coming year. Questions were addressed, followed by focused prayer on each topic. As we passed the microphone around, interceding for these needs, Alliance staff members in St. Petersburg were able to hear our prayers.

Following our one-and-a-half-hour Skype connection, an offering was collected to assist in the team’s work. Then each morning throughout the following week, the church’s missions coordinator followed up with the prayer walk group, sending an e-mail containing a Scripture prayer and the requests from the team in St. Petersburg. As the workers in Russia fasted and prayed, we were reminded to join them in trusting God for spiritual breakthroughs and Kingdom advances on their field.

Did the virtual prayer walk lift the sagging spirits of our workers? “Absolutely,” affirms one of the staffers in Russia. “It was incredibly encouraging to hear a group of people praying for us live over Skype and to realize that they have stayed up-to-date with our ministry, interceding for the people and needs that are so close to our hearts.”

A virtual prayer walk, though not part of the original plan, proved to be a valuable connecting tool. “The ocean between us and the United States can feel awfully wide and deep at times, and our supporting churches can seem very far away. But being able to engage in live prayer together for an extended period really helps close that expanse,” the worker told us. “We aren’t ‘on our own’ here. God has given many of you in the United States a love for the precious people we are trying to reach, and you are thinking of them and praying for them by name throughout your days, just as we are. Those prayers are one of the weapons God uses to break down strongholds in the spiritual realm here in St. Petersburg, allowing the hearts of the lost to be opened to Truth. We truly are partners in this work together.”

Through this experience, we were reminded that today’s technology can equip and empower us to foster a greater connection with our overseas workers and the Great Commission, whether we are a church of 60 or 600. With some preparation on both sides of the world and a simple Skype connection, you, too, can spend quality time together and greatly encourage your Alliance global team members.

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