Georgia News #10

Introduction

In the words of the song made famous by Frank Sinatra, ‘And now the end is near…’

After two and a half years in Georgia, Gillian and Steve are in their last days as Regional Leaders, preparing to leave Georgia and return to the UK.

I think it is fair to say that we have mixed emotions as we leave, realising that even though there have been tough times in Georgia, it is also somewhere that will forever have a place in our heart.

The announcement of our departure was unexpected and maybe that has added to the unsettled feeling that we both have experienced over the past few months.  As we look to the future though, we can do so in the knowledge that God is in control and will reveal the reasons for this to us.

One of the most often quoted verses from the Bible, is also one of the verses that is most frequently quoted out of context.

As the children of Israel were struggling with what was happening to them as they lived in exile, the prophet Jeremiah spoke to them.

He reminded the people that God says, ‘I know the plans I have for you… plans to give you hope and a future.’

This verse was addressed to the nation, but is often applied to individuals.  This may not have been the prophet’s intention, but nevertheless it is a promise which I believe we can take for ourselves.

As we leave Georgia we believe that God has plans to give us hope and a future.  And we also believe that God has plans for The Salvation Army in Georgia, to give it hope and a future.

Our prayer is that in the days to come we will all look to God and to what he is doing, so that we can be assured of his presence whatever the future holds. Pray for us as we leave.  Pray for Ray and Carelle Begley as they take over.  Pray for The Salvation Army in Georgia, for it to be filled with hope for its future.

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Easter

The last few months have been incredibly busy, with many things to report on.

This year, unusually, Easter fell at the same time in Georgia as it does in the West.  So we were able to join with sisters and brothers around the world in remembering the death of Jesus, and celebrating his resurrection.

This year, Gillian and Steve did not take part in the walk through Tbilisi as Gillian had been invited to speak at the Teen Challenge centre on the outskirts of the city.

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This was an inspiring few hours as we met with a number of recovering addicts who are going through a programme of rehabilitation.

A few weeks later when we were in Batumi, we were able to travel to a new centre run by Teen Challenge which will offer a similar service for addicts in the Batumi area.  This is not yet finished, but is a great example of how a God inspired vision can make a difference in people’s lives.

GAP Conference

Another exciting opportunity arose in April when we were able to host a conference on behalf of the Georgia Azerbaijan Partnership.

This was a great couple of days, when people working with the Azerbaijan people who live in Georgia, came together with visitors from the USA and Azerbaijan to receive teaching on the Kingdom of God and to share experience of working with these people.

This is a very delicate and sensitive work which we were pleased to share in and host.

Visits

One of the things that we have realised during our time in Georgia is that there are many people who want to visit us. Some people want to come for holiday, others to see something of the work that we do, many in connection with the sponsorship of our projects and programmes.

One such visitor was Patience Fielding from SAWSO in the USA.  This group is one of our major funders and Patience was in Georgia to discover something about how our work can be developed in the future.

We are still waiting for her report, but our prayer is that as a result of this visit, some of what we do can grow and develop into the future.

Exploring Leadership Day

Having been postponed from the autumn, it was really good that we were able to have the first Exploring Leadership day in the region at the end of April.

The purpose of this day was to encourage Salvationists and friends to think about how they could be involved in the local leadership of their corps.

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Seminars were held on subjects like, ‘What is a Local Officer?’, ‘Integrated Mission’, ‘Why Officership?’  These were all delivered in the context of what the Bible has to say about leadership.

It was great to have about fifty people present for this day, indicating a willingness to explore what leadership may look like in people’s corps

As a consequence of this day, a further group was held which looked at exploring officership.  This was open to anyone who felt that becoming an officer was something they thought God may be directing them towards.  About twenty people gathered for this, a most encouraging sign for the future.

Bible School

After two years and a dozen sessions the Regional Bible School reached its conclusion over the past few months.

The numbers in attendance have been quite small, but nevertheless this faithful group of people have had opportunity to explore the beliefs of The Salvation Army in a comfortable setting.

The usual number of attenders was boosted considerably for the last session, when we looked at the sacraments and The Salvation Army’s place in the church and its beliefs concerning baptism and communion.

Ponichala Quarters

We have been really pleased over the past few months to secure a quarters for the corps at Ponichala.

This corps had been the only one in Georgia which did not own any property.  So, when the promise of funding came through from International Headquarters, a search was made for suitable property for the officers to live in.

This is not the easiest of tasks in the Ponichala district, but thanks to much prayer and searching around an apartment was bought.

This has been a good year for Ponichala as we also recently were made aware that the threatened 40,000 lari fine imposed by the government for improper use of the previous corps building had been dropped.  Gillian should be applauded for her persistence in getting this fine dropped.

Cake was shared at RHQ to celebrate this great new purchase.

We are thankful to God and to the international Salvation Army for this provision.  This purchase now means that only one property is rented in Georgia, a great benefit to the region.

Commissioning

For the first time ever the commissioning of new Salvation Army officers took place in Georgia.  This was a truly significant event for the region as cadets from Moldova, Ukraine, Russia Command as well as two Georgian cadets were commissioned as Lieutenants.

The cadets were introduced to the congregation by Steve, as he fulfilled his other role as Training Principal for the Eastern Europe Territory.The commissioning ceremony itself was then conducted by Territorial Commander, Colonel Rodney Walters and Officer Commanding Russia, Lt Col Alexander Kharkov.

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About one hundred and fifty people gathered at Beteli Baptist Centre in Didi Dighomi to share in worship and to hear each of the cadets speak before their commissioning

At the conclusion of the meeting the new lieutenants left the building, symbolizing the beginning of their journey as officers in the various places to which they have been appointed.

Following on from commissioning it had been arranged that the members of the Territorial Executive Council, consisting of THQ officer staff and divisional and regional leaders, spent a few days in Georgia enjoying a retreat.

Container of clothes

After a very long time of preparation the region was the recipient of a container of clothes from Norway.

This initiative, trying to stock our thrift stores and to sell second hand clothes to the trade, is hoped to be a big help to the region in becoming self financing.

The container, which had been shipped from Norway, via Germany and Greece finally made it to the warehouse in Didi Dighomi on the evening of the Monday following commissioning.  In some ways this was the worse possible timing, although it did mean that members of the TEC were on hand to help unload the container.

The job of sorting the clothes so that they can be sold is now underway and over the next few months we will wait to see if it becomes a good way of fund raising.

Officer moves

The past few weeks have also seen a number of officer moves in the region.  After a quiet few years, the time was right for some officers to move to new appointments.

After consultation with officers, and through praying about the implications for everyone involved new appointments were announced and installations of new officers made.

Lts Elnura and Vova Budaev have been installed at their first appointment in Tbilisi Central Corps. Lts Nino and Temo Galutian have been installed at Didi Dighomi.  Capts Tengizi and Vika Tungia are now at Rustaiv and Capts Levan and Nino Kvernadze are the new officers at Ponichala.

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In addition to the internal moves in Georgia, it has been good to welcome Captains Irina and Yuri Pomytkin from Ukraine to lead the corps in Lagodekhi.

We pray God’s blessing upon all the officers who have moved and for the corps and communities in which they will serve.

Youth Camp

Another event which has been long in the planning was the regional youth camp.

Following the receipt of a very generous grant from The Netherlands territory, for which we are very grateful, 58 young people, together with a good team of leaders spent five days in Bakuriani.

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During this week they considered the story of Joseph as well as listening to seminars on subjects as diverse as ‘The Fruit of the Spirit’, ‘Conflict’, ‘The Character of God’ and ‘The dangers of gaming’.

This was a great week of learning but also of fun as the young people took part in games and activities in the beautiful surroundings of Bakuriani.

The evenings of camp were varied as we witnessed something of the great talent which the young people have as well as having a ‘Prom’ evening.

Of course, the spiritual impact of the camp was at the fore.  The young people were challenged to respond to God in their lives and many of them did so as they had opportunity to commit themselves to God.

Our prayer is that the decisions made this week will have a lasting impression on the lives of these young people and a great impact on The Salvation Army in Georgia.

Children’s Camp

About fifty children made the most of glorious weather and the newly refurbished facilities at Lagodekhi to enjoy a few days at camp.

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Under the theme ‘New Generation’, it was clear that there are many children who feel comfortable and at home within the setting of a Salvation Army camp.

The children had a great time, as they engaged in crafts, listened to seminars about the love of God, showed off their talent and had a good time of fun and games.

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As always a trip to the river and a dip in the improvised swimming pool was a particular highlight.  For many children, especially those who live in the city, this was a welcome break and an opportunity to relax and enjoy themselves under the care of the team of leaders.As always the young people were chalenged to think about their relationship with God.

Farewell Meeting

Sunday 30 July saw the final meeting in Georgia for Regional Leaders Steve and Gillian.  The hall at Tbilisi Central was packed as a good number of young people were there to give thanks for the recent camps and to say good bye to the regional leaders.

Territorial leaders Colonels Rodney and Wendy Walters gave brief words of thanks and presented

Steve and Gillian with a certificate recognizing their time in the Eastern Europe Territory.

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Eliza Khurshudian and Captain Sopo Bakhtadze also thanked Gillian and Steve for their humble service in Georgia.

Finally, first Gillian and then Steve reflected on their two and a half years in Georgia before challenging the congregation to make sure that the many young people present were encouraged to be the ones who will take The Salvation Army into the future and that everyone should live a consistent life as they endeavor to follow Christ.

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…and finally

This will be our last newsletter in Georgia.  We hope that you have been informed and as a consequence have found it interesting as well as a source of information to think about and pray for the work here.

We really want to thank everyone who has been such a support to us.  We couldn’t have done it without you.  Now, as I type this in the last few minutes in the office, I do so with a great sense of sadness as we leave Georgia a few months sooner than expected.

We don’t know what the future holds for The Salvation Army in Georgia, but we invite you to pray that God will be glorified and his Kingdom will grow.

We also pray for our successors Majors Ray and Carelle Begley, that God will use them and that they will quickly settle here after they arrive in just a few weeks’ time.

If you would like to know more about what is happening here and for more up to date information, please like the Georgia Regional Facebook page at KhsnisArmiaGeorgia which will continue to keep you up to date.

May God bless you all.