The Advent season of 2006 began for the Evangelical Baptist Church in Georgia with a special event at the Cathedral Baptist Church in Tbilisi on Sunday December 3rd. At a special graduation service 47 students of the School of Elijah received their diploma and 6 students, who only took part in the final exams, received their certificates. If we remember that we had 62 students at the beginning this is an excellent quota. The diploma qualifies the students for any ministerial service within the EBC in Georgia. If at any time their will be a legal registration of the EBC and of all other churches beside the Orthodox Church, they can be named as clergy according to a draft of a religious law, which is in the parliament already for a long time without being further discussed or even positively decided.
With the exception of two or three, all students could be present at the service. One of them, who were missing, was a pastor whom all loved very much. He came a few days later and could not recognise me. He got almost blind. Hopefully they can help him in Tbilisi with an operation. Hopefully as well I wish he will have the necessary funds for that.
The service began with a procession of all students to reserved seats in the front.
Since this was the first Sunday of Advent, special attention was given to this fact. But it was also the Sunday where they wanted to have a special prayer for the HIV/AIDS problem and all who are infected by it. In the meantime this is a growing problem in Georgia as well. Children came forward in a procession and decorated branches with red ribbons formed into the symbol of the worldwide HIV/AIDS programs. For this part the public TV was also present.
A sermon by Karl Heinz Walter was based on 1.Cor.16, 13 -14:
> Be on your guard; stand firm in the faith; be men –and women – of courage, be strong. Do everything in love. <
He wanted to affirm their leadership role and their importance for the church and the country of Georgia.
At the beginning Dr. Walter expressed his gratitude to God and the students for the possibility to have this theological course. He also congratulated all who have faithfully stayed through the whole course from the very beginning to the final.
He also expressed thanks to all the teachers, although unfortunately they could not be present. But he also appreciated very much the way the students have accepted all of the teachers, even if some of the subjects were not only new but never mentioned in their society or by other churches at all.
Finally but not the least he expressed his gratitude that the students did not want to have this graduation without him being personally present. Because of the accident of his wife he could not come in October and so it was moved to this day.
Bishop Malkhaz and Dr. Walter presented to all students their documents with words of blessings. Every student received also a silver finger-ring with a black inlay of the Georgian cross. Looking into the faces, one could see how deeply moved they all were and for some of them, especially the older ones, this may have been a highlight of their life.
It was evident that the School of Elijah had a much greater meaning to them much more than all the teachers might have understood so far. This was also expressed by the clear demand of the students to continue the studies with intensive courses during the summer. The first may be next year and done by Bishop Malkhaz himself. Further plans have not been made yet.
Since there is very little material in Georgian language it is intended to produce copies of the diploma works to make them available for the churches and other individuals.
Three years ago Dr. Walter proposed to translate the Brockhaus Bible Dictionary (German) into Georgian language. The same dictionary was already translated into Russian. But who wants to speak Russian in Georgia anymore? The printing is now on the way and the dictionary shall come out in the fall of 2007 the latest. This will make a real difference.
The service ended with the Eucharist.
After this the students and many others were invited to Beteli Centre for a reception with the typical Georgian meal. It was then very interesting to see representatives of all churches at the reception and all gave greetings. In short messages they expressed their joy about the theological education and the progress the Baptist have made by this.
Very interesting was the presence of a representative of Georgian Muslims living in Turkey and of the leader of the Koran-School in South-East Georgia, near the border to Azerbaijan. 30 students from that school had visited earlier and met with the students of the School of Elijah. Dr. Winfried Eisenbltter reported earlier about this meeting while he and Dr. Moye from Hongkong were there. It must have been very impressive for both sides.
The reception ended with greetings from the Salvation Army. She closed the reception with a prayer.
At this reception five of the students received special gifts for their exceptional diploma papers.
A long time of individual conversations followed.
During this day 35 new students wanted to register for the next School of Elijah, although nothing was said and nothing is planned so far. Three days later the number was up to 40.
It seems to be very clear that for a longer period this form of theological education will be the way how it can be accomplished.
BROCKHAUS BIBLE DICTIONARY
Price per book: about 15 EUR. With a contribution of only 5 EUR ( about 6,50 $ US ) you can become a partner for 1 Christian in Georgia to buy this very important book.Georgians intend to save 10 EUR themselves !
For further Information please send an Email to:
Revd. Karl Heinz Walter DD
Evangelical Baptist Church of Georgia
21 February- Ash Wednesday
This is the day when we think about all our sins, all our failures and all our disabilities to do good.
One of the main priorities for the E. B. C. of Georgia is to be actively involved in social life. Each church is encouraged and challenged to present their social projects to the Executive Committee to be discussed. Last Year in an initiative of German Church Christustreff, brother Stephan Boesner delivered a seminar about holistic ministry. The seminar was designed for the representatives of the local Baptist Churches to learn to write simple social projects and sent them to Germany. About 15 believers took part in the seminar and 12 projects were written and sent to Marburg. Three of these projects were approved and funded by German Partners.
A local Baptist Congregation in Batumi started carrying out a project designated for underprivileged children in Adjara region. They formed an engraving workshop at the boarding-school in Batumi, where 200 pupils studying. The reason for implementing this project is after finishing school, the children are unable to continue further study and they are under risk to remain without shelter and profession in very difficult circumstances. The aim of the project is to increase the diligence among the pupils and equip them with necessary skills to sustain themselves and their families in the future.
Well trained professional craftsmen will be teaching a group with 20 pupils for one year to produce church and secular souvenirs. Batumi is a harbor city and demand for souvenirs is increasing each year.
After 6 months of intensive study, the children will be able to produce church and secular souvenirs. I hope says Mr. Temur Makharadze, a responsible person of the project, that some of gifted children will paint and engrave very beautiful pictures into the wood, which attracts most of the tourists.
Both financial and managerial activity of the workshop will be checked and evaluated by the church committee. After that, the representative of the committee will give a report to the congregation.
The school has space for this workshop, which is a great advantage, because they do not need to rent it. They also have very qualified specialists that are ready to teach children and get modest salary compared with other colleges.
Name of Project: Rehabilitation Center for Former prisoners
The Kutaisi Baptist Church is ready to start a Rehabilitation Project for Former Prisoners. The soviet system established not only a totalitarian regime but caused the degradation of mentality of people that lived during communist time. For example, many young people during the communist time were attracted to being involved in a mafia lifestyle. Kutaisi was known as the Mafia City. Of course, it is much easier to change political power than criminal mentality. The present government tries to fight against criminals and puts them in jail when they commit a crime. But, unfortunately, the state does not take care of former prisoners that are released from prison. That is why; they decided to form the Rehabilitation Center for Former Prisoners and are ready to share GodÕs Love to them.
The Church in Kutaisi has a great desire and also is very keen on helping prisoners to reintegrate them into the society. They would like to start work with 8 former prisoners. They are planning to teach them English and computer skills. They will provide them with an opportunity to meet the psychologists, psychiatrists, lawyers and spiritual leaders. They will also organize the social-cultural events for them, where they invite very famous persons and they will speak about various important issues. They will also take care of their hygiene. They would like to send their psychologist to Tbilisi for training in order to get necessary experience how to deal with former prisoners.
Criminals are considered a marginalized group in our society and they feel that they are neglected and rejected by most of people. They hope that their spiritual, intellectual, emotional and physical support will help them to find the meaning to their lives.
Mission Trip in Adjara
One of the main priorities for the EBC of Georgia is to spread the Good News in the Adjara Region, which is mostly populated by Georgian Muslims. For this reason the Committee of Mission and Evangelism sent missionary Gela Shukakidze with his family to Adjara in 1999. Gela is married to Inga, and they have 3 children. Gela is working as a missionary in Adjara. During these years he has formed five mission stations in various parts of the region. Gela tries to use different methods for evangelizing the people. As a former footballer he has formed a football team with the children from the school. He coaches them regularly and shares the Good News with them as well.
In mid-February, I, Merab Gaprindashvili, President of EBC of Georgia, with three American Baptist guests Peder, David and Paul Wiegner, visited the Adjarian Region for 4 days. We visited two mission stations with brother Gela where services were held. In the second mission stations in a village of Kvirike, there were about 35 people present there. (here are some photos from the service).
In Batumi, Adjara, we stayed with a Baptist family who are involved in ministry through art. Temur, the father, gives a carving workshop at a homeless shelter for children in order to equip them with skills to make a living in this town where tourism is growing.
The house for elderly at the Beteli Center was opened in June 2005. Nina Shavishvili is the first resident who departed on Tuesday, February 20, 2007.
She used to be an Orthodox believer and was settled in Beteli Center in September 2005. She was diagnosed with cancer. The funeral service was held at her home village in Gardabani, East Georgia, on Saturday, February 26, 2007. We are looking at thirty applications for this room. We will assess who is most needy out of these applicants to fill the room.
The first week of Lent Period.
The first week of Lent period at the Tbilisi Cathedral Baptist Church was dedicated to peace and reconciliation. On the 3rd of March a special service was held. The event was attended by the invited representatives from different churches and civil society. The meeting was focused on the Abkhazian-Georgian Conflict.
The history of the conflict:
It involved a 13-month long Abkhazian war with Georgian government forces and militia made of ethnic Georgians who lived in Abkhazia on one side and separatist forces made of ethnic Abkhazians, Armenians and Russians who also lived in Abkhazia on the other side. The separarists were supported by the North Caucasian and Cossack militants and (unofficially) by Russian forces stationed in Gudauta.
The conflict, one of the bloodiest in the post-Soviet area, remains unresolved. The Georgian government offered a large autonomy to Abkhazia several times. However, both Abkhaz government and opposition refuse any forms of union with Georgia. Abkhaz consider their independence as a result of liberation war against Georgian aggression, while Georgians believe the conflict to be a patriotic war to retain sovereignty and integrity of Georgia. Many accuse Edward Shevardnadzes government in initiation of a senseless hostilities, and then in ineffective conduction of the war and post-war diplomacy.
A film made by the "Caucasus House" titled "10 years after Abkhazian War" was shown at Beteli Center. Following the film there was a discussion about the Abkhazian War, where people talked about repenting from our nations sins in that war.
At the end of the discussion the President of EBC of Georgia Merab Gaprindashvili said: "We Baptists support a resolution of this conflict only through peaceful means".
The first week of the Lent period at the Tbilisi Cathedral Baptist Church was dedicated to Youth.
March 10. 2007. This is the date 40 young people will remember for a long time as a most wonderful and joyful experience in their lives. These were the people from 5 Christian denominations (Pentecostal, Evangelical-Lutheran, Evangelical-Baptist, Salvation Army and Orthodox).
"Compass" was the name of the game they have participated in. There were 6 groups with 6 different directions to go. Each group was given indication to find in Tbilisis streets the next indication where there was the next indication and so on. Each direction was planned so that they had to visit 6 different religious buildings (among them there was the Mosque and the Synagogue) using their religious knowledge. The final meeting place was Beteli Center where they would be welcomed with "khachapuri" and "lobiani". The organizers prayed to have all 40 of them at Beteli Center.
The experience was unforgettable for all of them (of course in different ways). For the organizers it was a week of hard work and planning but at the end it was a great excitement for the participants and for the group leaders and the organizers.
"I do not know what was going on, but I saw so many happy faces together."-said one of the staff member at Beteli Center.
"This day is going to be one of the most wonderful experiences in my life." said Shalva Khutsishvili, one of the group leaders.
"I was extremely tired, the only thing I could do, was to watch how they were telling their stories, their failures and their successes in the big hall of Beteli. And I was the happiest one on the world. WE DID IT" The organizer of the event.