Benhams Head to Ukraine, Georgia
While preparing for their upcoming trip to Ukraine and Georgia, MIWC's John and Steve Benham received word of a devastating loss to the Georgian pastor who will host their visit and increasing difficulties faced by their prospective students.
That pastor, Dr. Levan Akhalmosulishvili, or Dr. Levan as he is known, returned to Georgia in 1984, following a stint in the army and medical school.
After the Soviet Union collapsed in 1990, Georgia suffered four years of famine and rampant crime in the civil war that followed. During that time up until today, Akhalmosulishvili has planted 10 churches, serves as pastor of three of them and heads up a growing movement of 24 churches and 10 small groups - the Evangelical Baptist Churches in the Republic of Georgia. According to the Slavic Gospel Association (SGA), these congregations are so poor that, "they cannot support their pastors, but are only able to provide gasoline money to enable them to get to the churches."
Dr. Levan, a general surgeon, along with his wife, four other doctors and a dentist, also operate a free medical clinic for people from an impoverished mountain village. The financial situation in the region is so dire that the clinic's entire budget, including salaries, is $1,500 per month. As a result, they must keep a large garden to survive.
In July, a severe hailstorm damaged Dr. Levan's home, church and property and devastated his crops. He lost 200 peach trees, his vineyard and all of his chickens. His property was just one of thousands heavily damaged in the country. In an area where there is already 75% unemployment, the loss of these life-sustaining gardens remains unfathomable.
Still, Dr. Levan and his music students will welcome John Benham on October 14 and Steve Benham the following week, as they both work with Christian Music Academy students.
In a country that is dominated by the Orthodox church, evangelical believers in Georgia face growing intolerance and persecution. A few days ago, the Benhams were notified that after the recent presidential elections, persecution against evangelical Christians is again increasing. Students who are scheduled to attend the upcoming training sessions where the Benhams will teach will not be released from their normal work and study schedules (as they have in the past) or they may face retribution from authorities. Please pray that this will not happen.
After the training sessions end, both Benhams will head to the Congress of the Georgian Evangelical Christian Baptist Union Churches in Tbilisi, Georgia, the nation's capital.
Please pray for not only safe travel and effective ministry for the Benhams, but for the people directly affected by the Georgian hail storm. The SGA, which remains in regular contact with Dr. Levan, asks for prayer that God provide resources to the churches so that they can help the poorest families with food and other items.
The SGA also asks to, "please join with us in prayer for the Lord to raise up believers and churches across America to help these faithful churches and families repair the great damage, and also to serve as channels for material help to the severely distressed families in these communities."