Posted by Kristy on September 27, 2016

Evangelion Tour Broadens Into Baltic

Connecting and Encouraging Believers and Non-believers in a Region Where People Feel Abandoned

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Initially a part of a larger ministry program in Ukraine that began shortly after the fall of the Soviet Union, Evangelion Chorale (Greek for Good News) was founded in 1998 when then-Bethel University choir director Dennis Port and his wife, Nola, focused on creating a chorale for classical choral outreach to Ukraine. The Minnesota-based professional ensemble aims to enlighten, enrich and inspire audiences with sacred classical songs sung to the glory of God.

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The initial focus on Ukraine after the dissolution of the Soviet Union was due to a commonly held opinion that to be a Christian was synonymous with mediocrity. Evangelion's goal in Ukraine was to prove this wrong – "The aim of this ensemble was to show that one could be a believer, and also perform at a high level of excellence to the glory of God, and that in itself could point people to the preeminence of God and the greatness of His gifts to his children," said Evangelion's associate director and MIWC board member Tim Sawyer.

After its nine tours of Ukraine and following the Russian invasion into eastern Ukraine, Evangelion broadened its boundaries this past summer and headed to the Baltic countries of Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia for a new season of ministry. 

Since the mission of Evangelion complements the music missions work done by MIWC so well, MIWC partnered with Evangelion for this summer's trip with the long-term vision of the chorale becoming an ongoing outreach ministry of MIWC.

evangelionserhiytalk.jpgMIWC's Europe Associate, Serhiy Bilokin (pictured talking to concert-goer), is based in Estonia and coordinated all of Evangelion's ministry events in the Baltics. Those events served as a great boost to the churches and areas where Bilokin has been ministering.

"Baltic countries are countries with a great musical potential among churches," said Bilokin. But while they include some musicians who trained with the CMA from 2004–2009, they also have a new generation of believers who grew up without training and all of the residents are affected by the complicated geographical position of the Baltics.

While the three small countries border Russia, they are not friends with her. Both Ukraine and Western Europe are far away, leaving the church members in the Baltics feeling abandoned.

With Evangelion's leadership reorganized, a new mission statement was crafted that continued its focus on enlightening and enriching but opened the doors to allow its ministry to flow into other countries.

"The goal was much more than tourist evangelism," said Sawyer, but instead to connect with and encourage believers and non-believers alike in new places.

"The Evangelion Baltic Tour was exactly at the right time and place," said Bilokin.

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"When I heard about it, I was elated. God knew how important it was to those churches and cities," Bilokin explained. The perfect fit also showed itself through the strong connection between MIWC, CMA Ukraine and Evangelion – in every church the tour visited, Bilokin saw former CMA students, some moved to tears with gratitude that someone had come to their small town.

evangelionbalticskid.jpg"It was an encouragement," Bilokin said, "to me and my family to continue the ministry in these countries. In each place I've been with a cloud of witnesses, and it was clear to others that we are not alone – the goal is high and it's worthy."

Bilokin also reflected on the challenges he faces in the Baltic region – not just being new to the area, which requires time to build relationships, but trying to motivate people who culturally are very focused on their financial worries. He has found it much more difficult to encourage people there, as working extra shifts to earn money will take precedence over church and music ministry activities.

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Challenges aside, Bilokin is ready for the hard work, he said, and will start individual music training and youth seminars on the biblical principles of worship this year.

He also called the pastor of every church Evangelion visited this summer and heard among the many words of gratitude and love, many invitations for the choir to return, and return regularly.

"Baltic people look Nordic and serious, but they are warm inside...I was blessed by all of Evangelion on this tour because they are God's people. And there is no other joy than to serve the Lord together."

All photos courtesy of Bethany Jackson Photography.