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Eastern Europe Partnership Network launches new resource

Toolkit offers guidance to churches or individuals interested in regional mission partnership

by Scott O’Neill | Presbyterian News Service

LOUISVILLE — The Eastern Europe Partnership Network (EEPN) has created a new resource — the Eastern Europe Partnership Network Toolkit — to help congregations, mission committees or individuals better engage in God’s mission in Belarus, Ukraine, Russia and other countries in eastern and central Europe.

As with similar resource toolkits offered by PC(USA)’s World Mission ministry, the resource provides guidance segmented into four areas:

  • Learn — find facts, stories, and information
  • Connect — reach out to others engaged in similar work in the region
  • Worship — bring an EEPN presence into your church service
  • Engage — delve into relationships, learning and advocacy.

The digital toolkit can be accessed and downloaded here.

According to Jean Waters, communications representative for EEPN, the toolkit is designed to help those who want to learn more about the history, as well as the potential, of Eastern Europe. It is also designed to help people engage with other Christians in the region.

“If it’s on your heart to know more about the history and potential future of Eastern Europe and how you can connect with Christians working there, this toolkit is for you,” said Waters. “If you have heard the groanings of God’s people in bondage in Ukraine, Belarus, and Russia and just want to know more how God is responding, or if you want to learn, engage, and connect with Christians in Eastern Europe, and be their partners and worship God while honoring and praying for these people, this toolkit is for you.”

Ellen Smith

The EEPN, which has approximately 170 members, was formerly the Belarus, Ukraine, Russia Mission Network (BURM), but even the updated name does not capture the breadth of work the network hopes to accomplish. Its history dates back to Ellen Smith’s work with Russian partners. Smith, a PC(USA) mission co-worker and regional liaison serving Central and Eastern Europe, facilitated a “twinning” program that paired U.S. and Russian churches. Covid and the Russian invasion of Ukraine meant the network needed to expand to remain engaged in the region.

“Covid made travel difficult and then Russia invaded Ukraine. Our network needed to expand again so we could continue to be engaged in the region,” said Waters. “We are still trying to serve and partner with people in this area, but it is difficult when we cannot travel to these countries. Therefore, our network is now the Eastern Europe Partnership Network. We are finding new partners in Lithuania, Moldova, Romania, Poland, and other countries in what most of us in the United States think of as Eastern Europe. As we make this change in our name, we are sensitive to the fact that some of the countries we want to partner with consider themselves to be in central Europe. Countries have historical, political, cultural, and geographical identities that have developed over millennia and some we will work with do not consider themselves to be in Eastern Europe.”

The Learn, Engage, Connect, and Worship format follows the same style as other mission toolkits that are provided by the PC(USA)’s World Mission ministry. The other toolkit subjects include Christian-Muslim relations, HIV/AIDS, Short-Term Mission Trip, and Mission Committee. All can be accessed or downloaded from the Mission Toolkit home page.

The EEPN toolkit was borne out of a 225th General Assembly (2022) overture, On Expanding Mission Engagement and Education with Eastern Europe. It directed the Presbyterian Mission Agency to strengthen its accompaniment in the region impacted by the war in Russia and Ukraine and to listen deeply to the many voices in the region.

“Ellen (Smith) has continued to find inspiring partners in the surrounding countries of Eastern Europe, especially in Moldova, Romania, Poland and Lithuania. There are heartbreaking stories of marginalized people, including refugees and Roma. But there are also heartwarming stories of churches and organizations who are leading efforts to minister to the needy,” said Waters. “The EEPN helps us connect to others in foreign lands, with whom we would not have any knowledge if it were not for this effort. To know their history and their initiatives is inspiring.”

The Facebook page of the Eastern Europe Partnership Network is here.

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