STRATEGIC PARTNER UPDATE SPRING 2022
The EYE of the STORM! A story of catastrophic disease and war!
Have you ever gone through a hurricane? I know I haven’t, but I have always wondered what it would be like, especially to have the “EYE of the hurricane” experience. Those that have been through it say it is surreal…l horrific… then total peace and quiet… then horror again. Can you imagine what it must have been like for someone who did not know about the “EYE” reality, and it was their first really dangerous class 4 or 5 storm? I think if that person were me, I would probably have been quite amazed when the “EYE” arrived. I can imagine coming out of the realities of fear, horror, sadness, maybe even injury of self or others, plus unimaginable destruction of plant life and/or buildings, then suddenly – NOTHING! No wind, no rain, no horrible roaring noise, no debris flying around you, and SUNSHINE! WOW what JOY! I would further imagine that if this was my first experience, I would feel a great sense of joy, peace, relief, and the immediate feeling of “Finally, we can get back to normal!” Then, like me, you might start thinking of cleaning up the mess, evaluating the damage, and initiating immediate plans for rebuilding and moving forward…right?
BUT THEN… you begin to hear the stirring of a faint but growing breeze, dark clouds appear on the horizon, the sprinkle of light rain hits your face, and then, the faint but growing eerie sound of a strange slight but growing roar! Suddenly you hear sirens and see emergency vehicles speeding past you on the streets! My immediate reaction would be something like “WHAT’S GOING ON?” I would probably start muttering this shaky question to myself? ?Is the storm coming back? How could this be?? Then you realize that for whatever reason, you are back in harm’s way, and you begin to be overwhelmed anew with fear and possible feelings of panic! Your feeling of peaceful euphoria turns out to be just the EYE OF THE STORM.
OK, I know that God looks at the hurricane from the 30,000 ft. view and He knows that the entire storm will eventually pass, and things will eventually get better, and real “normalcy” is coming. But when you are in the middle of the storm, especially a “Round-Two” blow from a hurricane, it is hard to see anything joyful or even hopeful… yet we MUST do so. We must somehow claim the promises of Romans 8:28 “And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God ,to those who are called according to His purpose.”
But that is not always easy, and it is likely that many, including myself, struggle with the big “WHY” question, especially if the storm’s devastation hits “close to home”… as it has for YMI and for me personally. Let me explain!
Since 1995, YMI has seen nothing but growth and advancement. Sure, there were a few rocky times, rough waves and a few thunderstorms, but those only lasted a few weeks or months. Recovery was relatively quick, and the pain was fairly minimal. Ministry in our first two countries, Kenya, and Ukraine, grew exponentially! Ukraine, for example… WOW! Since our first there in 1996, we grew to a high in 2019 from one institutional training center to six centers with more than 100 graduates from our degree programs; hundreds of youth workers being trained in formal settings; thousands of youth workers trained in informal seminars; thousands of youth have become Christ followers; over 1000 churches were impacted by our training; 6 national youth ministry professors were raised up to teach in formal settings; a national director was put on full-time status; and our training began to expand to 4 other former Soviet Union countries! Amazing…Then the hurricane hit… Covid-19. Seminaries, schools, church services ,and seminar-training efforts were either canceled or were moved online!
YMI training programs worldwide experienced the same disastrous pain? China, Malaysia, Indonesia, Kenya, Ethiopia, Myanmar (a violent coup), Nepal, Tanzania, Mexico, Nigeria, India, Philippines, Cuba, and Romania were all hit hard. Our biannual global celebration missionary summit was postponed twice. Travel was halted. Many of our team members became sick with Covid! All of us, our team and families fought and struggled to continue “against the wind” of this ferocious pandemic hurricane! It was horrific!
Then came the Eye of the Storm? January 2022 saw life and ministry begin to return to a bit of “normalcy.” Masks began to come off, travel was opening up, countries were opening back up, seminaries and Bible colleges reopened… seminars and conferences were again put on the calendar, new country training programs were renewed for negotiation and confirmation. Good… right?
Then came February 2022 and the clouds of war appeared on the borders of Ukraine! Missionaries were pulled out due to signs of possible trouble, then WAR with its powerful destruction came in with a fury and shook not only Ukraine, but the entire world! The EYE was short-lived… the progress of our most successful Ukrainian training history came to a bloody halt. Some of our friends in Ukraine died, most were dislodged from their cities and towns, many of their homes destroyed, seminaries damaged or occupied by Russian troops, innocent civilians killed by the thousands. Yes, the storm is BACK and more furious than ever. The fear of a World War III looms in the hearts of the peoples of all the world!
What’s Next, I ask?
Personally, during this same time period, many of my close friends, myself, and members of my own family were attacked by disease, emotional tragedy, financial loss, job disruption, relationship stress, and even death! Horrible! We were stuck, working from home, alienated from family and friends, fighting off depression from damaged relationships, fighting off anxiety about the future of family member’s financial security and familial unhappiness!
Then came the Eye of the Storm! Starting even in December of 2021 and expanding into January of 2022,life and family relations were experiencing renewal! Personal face-to-face encounters brought joy and healing. Hope was alive and well, and real peace and happiness appeared to start taking over in the lives of family and friends.
Then came February 2022. Not only the War in Ukraine, with its disruptive global insecurities, but personal upheaval among my family and friends returned with a vengeance. Heartache, pain, disruption, disease, and trauma closed in with renewed veracity, even as I write this article! Sad, but real and
– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – NOW,HIT THE PAUSE BUTTON! – – – – – – – – – — – – – –
We are not alone! In the Bible we see an incredible illustration of this process? .. Genesis 1:2 we see the “storm” -”The earth was without form and shape, with darkness over the abyss and a mighty wind sweeping over the waters.” Tragedy and destruction have apparently ravished the earth, but then came “The Eye of the Storm” – God’s creation and restoration of the earth and the creation of Man (Genesis 1:3-2:25), the wonderful peace and joy of the recreation of the earth and man and God saw that “everything was Very Good.” But then the storm came back! (Genesis 3:1-24) Sin and its horrific destruction came BACK! The world and its people were thrown into agony and despair. Even though the Birth of Jesus, the Cross, and the Resurrection confirmed God’s plan of salvation and ultimate victory over Sin, we are still living with the consequences of that storm.
Both Biblical and World history is replete with this Hurricane (Storm ? Eye ? Storm) sequence. Think about it… in the life of Abraham, Moses, Joseph, David, Joshua, Daniel, Ruth, Jeremiah, John the Baptist, Peter, Jesus Himself, Paul, Timothy? all experienced the Storm? Eye? Storm syndrome. My guess is that you who are reading this have or are now experiencing the same. And like me you may be thinking… What’s Next?
So where does this leave YMI? Where does this leave me? Where does this leave you? What comes after the resurgent storm? Will we return to normalcy or could a new normal be even better? Will we make it through this current storm surge? Will we be able to hold on to our faith, God’s Promises, and to life itself?
Well I have good news for all of us …WE DO NOT HAVE TO HOLD ON TO GOD… HE’S HOLDING ON TO US! Thank God we do not have to depend on our ability to hold on or hold out or survive? we only have to be who we ARE? God’s children! So, don’t quit, don’t give in to despair? if we cling to anything, let us cling to the words of Jesus. For YMI and your own ministry remember the words of Jesus when he told Peter… “Upon this Rock I will build my church and the gates of Hell shall not prevail against it.” (Matthew 16:18).
For you and your personal life as a Christ follower, remember the words of scripture: ”No, in all these things were more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:37-39) “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.” (2 Corinthians 1:3-4). ”No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.“(1 Corinthians 10:13). “And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians4:7).
So, What’s Next? I don’t know, but God knows, and He is still in control! He knows about YMI and knows about me and about you! He will never forsake us, and He will somehow turn this storm into Good. The storm and the Eye, and the resurgent storm WILL PASS, and on the other side we will still be here. YMI will go on after the pandemic and the Ukraine-Russian War. You and I will still be here or in the presence of Jesus, and in the end Victory and Joy and Peace will be ours… let us not yield to despair and heartache and pain… God has us in His hand and will not let us go! In the words of Jesus Himself…
“My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all ; no one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand.”(John 10:27-29).
May God bless you all and thank you again for your support and prayers. If you wish to help our national youth workers and the refugees in Ukraine, you can donate on our website at www.ymitraining.com/donate or mail a check to 1300 Envoy Circle, Suite 1306, Louisville, KY40299.
Dr. Randy Smith
President & Founder
Randy has personally ministered to teens in over 47 countries and trained National Youth Workers in more than 20 countries, starting his ministry to youth in 1970.