During high school, Alissa knew an InterVarsity staff member who ministered at the University of Illinois-Urbana/Champaign and through many discussions with the staff member, decided to get involved with InterVarsity when she started college.
Alissa decided to participate in a Global Urban Project to Ukraine with InterVarsity in 1993. When she returned from her summer missions trip, Alissa went to Urbana 93 to get a better idea of God’s work around the world. As she talked with missions agencies during Urbana, she was told that with her English degree all she could do on the mission field was teach. Alissa didn’t really want to teach but was excited about the opportunities to work overseas. Alissa decided to join IV Link staff and teach English as a Second Language, proclaiming the gospel of Christ at the same time. She went back to Ukraine in 1998. Alissa worked in Ukraine ministering to people and sharing God’s love with them for four years.
From there, Alissa moved to Central Asia, where she taught English at a Liberal Arts College, attended by about 1,500 students. Many of her students wondered about our American holidays and asked Alissa to explain St. Patrick’s Day to them. Alissa was excited to see the students’ interest as she used a shamrock to explain one of the basic doctrines of the Christian faith: the Holy Trinity—God, the Father; Jesus Christ, the Son; and the Holy Spirit.
Alissa works with the 10 to 20 students involved with the International Fellowship of Evangelical Students (IFES) in the city, including at least two Russian students and one Tatar, training them to share the gospel of Christ. Some universities in the area do not allow students to reserve a room to pray on campus because the growing IFES movements are not registered clubs, so the law forbidding the right of assembly applies to them. This presents a challenge as students present the gospel of Christ. By God’s grace, Alissa’s students are able to reserve rooms to meet together and pray “The students have a real grasp of friendship evangelism,” Alissa said. “They are eager to encourage their classmates to come to know Jesus Christ, but they need to step outside of the classroom and their Christian circles of friends.”
For Alissa’s students, stepping outside their Christian circles to present the gospel is a challenge as the majority of the students are culturally Muslim, and because of years under Soviet rule, most are atheists. Another challenge to presenting the gospel of Christ is that people in Central Asia are strongly nationalistic and a common misconception among them is that if you become a Christian, you automatically become Russian.
Local churches are trying to partner and work with missionaries to correct this misconception and spread the gospel of Jesus Christ. As part of this effort, one of the churches wanted to start a citywide youth group. When they heard of IFES’s existence, they said, “Maybe we’ll let you be our youth group.”
Alissa is currently back in the United States raising support for her ministry. She is anxious to return to Central Asia to minister and help the growing IFES movement. Alissa hopes that she can continue working with her former students as she trains people to engage others with the gospel of Christ.