A major evangelistic campaign that seeks to plant 40 churches in 40 Ukrainian cities within five weeks will kick off at the end of this month.
The ambitious campaign to start 40 new churches within a short period of time is only the first of two phases of Project 125, which has a goal of planting churches in 125 cities in Ukraine before the country's national election next fall.
Forty ministry teams – 20 from the United States partnering with local volunteers and 20 Ukrainians – will participate in the series of evangelistic campaigns beginning July 28 until Aug. 25.
During this period, each team will travel to a city without an evangelical church to hold a weeklong evangelistic outreach that will begin on a Tuesday and end on Monday. The team will invite people during the week to attend a citywide "freedom" crusade, held Friday through Sunday. In the past, each crusade usually resulted in about 500 decisions for Christ.
Then on the Monday following the crusade, new believers and those interested in learning more are invited to attend a praise/testimonial service where trained church planters will set up the new church and enroll attendees in an eight-week discipleship program.
About 40 trained church planters in Ukraine have volunteered to move with their families to one of the cities to help start a church.
The organizations leading Project 125 are the Ukrainian Baptist Union, the Southern Baptist Convention's International Mission Board (IMB), and the Don Betts Evangelistic Association.
"This is the largest cooperative event we've done," said Don Betts, whose ministry has conducted similar crusades in Ukraine for 18 years, to The Christian Post. "There are 25 states there and we've led crusades in 19 of those 25 capitals in that country."
Betts explained that while he doesn't expect the crusades during this campaign to be as large as his single events in the past, he noted the combination of the campaign's crusades will be the largest cooperative effort his ministry has ever done.
"And it's the most work I've ever done," Betts added jokingly.
There will also be separate children's crusades conducted in each city. The evangelistic teams will invite children at youth clubs, soccer games, on the streets and at orphanages to attend the crusades. Rented buses will then be provided to take the children to the events.
Another part of the project effort is to provide basic supplies to orphans that the teams will be visiting. American churches are helping to raise money to buy school supplies and clothing for the children in orphanages.
"Thousands of these items are needed," Betts said. "One orphanage had 300 children with no shoes. Efforts are under way to provide each child with a backpack containing a metric ruler, a set of colored pencils, ballpoint pens, watercolor paints, pencils and erasers."
Additional teams are being recruited to go to Ukraine next year to complete the 125 city goal.