Cultivating the Gift

The Christian life is filled with genuine growth—times when we are trained and times when we push ourselves.

God calls all parents to train up their children in the way they should go, and when they are older they will not depart from it (Proverbs 22:6). The fruit of this training is seen in so many amazing ways, impacting others for a greater purpose—in Jesus’ name.

This fruit feeds more than one generation. Vitaly and Mary Manzuk witnessed this when their daughter, Amelia, was 1 1/2 years old; at her young age, she made a 61-year old friend of the family get on her knees and pray. Vitaly and Mary had been teaching Amelia how to pray, training her in the way of godliness, and one evening when their friend was watching Amelia, Amelia looked up at her and said, “Amen.” The woman was startled. Amelia said it again. This simple act so touched the woman’s heart. She hadn’t been praying and wasn’t sure how to start, when Amelia looked at her and said “knees.” She prayed with Amelia right then, and couldn’t wait to get home to tell everyone. Mary had been inviting her friend to church, but she hadn’t come. In the time since, she has come to church and she has shared with both Vitaly and Mary, “Your daughter put me on my knees to pray.” A one-year-old child got her on her knees to pray. It is the fruit of training. And what a privilege for the family on Thursday, March 8 to watch their friend walk forward at church, committing her life to Lord.

Growing up, Mary’s father, a pastor who was imprisoned for his faith for nearly 10 years in Russia, taught her and the youth group to walk up to people wherever they were and invite them to church; and while at church they were encouraged to approach people and greet them. This push from her father really helped them. “It’s not easy going up to people and inviting people,” Mary shared, “it’s not comfortable doing this sometimes. [But if you] open in a nice way, ‘Hey how’s it going,’ or ‘Thanks for serving us,’ or ‘Thanks for the coffee,’ . . . then [you can] use that opportunity” to share the gospel and invite them to church.

Today, Mary pushes herself to walk up to people and reach out. She once walked up to Mikhail Gorbachev and shook his hand thanking him for all that he did. God really used him in that time of his presidency and she and her family are thankful for his leadership and guidance. For a greater purpose they seek to reach out to others. The fruit is not always witnessed right away. For instance, one time when Mary walked up to a group of people, inviting them to church, one came—but five years later. It’s planting the seed, and trusting God for the fruition.

“You just need your heart and priorities in the right place,” Mary says. It takes time and effort to invite people to church and to lunch, but “that personal time is what really matters.” When people know you care about them, they are more willing to hear what you have to say. It is an evangelist mindset mixed with the gift of hospitality. Mary takes joy in this, spreading His love and the gospel message.

As an introvert, Vitaly shares, “A lot of us hide in the shadows.” He feels more comfortable behind the camera or behind the computer. But Mary challenges him to reach out to others. Ten years ago, she gave him a camera for Christmas, and he read the entire manual the same evening and just started taking pictures—a talent he didn’t know he had. He puts in a lot of hours to refine the gift, cultivating it. He likes to be thrown into a situation, with a bit of chaos, finding the story. Finding the moments. A lot of the time it is observing and waiting, finding movement or a person affected in a certain way with genuine emotions coming through. “It’s like fishing. Looking for a story, waiting and being ready. Being aware of what is going on and ready for that moment when it comes. Not unlike our Christian walk. We should always be ready in season or out of season.”

Vitaly has been taking pictures for Harvest for five years. It’s a ministry that communicates straight to the people. “It is a big blessing to be used by the Lord in a way that ministers to people through something as simple as a photograph. It’s true that a picture is worth a thousand words. If I can capture an image—whether it’s the unfiltered moment of someone worshipping, a peace in someone who surrendered to God in prayer, or tears of joy of a person who just committed their life to the Lord—and in turn capture the attention of someone and make them think about God or church or their eternity, then it’s a success. It’s a challenge but a huge blessing.”

In this way, Vitaly tries to capture images conveying a message that, when combined with quotes, speak directly to people in their personal space. The people are able to relate and the gospel message is shared. There is a joy and drive in this, cultivating one’s spiritual gifts for the glory of God.