TBILISI, GEORGIA – On a Wednesday afternoon, in an ancient village northwest of Georgia's capital Tbilisi, more than 100 youngsters met several days here to learn how to have deeper and more meaningful encounters with Jesus Christ.
Guram Imerlishvili leads an effort to encourage young Georgians to accept Christ as Lord of their lives.
"I think if you want to have a harvest in this country, you need to be focused on this new generation," he said. "If you really love Georgia, if you really love your culture, if you are all about your country, you need to be closer to Jesus because Jesus loves more my country."
Once part of the communist empire and often called the "Riviera of the Soviet Union," Georgia is nestled between the Caucasus Mountains and the Black Sea.
Turkey and Armenia flank its southern border. To its east is Azerbaijan and Russia is to the north. As one of the world's oldest Christian countries, more than 80 percent of Georgians belong to the Orthodox Church.
Yet, Guram says many don't know Christ personally.
"We never go deeper to [a] real-life relationship with Jesus," he said.
Having an Impact for Christ on a Generation
"We have been holding these camps for 13 years now and from the beginning, the goal was to teach young people Christian values. Values that will change their lives in a deeper way and impact generations to come," said Maya Imerlishvili, Guram's wife.
Guram often shares his journey to show how God redeems and transforms broken lives.
To understand Guram's passion for reaching Georgia's young generation, you really have to understand his past. When he was 19 years old, he decided to leave Georgia and moved to Athens, Greece, where he says he got involved in the wrong company, started a nightclub and lived, according to his words, a life that was wild and free.
"I was fully swallowed by sin," Guram said.
Although he grew up in the Orthodox Church, he really didn't know Christ. He smoked, drank, and partied hard with the wrong crowd.
"I Know There is Hope for My Nation"
"I was hoping that Jesus was a real person, but I was not sure and I was very afraid if Jesus is real, that means hell is real and that means my destination is hell," he recalled.
After years of wild living and feeling empty, Guram says he finally decided to give his heart to Christ.
"He gave me [a] revelation that there is more and since I met Jesus Christ I know that there is hope for my nation; now I am not hopeless, now I know that everything is possible with Jesus Christ."
It's a transformational message that resonated with many camp attendees.
"It is not easy to live in this world and strive for what is invisible," said Mirian Tabagari, a camp attendee. "Which no one has seen. Which you have never seen either. But when you have evidence in your heart that you are a Christian, you have the power to overcome sins, passion, hatred, selfishness, and doubt."
The Importance of a Personal Relationship with Christ
For others like Tako Beruashvili, the meetings are a time of renewal.
"I approach the Lord with renewed intensity when I leave here. I feel like I'm ready to go out into the fight again. I am so filled with Holy Spirit," Tako told CBN News.
This was Beso Bujiashvili's first evangelical camp. As a member of the Orthodox church, Bujiashvili says he learned the importance of a personal relationship with Christ.
"I have thought about God many times but I have never been able to put myself in the way of Christ," Beso said. "In these five days, I learned that I need to spend more time to get to know Him."
That's music to Guram's ears. He prays that one day these young men and women will transform their nation of Christ.
"I have definite hope that my country will shine for Jesus Christ and that we will be light for many nations around us."