Arnas and Gabriele, how would you introduce yourselves?
We are Arnas and Gabriele Valentukoniai. We are a newlywed couple from Lithuania, passionate about knowing and serving God. We love traveling, reading, ministering, and many other crazy things. We have been writing a blog about our journey and experiences. You can find it here: thelivingjourney.com.
Many people are surprised when they hear how young you got married. How did that happen? What advantages of marrying young do you see?
Yes, it is not often that you meet people who get married before or around the age of 19 or in senior year of high school. There were several reasons why we decided to get married so young. First of all, we are both Christians, and when we started dating, we set two goals for our relationship: to grow towards God and to get married (not to just date for fun). Second, both of us already lived on our own. Third, we had already been dating for two years so we knew each other well enough to see that we wanted to spend the rest of our lives together. Therefore, right after I, Arnas, turned 18, I proposed to Gabriele. Throughout the process however, it was God who provided us with all the opportunities, help, and financial support that we needed. We only had to accept it.
How did your life look before coming to the BI?
We came to the BI after being married for only 7 months. I, Arnas, was finishing my senior year in high school, while Gabriele was working as a teacher. We also were serving in the local church, and right before coming to Hungary, we went on a one-month-long ministry to help a Christian family in Austria.
It is not common to study in Bible school - especially in Europe. Why did you decide to come to study God’s Word here at Word of Life Hungary?
Yes, a lot of our friends and relatives from Lithuania keep asking us the same question. So, long story short, we did not want to enroll at a university straight away because we did not really know what God wanted for our lives. We were constantly looking for opportunities, and we heard about the Word of Life Bible Institute in Hungary from a few Lithuanians in our area. We came here last year for a short four-day visit, during which we realized, that living and serving God is actually what we want to do for the following year. Studying here right now, we clearly see that we want to continue in this path for the rest of our lives! Coming to the BI is one of the greatest gifts from God to our young family.
What is the biggest lesson you have learned so far?
We get to learn something new every day: it could be a mind-blowing theological or Biblical truth, or simply strengthening our daily prayer life - one of the biggest lessons that we got to learn here is not connected to academics. It is the people – seeing other married missionary couples living out their love and passion for Christ. They are great examples to follow, and it has been an enormous blessing to our family being surrounded by these people.
How would you like to serve God in the future?
We have been praying and thinking about this a lot recently. Right now, it looks like God is guiding us to be full-time missionaries in Lithuania. We still do not know the details yet, but every day we spend in the Bible Institute feels like we are getting closer and closer to understanding our calling.
If you are interested to learn more about us and why we do what we do, or maybe just want to talk with us, please do not hesitate to contact us! :)
Arnas and Gabriele Valentukoniai,
After God found me in the Fall of 1988 for two years I struggled with some difficult questions. “Am I permanently and truly His? Can I lose my salvation and my eternal life if I sin?” I just dared to hope that if I died, my soul would go to Heaven, and I faintly wished that one day I would be resurrected. By then, I had lived 20 years without God. When I finally became a Christian, my life did not change immediately on all areas. I failed many times, and with the failures came questions, uncertainty, and doubt.
Over the next thirty years, teenagers and young people asked me the same question. “Can I be sure of my eternal life? Can I lose my salvation? What will happen to me if I commit a big sin as a Christian? Do I fall out of grace If I turn my back on him? Can God leave me? I don't feel like I'm going to heaven, and I don't deserve it — so what should I do now?”
There are many ways to answer these questions. Perhaps the warmest and friendliest response comes from Jesus in the tenth chapter of the Gospel of John. Here, the Master replied to those who opposed his ministry in every way possible.
"My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father's hand." (John 10:27-29, ESV)
In this text, Jesus compared himself to the sheep’s owner, to a shepherd and his followers to the sheep. What are sheep like? Contrary to popular belief, they're not stupid at all. They can communicate a wide range of emotions, they are surprisingly intelligent, they have better memories than many people, and they recognize not only the face but also the voice of the shepherd. They can decide what they want, but they do not realize what they really need. That their shepherd knows best. The shepherd feeds, cares for, protects, and guides his sheep. Without him, they are lost. The shepherd knows his sheep; If they're lost, he'll go after them, because they are his valuable property.
It is precisely the fact that the sheep are owned by the shepherd that answers the introductory questions of many. In the parable of Jesus, sheep are in the possession of the shepherd. This is what we find in the first few words of the text and the fact that no one can take them out of the hands of Jesus and the Father further confirms it. How is it then? Are the sheep in the hands of Jesus and the Father at the same time? Yes. Just as the farmer and his only son keep all the wealth of a family farm in their hands, Christians are in the hands of Jesus and the Father. If the sheep in the story could speak, they would shout out: "I am the sheep of the good shepherd! I am the property of the good shepherd and his father! No one can take me away from the good shepherd and his father, for they take care of me."
Can a sheep lose its owner? Hardly. But even if that sheep were to wander away, the shepherd, the owner of the sheep would go after them, he would find them, and he would take them back to safety. Can a sheep in Jesus' flock lose his or her Shepherd? Of course not. Jesus never loses sight of his own sheep, and as we can read in the short story, there is no power, there is no creature that can take away His possessions from His hands.
Dear Reader, if you are in any doubt that you have lost or you can lose your salvation, remember this: when you came to faith, you became the property of Jesus Christ and the Father once and for all. Jesus paid a heavy price personally for you — he paid the punishment for your sins with his own life. And since He rose from the grave, you received eternal life once and for all. From that day on, you became the property of Jesus Christ and the Father. You will never be lost, they will never lose you, no one or nothing can ever get you out of their hands. So do not worry about losing your salvation or your eternal life. Rather, out of your gratitude decide to serve Him faithfully.
About the authors
The blog is created by many different people at WOL Bible Institute Hungary: Bible teachers, students, alumni, staff and guest teachers.