Published May 16, 2013
ATHENS — Sauleja Satkute is one of the student leaders of the Baptist Collegiate Ministry at the University of Georgia, but she is not your typical Georgia Baptist coed. The pretty, perky, and very talented young woman from Lithuania is pursuing a double major in Psychology and Studio Art.
Sauleja could very well be BCM’s most effective advertisement. She exclaimed, “One day I was walking down Lumpkin Street in Athens and saw a sign that highlighted a worship service and just knew I needed to be there. I walked in and was greeted with smiles and much love. I knew it had to be coming from Jesus. I truly felt His presence there and so I stayed and eventually got very involved.
“I use a ‘greenhouse’ metaphor to describe UGA’s Baptist Collegiate Ministry: ‘It is a place where I have a chance to dig deep in the Word, grow in my prayer life, be sharpened in my faith, and/or be rebuked when needed. The BCM community has given me opportunities to serve, to use my gifts and talents, and to reach out to students on campus.’”
Coming to America
Nathan Byrd, Baptist Campus minister at UGA, testifies, “Sauleja’s faith is extremely impressive. She lives out her faith in her daily life and is not ashamed of the Gospel. She is a wonderful encourager and is able to lift the spirits of those around her. She will be on our leadership team next year and will help with our outreach to international students.”
Sauleja’s home country, Lithuania, is the largest of three Baltic States situated in northern Europe on the southeastern shore of the Baltic Sea. Although she grew up in Kaunas, the second largest city in Lithuania, the family owned farm animals and had vegetable and fruit gardens in their backyard.
Sauleja stated, “I grew up in what seemed to be a country-like setting in a small European neighborhood. I learned many valuable domestic skills from my parents and grandparents.
“About three years ago, my mother received a green card and we decided to move to the United States. My family decided to move to Georgia, because we liked the environment and climate here.”
When Sauleja’s family moved to Georgia they brought their faith along. Under the iron fist of Communism, Christianity was stifled in Lithuania as well as in many other eastern European countries, but when the nation gained independence in 1991 Lithuania became a Catholic country.
Sauleja reported, “Although Catholicism predominates in Lithuania the faith of our people there seems lifeless or dry. Many of the people base their faith on earning salvation and acquiring God’s favor by works and merit. Christian faith often seems more tied to customs and following the rules than about having a true relationship with the Savior. When you find a genuine community of believers in Lithuania it is a spark of light in a world of darkness.
“I grew up in a Christian family,” Sauleja explained. “My parents became believers when the Soviet Union dissolved and Christian missionaries were allowed to come to Lithuania. Billy Graham visited Lithuania and shared the Gospel with huge crowds of people. My parents, who were longing for spiritual freedom, were privileged to hear Dr. Graham preach.
“My parents told me about the great revival that was taking place in Lithuania at that time. People became passionate about sharing the Gospel with their neighbors and passed out Christian tracts in the streets.
“My parents read the Bible, took Jesus’ words seriously, and lived by them. The church grew rapidly. From what I can remember from what my parents told me, our church seemed very much like the early church in the book of Acts. I am so grateful that I got to be a part of my church family when I was growing up and I thank God for the missionaries and the evangelists that came to Lithuania.
“When I was very little my dad shared the Gospel with me and I asked the Lord to come into my life and be my Savior. I truly started enjoying my walk with the Lord when I was about 14 years old.
“My identity is in Jesus. He defines me. He is my life’s purpose and meaning. His blood has made me new. In short, Jesus is my hero, my love, and my life. My greatest desire is to bring Him glory and honor with my life.”
Missions past, future
Sauleja continued, “My country may not be considered a great tourist attraction like Italy or France, but I am grateful that missionaries came and shared their hearts with the Lithuanian people. Seeing the missionaries’ love for people make me think about how great God’s love for the world is. He is the international God and is not restricted to one country or continent. My God is accessible to every single person from every tribe and nation.
“Now that I know how precious and amazing Jesus is, I desire to play a part in reaching out to the nations.”
In Lithuania, Sauleja learned how to serve God through her church. She worked with the Sunday School, organized summer camps for street kids in low-income neighborhoods, and led activities for her youth group.
Sauleja is a lover of beauty and nature. Her favorite adventures as a child were the trips she took with her father. She reminisced, “Sometimes it was a bike ride in the forest and sometimes it was a faraway trip to Switzerland or Israel. I see the world as God’s beautiful painting with each brushstroke of color representing a unique person and his/her ethnicity.”
The hobbies of this young Lithuanian lady include singing, dancing, learning, and volunteering in non-profit organizations or at her church, First Baptist Church, Watkinsville. She is probably extremely proficient in all her endeavors, but her paintings/drawings are stunningly beautiful. Her love of nature and God’s creative handiwork has apparently served as the inspiration for her artistry.
Sauleja remarked, “I have been interested in drawing and painting since I was very young. My parents had a difficult time with me at first, because I would draw on everything I could find, including my room walls and my toys. My teachers since kindergarten have indicated that I am gifted in art.
“My paintings are little expressions of my heart. I don’t have fancy words to describe my art, but it is simply colorful emotions, my prayers, and my way of worshiping the Lord.
“In my art, I explore the unknown and connect to places and people that I love and care about. I often create prayer paintings when I portray a certain place and pray for it at the same time. My inspiration comes from the Lord. He is the greatest Artist and the world around me is His great masterpiece. I try to express my fascination and joy with my God in my works of art.”
Sauleja is a gifted young woman and she may be Lithuania’s gift to Georgia.
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