October 2013: Calvary Murom
Ministry in Russia has significantly changed. Today, it is much more difficult to share the Gospel. The hearts are not as open as they once were, but the fruit of those that went in the very early years, when the walls came down, is very evident.
After ten years of being a missionary in Africa, I returned to Russia in 2005 for a two week visit. The purpose of the trip was to give me a reprieve from the war in the Sudan — to have a time of rest and refreshment in the Lord. Since then, I travel every year for two weeks to share and become a part of the Body of Christ with our Russian brothers and sisters. I plan my visits to go right after the Christmas celebration in the US, which allows me to share Christmas with the Russian church that celebrates on the 10th of January. Spending a brief time away from the sweltering heat of Sudan is a blessing for me! It is like a cup of cold water on a hot day as I relax and enjoy the Rus- sian winter. While I have often shared that Russia was my first love in missions, I know that Sudan is my calling.
Over the years we, as a Body of Christ, have been blessed to purchased two new cars for two different Russian pastors and provided much needed food for the elderly and families in need. We also renovated our dear Russian grandmother Lydia’s flat. I feel close to the Russian believers and have come to love them as my family.
The faithful among the Russian Churches are very committed to get the Gospel out to the lost. Calvary Murom is counted as one of the faithful! They go door-to-door every Saturday with a group of about 20 to 30 people in hopes of reaching the city of 250,000 in population. They have a map of the city and walk street by street, knock- ing on every door to reach the people with the hope of salvation. As they go block by block, they mark the section off the map with a yellow highlighter. Then, they move on to the next group of flats. This church has been doing this for years without their group reducing in size. One brother had asked them what they do after they have gone through the entire city and their pastor’s reply was, “Start over.” Thus, this small church of 75 believers labors faithfully with joy.
Calvary Murom purchased a piece of property several years ago and have begun to build a church. All the labor is done by the members of the church giving up their free time after work and on week- ends to do the construction.
I felt close to the people and have come to love them as my family.”
When I was told about this group, I decided to go visit them on a Saturday. I had to drive for about two hours each way. I only had 20 minutes to meet and visit with the pastor and his hard working flock. I had other appointments that day, including baptizing Natasha’s mother. When I arrived at the building site, they were hard at work on the church. It had been raining and we were walking through mud. In spite of the mud, the men seemed deter- mined to put in a full day’s work.
They, by themselves, saved and bought a piece of land and were slowly building as the money came in. This had been going on for several years and when I asked how much longer they thought it would take to complete the church building, they replied that it would take several more years as they saved. Then, I inquired how much it would cost and they told me that it would take about $18,000 (USD) to be able to finish the church.
As I watched their faithfulness to press on, I knew that the Lord had a better plan and this is where the Church body in the U.S. comes in. I want to make it a reality for Calvary Murom, that by Christmas this year, they will have all the funds needed to finish the building, so they will be able to move in early next year and have Easter services in their new sanctuary. It is my prayer that we will all become a part of finishing what this group of committed Russian believers have been so faithful to start. If you want to be a part of blessing these fellow believers, every penny received will be given to this church. As I was leaving to come home, I realized that much has changed from the time I had served many years ago. Back then, the church in the West was fervently involved in building of the Russian Church. Now, most of that enthusiasm has faded. As I spoke with these pastors, they were continuing their race with joy, though to a great extent they have little support from believers in the US. Some of the pastors need real leadership and for mature Christians to speak into their lives. After one of the pastors sat down and spoke with me about some of the real challenges he was facing in the ministry, I spoke with Edward, who traveled with me to Russia, if I should continue with this work in Russia because of the great demands on my life in Sudan. I love the people, but is this the correct use of our time?
Edward said, “Wes, everywhere we go, they are thirsty to hear God’s Word. They are hungry souls in need of additional encouragement. They wait all year just to be fed for this one week. We cannot pull out!”
Thus, the dilemma: when you are not sure what and how to accomplish everything that is in front of you. I have to remind myself that we are to face each day’s needs without worry of the next. In doing so, the Lord gives us the strength to press on. Let us remember the Russian Church with a great gift this Christmas.
As a footnote, I traveled on to baptize Natasha’s mother which was a great blessing! She was so sweet. She was not sure how to be baptized. I had asked her how much she had sinned so that I would know how long to hold her under the water. She started to think about it…then I told her that I was just kidding, she laughed. After I baptized her, she said, “I thought you would dunk me at least three times!” We all enjoyed her innocence. After her baptism, she prepared some Russian meatballs, fresh tomatoes and peppers for us all to eat, and we enjoyed a picnic to celebrate her new life in Christ.
“We [God’s] servants will arise and build.” —Nehemiah 2:20
Calvary Murom is excited to complete their long awaited new church building they can call “home”. For several years, the faithful servants of that church have been saving their resources and building their church one cinder block at a time as the funds come available. At the current rate of savings, it will take several more years for Calvary Murom to raise the final $18,000 (USD) to make this permanent church home a reality. Our hope is to bless them with the entire amount needed this Christmas. Any donation, big or small, will go directly to this ministry.
Potatoes for Grandmothers
Together we will “pour ourselves out for the hungry, and satisfy the desire of the afflicted” —Isaiah 58:10
When the former Soviet Union collapsed, so did the life savings of many people; the little money they had has become worthless. Many of the Russian elderly struggle to pay the heating bills with the small pensions they receive from the government – leaving little for food. It’s that time of year again to begin collecting donations for our yearly project: Potatoes for Grandmothers. A gift of $300 will help one family with staples like: potatoes, beans, rice, flour and sugar. While this may seem small to most of us, it will bring great joy and needed relief to many weary souls who we desire to bless with the love of Christ. We will be begin distributing the food to the elderly this January.