I first went to Russia in April of 1997 with George Osachoff, a Russian speaking brother from the Vancouver area. We spent four weeks with the assembly in Surgut in northern Siberia. We had planned spending a week or so with the saints at Kaskara, a small assembly near Tyumen, but circumstances prevented this from happening. George and I had meetings every evening. I spoke and George interpreted. He had asked me to speak on New Testament Church Principles, which I did except for the last three evenings, which I devoted to the gospel. Some adjustments had to be made in their practices, but the saints responded in a very positive way. We were able to spend some time speaking to children and teachers in a school as well as at the University.
While I very much appreciated the time I spent in Russia, I still was very unsure how much I would get involved in the future. I went back to Russia in March of the following year (1998) with Louis Smith of Jackson, Michigan. We had two weeks in Ukraine, followed by five weeks in Russia. Most of this time was spent between Severouralsk and Volch-ansk in the Ural Mountains. There is a small assembly in Severouralsk and a gospel effort in Volchansk. Most of the time was spent in teaching the saints, a ministry which is very much needed in Russia. An interesting feature was the attendance in Severouralsk of a number of Pentecostal sisters. Each evening, after the meeting was over, they would sit around me, plying me with questions, which I was able to answer through Lena Kandachova our interpreter. By the time I left Severouralsk I was sure that the Lord had a work for me to do in Russia. The need is immense, both for teaching and the preaching of the gospel, although the opportunities of the latter are somewhat limited at present. I returned to Russia later the same year spending time in Sur gut as well as Severouralsk and Volchansk.
This year was a definite turning point in my involvement in the work in Russia. I maintained contact with Lena Kandachova, whose home was in Yekaterinburg, a city of well over one million just east of the Ural mountains. Older maps call the city Sverdlovsk. There is no assembly in the city (at least to our knowledge), but Lena has very godly parents who have only been saved a few years. They meet with a small group of Christians in their home. Lena arranged for us to be able to rent a small apartment with a telephone in Yekaterinburg. On March 27th of this year my wife Elizabeth came with me for the first time. We spent seven weeks in Russia, most of which was in Yekaterinburg. When we are not there Lena stays in the apartment. We began meeting with the little group in Lena’s parental home, usually twice a week. They are of Pentecostal background, so we have to go very gently with them. They love the Lord and his Word very dearly, and as a result have become very precious to us.
After we had been in Yekaterinburg for a couple of weeks we heard, through Louis Smith, of a school in Pishma (a town of 80,000 north of Yekaterinburg) in which a small group of the children are on the ACE (Accelerated Christian Education) program. I visited the school with Louis. As a result I was invited to teach the Bible to about 90 children. The children are learning English, but, apart from the eighth grade, still require an interpreter. So I went to the school once a week with Lena. Before leaving for Canada I left funds that had been passed on to me for charity work with the school. At the same time the Director of the school arranged for our next invitation to Russia to come from the school.
We are now nearing the end of our second trip to Yekaterinburg this year (my fifth time in Russia). This time we will have been here for twelve weeks. Lena is studying by correspondence, but for one week each month she has to go to a University in another city, making her unavailable to help at that time. This gave Elizabeth and me the opportunity of spending two separate weeks in Sur gut. Unfortunately, Sveta Ganieva, our interpreter in Surgut, was unavailable to help in the evenings as she was working. So I only managed one ministry meeting with the assembly. But we had wonderful opportunities of sharing the gospel in the Lingua-center where Sveta is teaching English. Not that I had gospel meetings, but we were able to answer the questions of students who were learning English. One question was “What is the best thing that has ever happened in your life?” Most of the students were teenagers, but we were able to speak on two occasions (1 hours each time) to a class of professional adults.
The Bible studies in Yekaterinburg are still small. We have had a few unbelievers present from time to time, giving me the opportunity of preaching the gospel. One lady from a distant village recently professed faith in Christ. We are hoping on our next trip to be able to visit her. On this trip Lena and I have been going to the school in Pishma three times a week. I have had the privilege of teaching the Bible to grades ito 8. Before leaving for the last time on this trip last Friday a number of the children gave little tokens of their appreciation and love. I was able to pass on fairly substantial funds to two institutions in Pishma, an orphanage and a school\home for the sight-impaired, as well as to the school. As a result it appears as though I may have the opportunity of teaching the Bible in the orphanage as well next time. This will likely mean taking a taxi to Pishma five times a week. Lots to do. I trust that the Orthodox Church does not find out. As far as charity work is concerned the need is never ending. There are 205 children in the orphanage, all of whom are from Pishma itself. Not all are orphans. Many are unwanted children, or children whose parents cannot afford to keep them. Many have been taken away from unfit parents. There could be opportunity for exercised Christians to do volunteer work in these institutions. I was told that this is possible at least in the school-home for the sight-impaired.
Since coming to Russia on our present trip I have had my notes on Acts 2:41, 42 printed in Russian (49 pages). By the time we leave about 75 copies will already have been distributed to the various assemblies.
We plan returning to Russia in the last week of February, this time for twelve weeks, most of which will be spent in Yekaterinburg. We look to the Lord for his blessing in the gospel as well as the teaching of the Word, and trust that we will eventually see at least one assembly established in this area.