Ten years ago we began to distribute the Word of God and to preach Christ on the east side of the Ural Mountains in Siberia. We greatly appreciate the Lord’s people who have prayed for this work and supplied nearly 650,000 New Testaments and Bibles, other Bible helps and literature, and made it possible for the local gatherings of believers to purchase simple buildings where they could meet. Many Christians have come to Russia to continue the work, year by year, and God in His wondrous grace has saved many souls. There are now four assemblies of believers gathered to the Lords worthy Name. As the work began we heard such remarks as: “I have been asking God for five years to send us a pastor to tell us about Jesus.” And an old war veteran spoke with feeling: “The first American I ever met set me free from a German prison camp after WWII. You are the second American I have met and you have brought us the Bible.” For about five years liberty was granted to preach and distribute in public places, including schools, markets, prisons, and community centers, and people willingly received the Word of God. The work, however, was curtailed in 1997 when a new law forbade the public work of the foreign missionary. We know that in other places in Russia there is still some liberty for public gospel work.
On the east side of the Urals, in the region of Siberia, is Surgut. While distributing New Testaments there in 1993, we met Christians who were dissatisfied with where they were meeting in local churches. They came along side and helped us in the work. They asked that we remain and teach them scriptural principles of gathering to the Lord’s Name, which we did, and soon an assembly commenced. One sister, Lydia, moved to a far distant village near Novosibirsk.
Witnessing to neighbors, she saw some saved and asked that brethren come and help. A brief visit was made, but due to the great distance, return trips have not been made.
Fifteen hours by train to the south of Surgut is Tyuman, where brethren David Netti of Ohio, Canadians Steve Kember, Max McLean, Malcolm Stanley and others commenced a work in 1993-94. In 1995 an invitation was given to visit a Moslem village, Kaskara, north of Tyuman. Brethren Larry Perkins of Michigan, Alan Davidson of Ireland, and others worked there and saw an assembly of believers planted. Christians from Tyuman also travel to Kaskara each Lord’s Day.
A brother from the Kaskara assembly, moved to Severouralsk in 1995, which is located on the west side of the Urals. Brethren Louie Smith of Michigan, Eric Fowler of Labrador, and Howard Pratt of Ontario had ten weeks of gospel meetings. Sinners were saved, baptized and after being taught church truth from the Scriptures, began to meet as an assembly. Believers also drive an hour’s distance from a second village, Volchance, to meet at Severouralsk. An hour north of Kaskara is the village of Yarkova, where the gospel was preached. One lady, Larisa, a doctor, was saved and is presently in the fellowship at Kaskara. She continues to invite brethren to her home to speak with relatives and neighbors.
Five hours north of Tyuman is Tobolsk, which is now becoming the religious capital of Russia. Brethren Smith, the late Mark Walvatne of Minnesota, and I commenced working here in 1991-92, with Tom Cooper of Michigan and others joining the work in 1993. God saved souls and they were baptized, but because of lack of teaching most of these drifted into local denominations. During the summer of 1999, a number of souls were saved following eight weeks of gospel meetings in a private school. Brethren from the west and local brethren from Kaskara followed up this work with ministry for the new converts, and an assembly commenced in the fall of 2000.
Tobolsk and Kaskara saints recently met together for their first Bible conference. As of December 31, 2000, Russian President Putin signed into law that all religious groups not registered with the government will be dissolved. Tobolsk Christians, now meeting in secret, have filed documents for acceptance, and, if approved, they will be able to meet openly and invite missionaries to come and help them. The FSB (former KGB) have questioned many people about the activities of the Christians: when and where do they meet and who has been present at the meetings? Orphan teenage boys were asked: “Did Christians invite you to their home?” “Yes.” “Did they open the Bible before you and say anything about God?” Again the answer was, “Yes.” Several of us had to appear before authorities for questioning as to accusations laid against us: “Did we have regular religious meetings in a home? Was I conducting these meetings? Do we invite people to the meetings?” seeking to find some way in which we might be breaking the law. The purpose is to rid Tobolsk of foreign missionaries and allow only State recognized churches to function.
Elsewhere in Russia, David and Elizabeth Richards, of British Columbia, have devoted time in the third largest City in Russia, Ekaterinburg, which is located six hours west of Tyuman. David has been teaching Bible lessons in a private school and translating Bible studies. In the far west, in the Ukraine, Gilles Plourde, Flo Kancir of Kapuskasing, Ontario, and others have been finding liberty to do gospel work in L’viv.
Christians are encouraged to pray for the continued spread of the gospel in Russia and especially that Christians might meet in liberty without fear of persecution. “Pray, brethren, pray.”