This report is an update of the progress of the Lord’s work in Russia and of the present conditions among the assembly believers.
In a 1991 Russian newspaper, a cartoon appeared showing a lad carrying a fish aquarium out to the end of a homemade diving board over a pond. The boy begins pouring his few fish into the pond, and says, “Now you are free.” In the water below, however, are three hungry alligators with wide-open mouths. The illustration depicted the liberation of Russia from communism, but suggests a greater bondage perhaps to materialism, sin, and Satan. It is true that religions and cults poured into the country to captivate the minds of the people. The old hard-core belief that there is no God still lingers with many, but to God be the glory that the gospel of Christ has won the hearts of a few souls in different places.
The Ural Mountains
The Volchance and Severouralsk assemblies commenced after brethren preached the gospel, souls were saved, baptized, and taught the Word of God. There are approximately 15-20 in each fellowship. Volchance hosted a two-day Bible conference this fall with about 60 people attending. Several brethren from the west and several Russian brethren contributed helpful ministry. In each assembly there is at least one brother, and possibly two, who are capable of preaching and teaching the Scriptures. The gospel has gone out from them to neighboring villages and orphanages. Some have been saved and baptized. A children’s work at Saverouralsk and at Three North, a nearby village, has ceased for the present, partly due to persecution. A fifteen-year-old girl, Yulia, related how she heard the brethren speak of Christ at the age of ten. Now she is a shining light for her Savior. A thriving Sunday School work continues at Volchance.
There are three assemblies: One is in Kaskara, located in a Muslim village. Another is in Tobolsk, the recognized religious capital of Siberia. A third is in Surgut, a large oil industrial city. Numerically each assembly has less than ten in fellowship and occasionally they get visitors in to hear the gospel. Surgut is further north and it is more difficult for visiting preachers to go there. In Tobolsk the FSB continues to question foreign preachers, and the Orthodox Church pressures the city administration to prohibit the missionary from helping local orphanages and from doing any public service. Children are not permitted at any meetings unless accompanied by a parent. Local brethren are not able to be at most of the meetings due to odd working hours. At Kaskara many saints have moved to other areas, and most of the saints there and at Surgut are elderly. God in His goodness has raised up gifts in each assembly. Brethren are capable of teaching the Scriptures and show a shepherd-care for the flock.
Further east in Siberia is the village of Lenova. For several years brethren have visited there, preaching the gospel, teaching the Word to a handful of Christians, and ministering food, clothing, and medical needs at two orphanages. The saints continue to wait upon the Lord for others to be saved before commencing as a local church. There is a need to obtain a room or an apartment for a meeting place. To invite strangers to the home of Victor and Nadja, where we usually meet, presents a risk of thievery. This family of four also traveled 36 hours by train to the Volchance Bible conference.
1. Wrong teaching crept into one assembly and several of the saints were drawn away from the fellowship. Assemblies are susceptible to erroneous doctrine due to religious influences and fewer visits of preaching brethren.
2. Jehovah Witnesses are numerous and confuse people about what true Christianity is and should be.
3. Visas are now more difficult to obtain, and they limit each visit to three months. Each visa restricts travel to five cities. New laws prohibit public activity, but liberty remains to teach and preach in places designated as a “church” and in private homes, though several consecutive meetings are not allowed.
4. Winter conditions are severe. Summers are hot with mosquitoes, and most people must give all their free time to their garden plots in order to survive. Series of meetings during these seasons are not convenient.
5. Language presents a constant barrier. Most visiting brethren need an interpreter, one who can be free from family, school, and work responsibilities. It is also important that interpreters have a good grasp of the Scriptures.
“May I come in?”
After a recent gospel meeting had commenced, a gentle knock was heard at the door. A brother responded and found a small, but twenty year-old girl, Zolia. She said that for a long time she had wanted to come to our meetings, but didn’t know if we would allow a Muslim to attend. She then added, “May I come in?” This is a word of encouragement to show that the grace of God yet abounds, and that there are seeking souls around us daily. God is still liberating lost and perishing souls to the glorious liberty we have in Christ. After several months Zolia still attends the meetings, and has recently asked one of the sisters, “May I also wear a scarf during the meeting?”
The prayers and interests of the Lord’s people on behalf of the Russian work are greatly appreciated. Continue to pray for the assemblies and their preservation, and that there might be spiritual bread in the House of God. Pray that God might call nationals to go forth and preach the gospel and that the glad tidings might go forth from these assemblies to those about them as it did with the early Thessalonian church. We look to God to keep the door open to Russia, that visiting brethren might go among the saints to strengthen them in the faith and to help them with their problems and encourage their spiritual desires.