Summer Visit to Siberia
During June this year I was able with God’s help to make a fortnight’s visit to TIUMEN, ONOKINO, TOBOLSK, NIAGAN and PRIOBYE. In all places there is steady progress, much fervent prayer and faithful robust evangelistic preaching of God’s gospel with souls being added to the church. Nowhere did I find any spirit of complacency, lethargy or self-satisfaction but rather one of strong faith, self-sacrifice and progress; leaders are always speaking of ‘regions beyond’ near or far where new doors are opening and opportunity beckons, “if only we had more workers, if only we had more buildings in which to preach the gospel – just think what could be done!”
The resources we had taken to meet present needs and commitments were soon exhausted, and face to face with this spirit of energetic expansion, so eager to take gospel opportunities and steps of faith there was only one thing we could do: turn to God in prayer to ask for His help. The words of Mary to the angel came to mind, “How can this be…?” The angel in reply told her just how it could be and would be and concluded For with God nothing shall be impossible”. How can we get more labourers into God’s harvest held, more buildings, more resources? How can this kingdom work be done? Jesus was quick to answer in His own day, “Pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest that He would send …” Let everyone, in whom dwells the same spirit of faith, pray most earnestly for God to send the men and to use the means to provide for more workers, more buildings, more Bibles, more books, more help for the needy. If we can’t ourselves go to the mission fields of the world we can at least pray for and help those who can. But we will need to pray in faith, to really believe that with God nothing shall be impossible! Will you therefore pray for this work, and pray most earnestly, that God may send the means and the men to meet all these needs?
NEWS IN BRIEF
Pastor Boichenko (33) is still receiving treatment for severe migraines, due to five years overwork, with medicines and physiotherapy etc provided by ourselves. He is burdened for the east of his city where there is no church for 100,000 people. He holds weekly meetings in a local cinema and continues to see a steady stream of converts so that would like to open a church here but property is very expensive. This year there have already been three baptismal services for thirty people. Membership continues to grow and now stands at 250.
The dormitory town of BOROVOYE, cast of the city, wants to open its own ‘House of Prayer’ but the believers there are still seeking suitable premises. After delays from the Local Authority of almost two years permission has finally been granted to build a soup kitchen and Sunday school next door to the church. Zhenia Loslikin has given up his job in the police in order to serve the Lord as a preacher. Increasing membership has also enlarged the number of those families and individuals in great material need, from fourteen to twenty three. The burgeoning work increases the need for more men to offer themselves for God’s service.
A small congregation are now gathering three times a week in the meeting-room they made out of a disused shop. A new leader, Denis Belov, has been appointed and his attempts to attract the young people of this small town have met with some success. Exorbitant prices for joining the town’s central-heating grid have necessitated the purchase of their own wood- burning stove provided by our Fellowship. Orthodox people in the town are angry that the ‘Sectarians’ have opened a ‘Prayer House’ here. A lending library, using books we sent them for this purpose, is open on Saturdays for the local townsfolk to come in and borrow or browse.
The city authorities demanded that all outstanding building works be completed by September or else they would close the church completely. Pastor Oleinik was so relieved when we handed the necessary funds to him. For eight years his work as missionary and as Pastor often had to take second place to completing various phases of the construction of this huge building or appealing for funds when the money had ran out. Pastor Oleinik has appointed leaders of the church’s twenty home fellowships to help him with the pastoral work in this growing church. It is proving very effective.
Pavel Sitchov and Artiom Sutyagin continue their midweek church meetings and home Bible studies among believing and unbelieving adults and young people. They report encouraging results both numerically and spiritually. They are a great help in releasing Pastor Oleinik for preaching and pastoral work. Their small daughter church in another part of the town bad been meeting for several years in rented rooms. It is believed the Orthodox Church engineered the termination of their lease. With Pastor Oleinik’s help we found a detached single storey house in good condition and purchased it to be their own new ‘House of Prayer’.
At the mid-week prayer meeting he requested the congregation to pray for five things;
(i) For establishing contact with relatives and friends of the increasing number of new people joining the church.
(ii) Many new contacts among young people are slaves to drink or drugs.
(iii) There are far more women than men joining the church, men are outnumbered 25:75, s0 there is a need for more men.
(iv) This brings problems for the young women in the church wanting to get married.
(v) For the spiritual needs of the Pastor, his elders and helpers in the church.
Pastor Oleinik sees his large and growing church as a centre for training and sending out missionaries into this region of Siberia. Now that the building has been completed he can give this his undivided attention.
NYAGAN & PRIOBYE
These towns are situated about 350 miles north of Tiumen and an internal flight enabled us to make our first visit here. Pastor Nikolai Redka has been working for over three years to establish congregations in both places. We have been supporting him for over two years and in June we visited Nyagan and the neighbouring town of Priobye for the first time in order to see the work he is doing and to meet his family.
Nikolai was born in the Ukraine in 1959 approximately one thousand four hundred miles south east of Salehard in the Arctic Circle where he went to work in 1986. After working in a factory for six years in the Ukraine he heard that there was good money in the far north where fortunes were being made in the new West Siberian oil field. For two years he worked on the construction of the town’s new airport followed by two years working for a logging contractor in the forest. By this time he had made quite a bit of money and decided to start his own business in 1990. He exported timber to western countries and constructed new housing in Salehard.
In 1992 at the age of thirty three he was converted through the witness of the local Baptist Church. By this time he had married and his business was prospering nicely. Then in 1996 two of the original leaders of the River Ob mission (1991 and 1992) visited Salehard church in order to recruit new missionaries for the expanding work in the region. To his great surprise they asked Nikolai if he would be willing to serve in a nearby mission-station where helpers were needed. He agreed to think about it. One day whilst praying about the matter the name ‘Nyagan’ came into his mind. In the weeks which followed the conviction grew upon him that the Lord was calling him to pioneer a work in this town. This was a big step of faith, and involved selling the successful business he had built up, moving to a completely new and unknown situation, and beginning a new life as a missionary.
In December 1996 Nikolai, his wife Olga and their first child moved to Nyagan where they began to hold meetings in their flat. Although a few people came it was not successful. Russian people, through the media, have been warned of the hundreds of sinister and dangerous ‘Sects’ flooding into the country and holding mysterious meetings in flats where strange occult and foreign practices are carried out. He decided therefore to rent a hall in a public building where he could preach the gospel. After two months four people were converted and the first baptism was held. At the same time he began to look for a house or small building which he could buy to use as a church. He found one not far from the city centre, formerly offices of a local builder, and bought it with his own money. Using his skill as a carpenter he spent the next six months converting the offices into Meeting Room, flat, Sunday school and library. The ‘House of Prayer’ opened with a service of dedication in October 1997. Today there are seventeen members with twice that number attending the services.
About thirty miles north-east of Nyagan lies the small town of Priobye on the great river Ob. It is connected to the outside world only by the railway line as there is no road. Nikolai began meetings here using rented accommodation, much to the disgust of the local Orthodox priest who branded them ‘Sectarians’! Several people were saved and they began to hold meetings for children. When two drug addicts were converted and their lives transformed, people’s attitude to the ‘Sectarians’ began to change from open hostility to one of respect.
The Mayor of the town invited Nikolai to his office and asked him if he would be willing to provide teaching and recreation for some of the town’s orphans. He replied that they would be very glad to help, but could the Mayor use his influence to find them a small building to use on a permanent basis? Some months later the Mayor showed Nikolai a new timber building that the Army had begun to build as a depot but had abandoned when they left Priobye. The outside of the building had been completed but there were no internal partitions, doors, ceilings or floor finishes. It was very large (40 feet by 100!) but when the Mayor told him he could have it as a gift he jumped at the opportunity! During the winter the town also agreed to heat the building free of charge. The only proviso was that it would be Nikolai’s responsibility to make the building habitable on the inside. He took a step of faith and said, yes, knowing that personally he had no means himself of doing so, but doubtless the Lord would provide!
When he showed us over the building we marveled at the size of God’s provision and agreed to assist them if the Lord sent us the help they needed. Currently the church has twelve members with twice that number attending services. In the present climate of hostility towards ‘Sectarians’ this gift is simply amazing!
Nikolai is physically very strong and at the same time a very bold and fervent witness for his Lord. He uses every opportunity to speak to people or give them something to read and I saw examples of this whilst waiting for my plane at the airport. He begins his day with prayer and Bible study at 5am before taking his three children to school and kindergarten. Each day runs to a pre-arranged programme so that not a minute is lost, and although he disciplines himself strictly it does not make him either cold or hard toward other people or his own family. Whenever he leaves the house, either alone or in company, he never fails to pray at the front door for God’s help and protection; he is truly a man of faith and of prayer. One cannot but admire the wisdom of God, who fits the man for the task in the work of His kingdom, here in the rugged climate and harsh conditions of western Siberia, and elsewhere in the world.
This report is written by the Secretary of the Slav Lands Christian Fellowship: 28 Hayesford Park Drive, Bromley BR2 9DB (020 8402 0695)
Living in the World 6 November 2020
This article is the contents of an address first given in February 2020 at the Westminster Presbyterian Theological Seminary, Newcastle, UK. * * * LIVING in the world. How are Christians to live in the world? The question can be answered in many ways. The topic is potentially vast in scope — that becomes more […]
When coming to consider plagues throughout history and some Christian responses, it is appropriate to begin with this extract from the 1662 Book of Common Prayer: O Almighty God, who in thy wrath did send a plague upon thine own people in the wilderness, for their obstinate rebellion against Moses and Aaron; and also, in […]