The Believers of Siberia
Two years ago a representative of the Slav Lands Christian Fellowship was invited to western Siberia to see the fruit of an indigenous missionary outreach that had begun seven years before in this previously unevangelised field. He went not as a tourist but to assess the possibilities of co-operating in a practical ways with our Russian brethren. Generous support has been supplied. There are now nine small groups and forty-two individuals sending to forty-six addresses throughout western Siberia.
Parcels are being sent on average every three weeks and each needy family has at least two people sending food to them. A full-time pastor is also being supported and three other workers. Russian Christianity is in a growth situation. The following is the testimony of Tamara Sbrodova who lives in Tiumen City, Siberia:-
We were very thankful to receive your letter, it encouraged us and we read and reread it several times, even our children enjoyed reading it. At last God gave us the opportunity to write our testimony about our life and how we came to God.
I was born and brought up in the Autonomous Region of Udmurtia (just west of the Ural mountains) in a small village but in a large family of eight children. After the tragic suicide of my youngest sister we are now seven. My name is Tamara, I am the eldest child. We were always very poor, living hand to mouth. Misfortunes of all different kinds were constantly happening to us, even our cow died of plague. My father was a heavy drinker so there was much unpleasantness at home because of him. I took great pains to help my mother especially caring for the young ones. My childhood was not a happy one. For some reason people despised and humiliated us perhaps because we were such a big family. Our neighbours were similar to us, no one was well-off but still we felt their hostility. From my childhood I dreamt of finishing school and earning my own living because we were continually short of food and our family always seemed to have bad luck. It depressed me at the time and of course has affected my life. I always hoped that things in the future would be brighter and better.
My mother’s sister was an ardent believer in Orthodoxy. In her own way she dedicated herself to religion. She strictly observed all the Holy Days and traditions often visiting churches in other towns. She possessed many icons and pictures of heaven and hell. She constantly tried to speak to us about God and about hell. We didn’t like listening to her because her life was not a good example. She would often curse and turned out to be like other worldly people. However I remember she told us how Christ walked on the water and didn’t sink, also that He was God’s Holy One. Sometimes it seemed to us as if she lived in another world.
After I finished school I went to study in the town but I tried hard to help my parents and care for them. On my small salary I could feed and clothe myself but took them as much as I could. My sister Tanya also finished school and went to work in a factory on machines which were covered in oil and dirt in order to earn sufficient to feed and clothe herself. She too tried to bring home something for our parents. In their souls they felt uneasy because, due to their impoverished circumstances, they couldn’t help us to receive a higher education or even to do ordinary studies, As often as we could we left our village and went out into the wider world. But wherever we worked we were exploited. So often we were swindled and humiliated as well. This upset me very much so that I refused to accept it and argued with my bosses demanding my rights, but it only brought more suffering on me and I got nowhere with it. Later on I discovered that this was not God’s way. At that time I knew nothing about God’s commandments and this ignorance led to more sufferings.
My sisters also told me that their lives weren’t happy either. Our friends envied us because we were a big family and thought that we were happy, but we envied them because they lived prosperously, ate whatever they wanted and wore whatever they liked, while we lived in poverty. Our father, when we were earning money, compelled us to buy lottery tickets in the hope that we will win a car or something like that. In vain we explained to him that in our lives was only bad luck.
We trod a long path to God. I married somewhat late in life and my husband turned out to be a drunkard. My bad luck that I had known since childhood continued into married life unrelentingly, and also in the lives of my brothers and sisters. Perhaps at first glance it seemed everything was all right with me, before I was married I had my own place and later on my husband and I had a son and daughter. But somehow in my heart dissatisfaction haunted me. Questions arose in my mind tormenting me, why it was always my fate to have such bad luck? I dreamt of a good and kind husband but he was very unpredictable and nervy hitting me and the children for nothing, so the children suffered and there seemed to be no way out of our predicament. I could not pray and just read some prayers from a Prayer Book before going to sleep; evidently these sufferings brought me closer to God. God saw this and led me along such paths of suffering to Himself.
My sister who lived in Udmurtiya she also suffered terribly both spiritually and physically. She was already near to death and thought she would not survive such experiences of suffering. One month before the death of my husband she besought God that He would show her the path of true life. God found her there in the city of Izhevsk (capital of Udmurtiya), she and all her family began to go to the church there. So she prayed at that time for us that we will come to them to hear the gospel. But God so arranged it that she herself came to the funeral of my husband. In this time he was already wallowing in sins and adultery. Evidently he intended to leave me. I didn’t suspect it and had no thought of divorce. Four months before this my youngest sister hanged herself and after this my husband also killed himself. Surely the Devil never sleeps. So when my sister from Izhevsk came to the funeral I was absolutely dazed with grief and my mind full of questions, why exactly all this had happened to me and why we continually had such bad luck?
Often in the past we had visited the old fortune teller for her solution to our problems. Just in the middle of this sad situation I for the first time heard the gospel from my sister. Then when I believed her words, that Jesus died for our sins, I felt very near to God. Although I made no public prayer of repentance yet I accepted with such joy God’s salvation, and my other sister, Tanya, together with me believed. When my sister said to me, “Do you believe in Jesus Christ?” with eyes full of tears I said, “I believe!” And in that moment the Holy Spirit began to work in us. There were nine people at the funeral and four of us accepted Christ. At that time we didn’t know which church to attend, we even encountered the J. W’s. Praise God He led us and found for us the church where we are now. We are very thankful to Him and his grace for so wonderfully arranging everything in our lives. And now we are very happy people, for it seems to us that goodness and mercy are following us. God loves us very much and we love Him. God gave a daughter to my sister Tanya and it happened just before she repented, and for this we are grateful to God because she very much wanted a baby girl.
Now God is also blessing our parents through our prayers. Although our father wants to say that they have their faith and interprets our success as mere luck, we try to explain to him that God is blessing them according to our prayers. When we travelled in the summer to see them they saw real miracles through us and rejoiced, especially my mother recognised what God is doing; she in her own way believes. Our parents hardly ever helped us, if anything it was usually the other way round. But now, when they see and know how God is helping us, they are very greatly surprised and happy because we never had any luck in our whole lives and nothing ever came easily, but now we are seeing such blessings!
In the house when I and my children were on our knees praying, my mother was very glad and told my twin sisters that we were a good example for them – it was very nice for us! Praise to the Almighty that He is such a wonderful God who hears, helps and answers our prayers. And we are very thankful for you since God has given us such wonderful friends. Some time ago we could only dream about this but now it’s a reality. God has also given us such a wonderful pastor through whom we are seeing such abundant blessings.
May God help you and us and all believers to run with patience the race that is set before us so that we can do a bit more for the LORD. I close with Psalm 31 verse 19, “Oh how great is Thy goodness which Thou has laid up for them that fear Thee; which Thou has wrought for them that trust in Thee before the sons of men!”
Living in the World 6 November 2020
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