Windows on Siberia
WINDOWS ON SIBERIA
ALCOHOLISM AND DRUG ABUSE HAVE REACHED EPIDEMIC PROPORTIONS
During September I visited Siberia again and attended the official opening of the big church in Tobolsk. I give below the latest news from the churches we are seeking to support.
a) During the past three months nine people were baptised and fifteen people have shown concern for their souls and are seeking God’s grace and forgiveness.
b) The two full-time Pastoral Assistants, Pavel Sitchov and Artiom Sutiagin, continue a very busy schedule of regular meetings among more than one hundred young believers in the church. A weekly meeting is held in the church for Bible Study and another one for prayer both are attended by 60-80. In addition there are several small home groups meeting each week for Bible Study where unbelievers are invited. They also hold weekly meetings for the leaders of these smaller groups to teach them basic Bible doctrines. Many of the young people come from families where their parents are unbelievers, so Pavel and Artiom are often visiting them to explain the Christian Faith and allay their fears about ‘Sectarian’ heresies and scandals.
c) Alcoholism and drug abuse have reached epidemic proportions in Russia. Many who suffer the effects of alcohol and drugs are visiting the church and several have been wonderfully converted and are now serving the Lord.
d) The Pastor is himself visiting families where either the husband or the wife are unbelievers in order to help them in their relationships. There are forty such families in the church. He also led four seminars for all those in leadership, teaching them Biblical foundations.
Pastor Oleinik request prayer for the following points;
a) The price of gas has gone up 150% in recent months. The church are trying to raise money to meet these escalating costs by making and selling furniture in spare rooms in their basement. If central heating becomes too expensive the church building cannot be used during winter months.
b) The church still desires to be a training centre for missionary work in Western Siberia. Unfortunately a number of young men, who would have been suitable to serve as missionaries, have had to leave Tobolsk due to the lack of employment in the town.
c) The Town Council are demanding further external works to be done within the grounds of the church costing almost £2000, including a large marble cross! This is because of its central location in the city. Fines for non- compliance are about to be imposed. They were especially angry that ‘foreigners’ had taken part in the official opening ceremonies of the church!
d) Like many churches in Russia there are far more women than men. Pastor Oleinik is making fresh efforts to meet more men in order to converse with them about the Christian Faith. Adults frequently consider themselves ‘Orthodox’ and therefore are reluctant to have conversations about faith in Christ with ‘Sectarians’. Young people are far less inhibited and much more accessible to the gospel. Often they witness successfully to their unbelieving parents.
e) A small ‘charismatic’ church in the town attempts to push their propaganda at members of the church from time to time in spite of requests to desist. So the leadership are deflected from the main activities of the church in order to deal with disputes about healings, prophecies, dreams, tongues etc.
We visited Pastor Boichenko for a few days and he took us to see the refurbished house in the small town of BOROVOYE we purchased last year now being used for Meetings. We also went to the village of YAR to view several houses which were for sale. We chose one to be converted into a Meeting place as we had done in BOROVOYE.
a) The church held a summer camp for between 30 – 40 children mostly from very poor families who otherwise would have no holiday at all. It was a unique opportunity to teach these children about the Christian Faith as many were from homes where their parents were unbelievers.
b) Although the summer had been extremely wet the ordinary members of the church had laboured long hours in very adverse conditions to build a small house. This will be used as a kitchen and canteen to feed the many poor families in the district, as well as providing some Sunday School facilities on the first floor.
c) The church continues to experience gradual growth and purses its policy of expansion into neighbouring towns and villages. Pastor Boichenko was invited by a large church in his home town of Odessa (Ukraine) to be their senior Pastor. But, in spite of poor health, he resolutely refused because of his sense of God calling him to a ministry church-planting in this part of Siberia.
Pastor Boichenko requests prayer for the following needs;
a) The hall being rented for meetings in the eastern part of the city (where 150,000 people live) and where there are no churches, has suddenly been denied them. Once again they have no place to meet and are actively seeking a new home.
b) News has just been received that the Chief Administrator in YAR has decided not to allow a ‘Sectarian’ Meeting place in his village; reasons for this surprising and unwelcome decision are being sought.
c) Three full-time workers and their families are still without material support following the withdrawal of a German Mission from Siberia. The basic salary for each is about £200 per month.
d) Two sisters, members of the small Meeting in ONOKINO, have accepted the teachings of the Jehovahs Witnesses and left the church. Efforts to explain their errors have so far been rebuffed. I am still in correspondence with them about this sect.
e) Pastor Boichenko’s church is in a working class area of TIUMEN and the majority of the members are quite or very poor. Several are pensioners living in real poverty. This makes it well-nigh impossible for his church to support full-time missionary workers. Several promising young men have had to leave the church and move elsewhere because they could not find work in Tiumen.
f) Pavel Boichenko’s wife Oksana (22) was attacked in broad daylight in the eastern region of the city by a young drug addict as she came into the entrance hall of her block of flats. Before he stole her handbag he stabbed her twice in the neck. Now she is afraid to go out on her own. The Police do little to control the open sale of drugs on the streets of this city. Pavel leads the work in this eastern region.
Pastor Nikolai Redka is now facing a major crisis in this town due to major subsidence beneath his church. It has become so bad that the underground heating mains serving their central heating system snapped where they enter the building. It is not possible to hold meetings in unheated rooms during Siberian winters – already the outside temperature is -20c. People are afraid and unwilling to attend religious meetings in flats because the media have run horror stories of what evil things ‘Sectarians’ do in secret when they hold meetings in private accommodation. Already one third of his congregation have left and joined another church. He advertised the building for sale but no one was interested. Piling foundations would be extremely expensive as would the purchase of another building. In order to repair the central heating system for the whole building they will need almost £1000.
In July Pastor Redka hired some bricklayers to clad the building with brickwork. On his return from holiday in August they had stopped work demanding six times the agreed rate because of rapid inflation! So the brickwork remains unfinished. The building itself is now well heated (outside it’s already -20c) and all the rooms are virtually complete.
The mayor has promised to enrol the children of forty families who are either orphans or from broken homes, but before he can give permission they will have to equip the building according to his instructions and those of the Public Health Authorities. This will include sixteen beds and covers etc for the children’s Rest Room, twenty-five school desks and chairs for the Sunday School Room, kitchen equipment and ancillary furniture. Pastor Redka informs me this will cost in the region of £3,700, money that he and his small congregation simply do not have.
Pastor Yuri Poltavets and his family (four children) have just celebrated the tenth anniversary of their ministry in this town. The severe winters lasting eight months (in December and January there are only two hours of daylight per day) the bad water and their poor diet make service in these parts very difficult. We have sought to encourage them by supplementing the small stipend they receive from others with wholesome food, vitamins and warm clothing.
The church recently received a huge bill for central heating amounting to $4000 due to the rocketing price of fuel! At a meeting with the city authorities they admitted they had to add 200% to everyone’s bill to take account of heat loss throughout their district heating system! At his request we helped Pastor Yuri to buy and install a meter to accurately monitor how much heating they receive in the future. Another young couple (the fourth in ten years) have come to help Yuri and will live in the nearby town of OBSKAYA where some believers are living. This will be their first Siberian winter and a great test of their powers of endurance.
Now that the ‘Foot & Mouth’ epidemic has subsided please resume sending, but for the present omit all meat products. Please contact The Secretary if you have any queries.
FULL TIME WORKERS
Please remember in prayer this ministry to Western Siberia. We are now supporting the following;
1) Pastor Oleinik, two Pastoral Assistants and one part-time worker in Tobolsk.
2) Pastor Boichenko, three Pastoral Assistants and three part-time workers in Tiumen.
3) Pastor Redka in Nyagan and Priobye.
Every four months we either send or take funds out to them. As we are thus regularly ‘pouring out’ pray that the Lord will ‘pour in’ so that we may always ‘have’ to give to him that needeth. Supporting full-time workers is the cornerstone of what we are doing in this region of Siberia today. We ask all our readers to remember it regularly in prayer.
THE SECRETARY : Mr R J. Weil, 28 Hayesford Park Drive, Bromley, BIU 9DB.
Tel: 020 8402 0695
N. IRELAND Mr J. Price, 32 Old Saintfield Road, Carryduff, Belfast, N. Ireland BT8 SEY Tel: 02890 812843
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