Windows on Siberia
WINDOWS ON SIBERIA
Vladimir Radzihovski (31) and his wife Oksana (30) came to this oil rich city of NIZHNIVARTOVSK in 1993 at the invitation of Joseph Bondarenko, the leader of the original mission to western Siberia in 1991. The city now has 300,000 inhabitants and was founded in 1972 following the discovery of huge oil and gas reserves in the field known as the Western Siberian basin. Vladimir and his wife both come from Southern Ukraine where the climate is Mediterranean. Until three years ago they were supported by a Christian mission in Germany but due to its financial difficulties this support ceased. Since then Vladimir has found employment as a building worker on the rebuilding of the city’s airport.
The strain of the heavy physical work has taken its toll on his back and the doctor has warned him to give this employment up right away. Therefore since January he has been unemployed. As a young man his trade was mending shoes but it’s very difficult to find employment in this kind of work in Nizhnivartovsk today.
As a result of his earlier mission work he now pastors a fellowship with forty-five members. They used to rent a school hall but due to pressure from the Orthodox Church all Government owned premises are now banned for use by ‘Sectarians’. This has forced him to open his flat for meetings but it is much too small for the numbers of people who arc coming.
He has had several meetings with the Local Authority offering to help them meet the needs of the growing number of drug addicts, street children and desperately poor families in urgent need of humanitarian help. If they could make premises available he and his workers could begin to address this increasingly acute problem in the city. He told them that teaching people from the Bible can radically alter their lives so it would be known as a Christian Centre. Several times they have listened sympathetically and promised to seriously consider his request but each time they have failed to make any concrete proposals. Once again it seems that objections from the Orthodox Church have prevented them from taking any positive action. Nevertheless the Fellowship continues to pray for such a Centre to be opened.
Another group of believers are meeting in the nearby town of IZLUCHINSK some twelve miles to the east. Their numbers are growing and several have applied for baptism. Without his own transport it is not possible to regularly visit them for teaching and pastoral care, though of course he would like to. Vladimir is now out of work and there seems to be no prospect of finding premises for developing the spiritual work he and his Fellowship would love to do. Please pray for a real break through in this impasse, as we surely do believe that nothing is too hard for the Lord. Would any of our readers like to provide some regular support for Vladimir a devoted and proven missionary to this new region?
Pastor Redka’s church building has serious structural problems due to ground subsidence, which snapped the central-heating service pipes. Money was sent to repair this in order for the building to continue to be used during the Siberian winter months when temperatures are well below freezing. Just before Christmas a businessman had expressed an interest in buying the property for redevelopment. Since then he has had a spell in hospital but now has resumed negotiations with Pastor Redka. If the deal does go through the hope is that sufficient money will be realised to buy and alternative site or a small house for conversion.
There is steady progress in this small settlement on the great river Ob (pop: 7,000) twenty miles east of Nyagan. Somehow Pastor Redka managed to get all four sides of the refurbished wooden building clad in attractive red brickwork during the Siberian winter months. This will help both to secure the building against external attack and insulate it against severe winter temperatures. About two years ago the Mayor told Pastor Redka that if he could equip the derelict wooden building he was giving him to the requisite standards, then he would authorise children from his orphanage to visit the Centre for education and recreation. This was in the teeth of opposition from the local Orthodox priest! However the list of items was formidable; Beds (16) with bed linen, pillows and blankets, writing desks, benches, chairs, Linen cupboards (4), a properly equipped kitchen and hot water boiler.
The total cost would be about 3,700 pounds. Until this month we still needed over 1000 pounds but, due to a generous donation, the full sum has been achieved with many thanksgivings to God that this building can now become fully operational. It will not be known as a Church but as a ‘Spiritual Centre’. It will be a real challenge to the small group of believers to be able to look after the children and teach them God’s Word. The children will be coming two days per week to start with, which will not only be beneficial to them but will also be a good social witness to the town.
This church is a hive of spiritual activity with a membership of about 350 nearly all under the age of forty. More and more people are professing conversion and special meetings are held for helping them. The building is very large and difficult to heat and this has been made worse by a huge increase in the price of gas. So the church want to make some money to pay for the ever increasing gas bills by making and selling wooden furniture. Money is being gathered for tools and equipment to help them pay their own bills and be more self-sufficient. 1000 pounds is still outstanding.
LETTER FROM PASTOR OLEINIK
“We greet you, our dear Sister Ann and Brother Ron in the love of Our Lord Jesus Christ! We always sincerely thank GOD for you and your generous support for us and for our family. We received this help from you through Br. Roger which is a great blessing for us and our church. Receiving your help we now have the possibility to devote all our time to the Lord for working with people. It’s very important. We are coming across many problems, not only with families but with the occult, alcohol dependency, sexual sins, drugs and also theological heresies.
“At present I am leading many discussions with my assistants. Then we are having seminars in the church against the teachings of Jehovah’s Witnesses and Charismatics. In the town they are very active. In addition Mormons began to appear. Of course we always have enough problems especially with forty families in difficulties, but work with these people is not without results. We hope that three men with whom we are working will soon be baptized. Praise God! We prayed very much about establishing Christian marriages and this year five marriages are planned. It’s a great joy for us since there are many unmarried sisters in our church. (Men: Women = 25:75)
“The work with alcoholics and drug users is slow but advancing. There are very many such people. Many believers have husbands or children with these addictions. Again and again we are thanking the LORD for His mercy to us and His care because He always loves and understands us.
“With all our hearts we thank you dear Sister Ann and Brother Ron for the unlimited generosity of your spirit, for your attention and concern which you are showing us (although we know little of one another). It’s a great pity that we cannot show our gratitude to you as we would like, but may the LORD Himself reward you. May the LORD bless you and keep you, may He lift up the light of His countenance upon you and give you peace! We do beg you to pray for us that GOD will give wisdom to resolve problems and win people for His glory! Also we ask you to pray for our health. With love and prayers for you, family Olienik”
Pastor Boichenko keeps us informed of events in the work every month. The new building next to the church that they have been working on during the last year is now complete. The Sunday School rooms are now being used and the kitchen for feeding the poor is operational. Some minor works still remain to be completed. Through the regular preaching of the gospel souls are continuing to be saved and many people continue to visit the church. Just before Christmas there was another Baptism service, the third this year.
Denis Belov reports that one young woman in this village was recently saved but the small fellowship are still grieved at losing two sisters to the Jehovah’s Witnesses. In spite of letters and visits they continue to believe they are now in a Bible-believing church! He has therefore had to give the church quite a bit of teaching about the errors of the Watchtower movement. He believes that faithful gospel preaching will be fruitful in due season.
The initial refusal to allow a Meeting House to be built in this village near Tiumen is now regarded as having no legal force. Accordingly a site has been selected and permission to develop it will be sought this Spring by the missionary Zhenia Loshkin. The believers were heartened by the head of the local school allowing them to take a service for the children during school hours. The few sisters here are extremely poor but full of zeal and determined to see that their own village has a house of God to which people can come to hear the gospel.
Alexander Balamutov is now taking regular weekly services in the refurbished wooden house in this town east of Tiumen. Its inhabitants profess strong allegiance to Orthodoxy but many are involved in occultism. He has done door to door visiting getting to know the local inhabitants and giving out invitations to the meetings. He has also visited the local hospital and begun a Sunday school. One school headmaster has allowed him to speak to the children once a week this seldom happens in Russia today! The church members are mostly sisters but very warm hearted and active and keen to witness to others. Alexander feels sure the LORD is already prospering this new work and is optimistic for the future.
THE EASTERN REGION OF TIUMEN
For the past two years meetings have been held in the rented halls in this part of the city where there are no churches and where more than 50,000 people are living. At the end of September without any warnings the hall they had been renting was closed to them. They are now meeting on Sundays and Thursdays in a rented flat led by Pavel Boichenko and have begun a Sunday school where fifteen children gather mostly from unbelieving families. In addition they have four prayer groups meeting in private homes. These conditions are not ideal as Russians are chary of religious meetings in private homes due to horror stories circulated in the media about the evil things that happen there. Pavel reports that their meetings are crowded and new people are coming but he is still seeking better accommodation in a public building.
THE SLAV LANDS CHRISTIAN FELLOWSHIP. Spring 2002
Secretary: Roger Weil, 28 Hayesford Park Drive, Bromley, BR2 9DB (tel: 020 8402 0695)
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