A Visit to the Churches in the Arctic Circle, June 2003
Our last visit (writes Roger J. Weil, the Secretary of the Slav Lands Christian Fellowship) to Pastor Yuri Poltavets and his wife Larissa in Labitnangi, Siberia, was two years ago. They have served the Lord here for twelve years since coming on the original ‘Mission to Siberia’ in 1991. Seeing the response of the people to the gospel at that time they decided to come and live among them, in the hope that they could plant and lead a living and enduring church in this benighted region. Because their home church in the Ukraine, 1,400 miles south west of Labitnangi, did not share their missionary vision they were dependent on support from Christians in the West. Over time this has not always been either regular or reliable. The current situation has now deteriorated even further, so that they are having to consider returning to the Ukraine and leaving the work altogether for lack of support. Yuri is extremely hard working, both in the church and its youth-centre as well as in the town. He has cultivated good relations with the civic authorities, taking meetings in several schools and appearing on local TV in connection with his youth work, summer camps, and meetings at Christmas and Easter. The church has about ninety members and is experiencing steady growth. Repairs and refurbishment of the church property is nearly always Yuri’s responsibility. He is the church’s carpenter, plumber, electrician and heating engineer. As a result of all this work, and travelling to regional meetings and conferences, he sees all too little of his family and his health is suffering. He is a zealous evangelist and a faithful pastor.
We would like to pledge our support for Pastor Yuri Poltavets in order to help him to continue to serve the Lord in this northern region. If any of you reading this would like to help us do so please contact the Secretary, Roger Weil, at 28 Hayesford Park Drive, Bromley, Kent. BR2 9DB
VISIT TO PASTOR REDKA IN NYAGAN & PRIOBYE.
Last year the church building in Nyagan was seriously affected by subsidence. We were able to help stabilise the problem and a few months ago Pastor Redka was able to sell the building to a local businessman. With the proceeds he has bought a new site further out of town where new development is planned. When we visited the site, foundations had been completed and it was hoped to have the roof on before the winter comes. With his previous building experience he is organising the construction work on site each day. He is confident he has sufficient resources in men and materials to complete the project on time. This means that the small congregation are at present meeting in one of the member’s flats. Pastor Redka is having to work at full stretch to care for congregations in two towns, keep the building work running to programme and take numerous evangelistic opportunities. Also he has begun visiting the small settlement of Sergino where three people have expressed faith in Christ as Saviour.
In Priobye there have been disappointments. A young man who helped in preaching and teaching lost his job and had to move to another town. Yana, a young lady keen to work among children and lead the music in the church, apparently lost the faith she had and seldom comes to the church now. The Mayor had arranged for children from the local orphanage to attend the church for a day per week for recreational activities and Bible teaching. Unfortunately relatives of some of the children, stirred up by the local Orthodox Priest, have successfully sought to dissuade some of them from attending. He has denounced the church as a Sect, in Russian eyes, ‘Sectanty’, are fearfully dangerous people equivalent to Satanists. Pastor Redka hopes to allay these fears and in future will provide a bus to bring the children direct from the orphanage to the church.
Last winter the central heating system, powered by electricity, proved both expensive and ineffective. Natural gas is available nearby and would be a much cheaper and effective source of energy. Pastor Redka has asked for our help to bring in a gas supply and provide a new boiler, the cost is approximately £1,600.
In spite of these problems and setbacks he maintains a cheerful spirit confident in God’s ability to bring them through present difficulties. In this he shows the determination, faith and grit of the true missionary, doggedly ploughing a lonely furrow and sowing beside all waters. On a more cheerful note he writes to say three people have applied for baptism, two from Sergino and one from Nyagan.
My name is Galina Ivanova and I was born in 1963 in the town of Sterlitamak in the southern Urals about 150 miles west of Magnitogorsk. We were a simple working family. My parents considered themselves to be Orthodox believers but never went to church. Our Grandma lived with us and she took my brothers and me to the church and taught us some prayers. I believed in God but didn’t read the Bible and only prayed during life’s difficult moments. When Grandma could no longer go to church I also stopped going. In 1981 after I finished technical school they decided to send me to work in Tobolsk. In 1982 when I was nineteen I got married and a year later my daughter Tatiana was born. But life with my husband became very difficult because he didn’t simply drink but he became totally drunk and unconscious. This led to his periodically having serious nervous breakdowns. Many times I wanted to leave my husband but I felt sorry for him and so stayed for the sake of the family. In 1991 after the birth of my second daughter Evgenia, I began to go regularly to the Orthodox Church, to read the Bible and to seek God’s comfort. Then in 19921 saw an advertisement for an evangelistic meeting and went with my children to the meeting. Pastor Timothy was preaching. Here at last I found what my soul had been seeking for so long -fellowship with the living God. After a month I repented. My husband really didn’t believe in God and together with his relatives forbade me to go to church. I prayed very much, with fasting, for the salvation of my husband. This year my husband Yuri met with a serious accident and died. His relatives wanted to accuse our church of causing his death. They wanted to do it through the newspapers, but God destroyed their plan. I am glad that by God’s mercy the month before he died Yuri repented at home. He wept much about his sins and several times he was able to visit the church with us. He also had several meetings and discussions with our Pastor Timothy.
For a long time I couldn’t accept his death but have trusted the Lord and He comforted me. In June 1993 I received baptism, my two children are believers and love the Lord. In April I had a heart attack at work. The doctor diagnosed that I had ‘WPW Syndrome’ and ordered an operation. Since I could no longer work I had to leave my job. But the operation they recommended was too dangerous because there were too many blockages in the arteries. After this my heart attacks became more frequent and the new medicines they prescribed proved ineffective. At this time both my daughters’ health suffered severely and the doctors advised me to move to a more temperate climate. But we didn’t have the means to do this. Now we are all living on a very limited diet of cereals, fruit and vegetables. But we thank the Lord that He never abandons us, and according to His great mercy sends us comfort and hope. He performs many miracles in our lives and sends us help. We give Him all the praise!
FROM ANATOLY BATCHURIN WORKING WITH DEAF MUTE PEOPLE IN TIUMEN
Peace be with you brother Roger!
I greet you with the love of Jesus Christ and heartily express my gratitude to the Lord that He is uniting us and making us able to bring forth fruit by doing God’s will. I am able to tell you that by God’s mercy we continue our ministry. Since we had a need for a ministry to the deaf mute people in our church God prompted me to learn their language. It took me a long time! Now we have established this ministry, which has lasted already for five years. While I was working with these people I started to appreciate something that I did not understand before, I realise now what wonderful gifts we have from God that we can speak and hear! There are around 30 deaf mute people in our church. We have our own meetings and learned how to sing and worship God (in their language). Our sisters in the church help me in this. We have a Bible study and they love such times of fellowship. Unfortunately, they cannot attend our meetings regularly because they are very poor. We arrange a lunch after the services in our church so that many needy people can have something to eat, and the deaf mute people come as well.
I am glad to say that there are some very active people amongst them; therefore we are using them for the deaf mute ministry in the town. According to statistics there are around 2000 deaf mute people living in our town, so we have a very wide field of service. Our sisters love to travel and visit other deaf mute people. They met some who live in the town of Yalutorovsk and now visit them for witnessing. We are very happy that the Lord convicted their hearts and some of them repented. We are having Bible studies with them and some decided to be baptised when our pastor visited them. After some more teaching two people were baptized. Praise God, it made us very happy! When I have some free time I visit people connected with our church to take care of their needs, sometimes I help in the church with repairs and cleaning.
With some brothers I visited the village of Yar for a while. There we helped brother Zhenya in organising the small house where they will hold services. I am happy that I can serve Christ. Thank you very much for your support, which makes my ministry possible.
May the Lord bless you.
THE HEALING AND CONVERSION OF A DEAF MUTE MAN
One day my wife came home from Tiumen with the news that she had met some woman, also a deaf mute, and that this woman had told her about God and invited my wife to her church. I did not take seriously what she told me but I allowed my wife to visit that church. At that time I smoked and drank very much and felt I did not need God, I lived my life the way I wanted to. As a result my children had been taken away from me (deprivation of parental rights) and sent to the nearest Orphanage which is 100 km from us. But this did not trouble me at all and I thought that I can continue to live like everybody else around me. After my wife visited the church in Tiumen she kept telling me about it and I realised that this church must be different, and not like the Orthodox church. My wife was insisting on my going there to repent and that this will stop me sinning. She was telling me, "Go and see for yourself that people there live differently and that God helped them to stop sinning."
I did not want to go for a long time but then I decided to go. I did not understand anything there, everything was unusual for me. I was expecting a miracle to take place but nothing happened. The only thing I understood was that I must repent. I saw people doing this at the end of the meeting. But I was afraid that I must give up my smoking and drinking, and therefore I refused, despite the fact that something inside me was calling me to repent and turn to Christ. When I came back home I noticed that I was full of thoughts about God and it was serious. I decided to start drinking even more in order to stop thinking about God. Then, later on, something awful happened to me. One day when I woke up in the morning I realised that I was paralysed, I could not feel my legs any more, I was helpless. My wife took me to the hospital but my condition did not improve. My wife was still attending the church and when she told people what had happened to me they gave me a wheelchair. it was a great joy to me because now I could go outside to have some fresh air. Sometimes I was thinking; what if this is God’s punishment of me? I saw that my wife was more and more radiant and it was difficult for her now to buy me cigarettes. Sometimes I felt bitterness in my heart and was blaming God for everything that had happened to me. At that moment the hospital doctors decided to amputate both my legs in order to prevent the spread of the disease. After thinking about it for some time I decided to refuse. So they sent me home.
That was the most difficult time in my whole life. In despair I was ready to do anything just to stop thinking about my awful situation. The nights were very long and frightening, I could not sleep at all. One night I heard a voice as though somebody was talking to me. It was so unusual that I realised that this is not a man’s voice talking to me. I heard these words, "How long will you resist me? I want you to know God’s love". I could not sleep till the morning because I was so afraid. Thinking about what I had heard I asked myself, "How can I know God’s love, I can’t walk now." And then again I heard the same voice saying to me, "Believe! I will help you." I realised that this ‘Someone’ who speaks to me is God Himself.
Very soon afterwards feeling began to come back into my legs. I was amazed and could hardly believe it. I realised that I could actually move my legs. Then in a short while I sat up on my bed feeling there was now some life in my legs. I tried to get up and at last I could stand. I began to pray as best I could and to thank God. I promised God that I will repent and serve Him. I started to walk across the room. In a few days I went outside on the street and my neighbours saw me. They were all very surprised. The news about my healing spread very fast and people came wanting to see me, and I was telling them all what the Lord has done for me. The doctors were very interested to hear about my condition and became convinced that I was now healthy. Therefore they admit that it must be a miracle, because a short while before they wanted to amputate my legs in order to save my life. I could not wait to go back to the church in Tiumen which my wife was attending. When I got there I repented and testified to them all about what the Lord has done for me. And now I want to fulfil the Lord’s commandment about baptism and to testify about the mercy of the Lord to me. Amen.
FROM ALEXANDER BALAMUTOV WORKING IN THE SMALL TOWN OF BOROVOYE
Peace be with you brother Roger and with all who love the Lord.
We express special gratitude to the Lord that He has united us and made us able to be fruitful in doing His will. By God’s mercy we continue our ministry. Regularly three times a week we have meetings and continue to teach children in our Sunday school. I visit hospitals to witness to the patients, although sometimes we are not allowed to enter them. It is becoming more and more difficult to get permission to evangelise and to do different Christian outreach programmes, because there is a preference for the Orthodox Church. But we are not getting despondent believing that God will sustain us. Our desire it that the church in our town would grow, so we pray about it. Jesus is encouraging us with the words, "Do not be afraid little flock for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the Kingdom".
About 60% of our town’s population call themselves Orthodox Christians, although they attend the church only at Christmas and Easter. A further 35% who are Muslim. So we really look like a little flock, but we are not despondent. Thank God that with your help we have built a House of Prayer and we can be a light for Christ, and bring forth fruit. When the children from our Sunday school were allowed to speak and sing about Christ in the local kindergarten then not only the children there, but also their teachers were able to listen to them. It was great!
Our daughter is the fourth child to be born into our family. We give thanks to God for her because we already have three sons. At that time I had to devote more time to my family because my wife was not well. My dream and prayer to God is that He would awaken many people to salvation. We have many refugees from the Asian Republics at this moment, so we are trying to witness to them about Christ, because they are more open to God than local people. Holidays are the best time for witnessing, because people are more relaxed and able to listen to God’s Word, so we always try to use this time effectively for evangelism. We distribute literature, testifying and inviting people to the church. Everything is changing so quickly in the modern world and we as a church really feel it. The law is changing and through the mass media a very negative attitude towards Evangelical Churches is formed. But anyway we continue our ministry. All this is possible with your direct participation through your financial support. We know that the economic situation is deteriorating in your country as well, therefore we especially appreciate your sacrificial participation in our ministry. We do not know what the future will bring for our church, evidently there will be a time of new trial for us, "What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?"
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