The Church in Tobolsk, Siberia
TIMOTHY OLEINIK went to Siberia from southern Russia eighteen years ago as one of a large mission team of raw recruits visiting Siberia for the first time. He was destined to stay for many years (see what his wife says below)! He has shown himself to be a born leader and enabler of others willing to assist him in the leadership of the church. Conscious that he needed theological training, he studied as a part-time student in the Ukraine over a period of three years, never being absent for more than a month at a time. He was keen to give his assistants – Alexander Lepohin and Pavel Setchov – the same training as he had received, so that they could succeed him in the future. He is not only a gifted leader, able to enthuse and motivate the whole church to catch his vision for this or that project, but his warm friendly personality makes him a wise and sympathetic pastor able also to get alongside unbelievers in conversation and put them at their ease. The following extracts from the bi-monthly reports he sends us will give an insight into the wide variety of activities he and his church are involved in;
1. Teaching ministry
(a) I have training sessions in both my churches on the theme, ‘The full Atonement of Our Lord Jesus Christ.’ I explain the Christian doctrines of Forgiveness, Reconciliation, Justification by Faith, Adoption and Propitiation. I saw that there is a great need for believers repeatedly to learn these foundational truths of the gospel. In this way they will be able, more adequately, to communicate the gospel to their friends.
Thank you, Roger, for your book Foundations of Christian Faith!
(b) I led a seminar in the church entitled, ‘The Power of Prayer and Meditation’. The young people who were there liked it so much that they asked for it to be repeated in their own meeting. They studied this theme in the Bible so enthusiastically that they all decided to abstain for a time from watching TV or using their computers in order to study the Scriptures!
2. Personal visitation
I was requested to visit a relative of one of our members. His name was Ivan and he was terminally ill. For a long time he had ignored the Lord. His son, an alcoholic, was angry with his father and for many years had refused even to speak to him. Ivan was partly paralysed and deeply troubled about his life, so now he was ready to listen humbly to the gospel. After hearing it he called on the Name of the Lord. He then asked for a meeting with his son. When they met they asked each other’s forgiveness with tears. Several hours later Ivan died. I conducted his funeral as a brother in Christ and had the opportunity to share the gospel with his son.
A similar case concerned a man called Volodia – a very proud man who had often rejected his wife’s attempt to preach the gospel to him. He was diagnosed with an advanced cancer which he had neglected to have treated. Doctors said that they could do nothing for him. Knowing that he had only a short time to live he asked to see me. We spoke together for a long time about Jesus Christ and the gospel, after which he said that he would like to repent and ask God to forgive his sins. This he did sincerely. I rejoiced that this man, at the end of his life, was reconciled to God just like the thief on the cross at Calvary.
3. Drug Rehabilitation Centre
Among those we come into contact with regularly in our evangelistic work are drug addicts and alcoholics. For some years we have been helping them, but realised that in order to rehabilitate them they needed a safe and secure place where they could recover away from the temptations of city life. We have managed to build one in a village some seventeen miles outside our city, and now a Christian brother has volunteered to lead this ministry as resident warden and missioner to these needy people. A number of addicts have been saved and become members of the church.
4. Visits to neighbouring small Meetings
Along the rivers and among the forests in Siberia there are small widely scattered settlements where people from other parts of Russia have come to live. In some of these there are little churches and we have been sending evangelistic teams to three of them each week to help them in their work and witness.
5. Children’s work
In addition to Sunday School and youth meetings in our main church we also hold them in another smaller church in a very poor suburb of Tobolsk. Many of the houses are old ‘tumbledown’ timber dwellings from the nineteenth century and home to the poorest of the poor, many Tartars among them. About seventy children from the locality came to a week of activities devised specially for them, including games, Bible talks and a lunch. After years of hostility, at long last, the City Authorities are now keen to support us as they see the beneficial effects of our work among these children!
TANIA OLEINIK, Timothy’s wife, writes:
Over and over again we bless God for this, that He gave you such a good heart that disposed you to carry out this work on God’s field for His glory. We thank God that through you we have such blessings for our family; together with our children we are very thankful to you. May the Lord bless you!
I want to write you a few lines about our family, how and when we arrived in Siberia. My husband, Timothy, grew up in the Caucasus region of Russia in a Christian family where there were 11 children (he was the fifth child). I also grew up in a Christian family where there were 6 children (I also was the fifth child). In 1989 we got married and in 1990 our son Daniel was born to us.
I think that you know that in Russia for many years the Communists oppressed believers. When in 1989 Russia celebrated ‘1000 years of the Baptism of Russia’ we could, for the first time, freely and openly preach the Word of God everywhere, in the parks, in the squares . . . It was a splendid time for us and for our country!
Then in the year 1991 there was planned a Christian Missionary Expedition which was called ‘CHRIST TO THE PEOPLE OF SIBERIA’. I also took part in this mission. We travelled on a steamer along the Rivers Iritsh and Ob and preached in all the towns, villages and hamlets through which our river route passed. This was a very blessed expedition, and during the first ten days some one hundred people professed to turn to God in repentance opening their hearts to Him. Tears of joy overflowed from our hearts too!
In one of these towns, Tobolsk, my husband had gone in advance to prepare with the Administrative authorities the organisation of our evangelisation there. Everything went well, but who would stay with these people to teach them the Word of God and His Commandments . . .? Clearly there was a great need for such a person. Brother Joseph Bondarenko who organised this mission turned and said to my husband, Timothy, in front of everyone, ‘This person is going to remain here to teach them the Bible!’ It came as a great shock to him to be told this!
It was in such a way that Timothy came to stay in Tobolsk. I was in the Caucasus at that time with a little baby (we lived near the town of Piatigorsk-Kurortnoye). But within two months, we all moved to Siberia. At first we lived temporarily with a family with numerous children. Shortly afterwards they moved to another town. God then blessed our life and, after eighteen months we had a second son, Paul. The climate here is very severe and therefore I felt poorly when Paul was born. From birth he was very frail (the doctors thought that he would not survive). But thank God He hears our prayers and gradually we all grew stronger and the boys grew in size. Now Daniel is 16 years old and Paul is 14. God has wonderfully preserved us all. Praise Him for this.
And now we continue to work with families where there are unbelieving husbands, also with drug addicts and with drunkards. (We hope that soon we will have a drug rehabilitation centre for such people). In addition we are leading work among children in orphanages . . . with unbelieving parents and many others. Praise be to God that His Word is living and effective!
So many things are happening here in Tobolsk. To find any kind of work here in order to maintain a family is very difficult – almost impossible! Therefore so many young people turn to drink and take drugs, rob flats and steal from people.
Thank you so much that you are with us! Every blessing to you from the Lord! We send you Numbers 6:24-2:6
The Lord bless you and keep you;
The Lord make His face to shine upon you, and be gracious unto you;
The Lord lift up His countenance upon you, and give you peace.
We ask you also to pray for our needs:
1. For the health of my children, myself and my husband.
2. For God to give great wisdom to Timothy in His service.
3. For our church to increase in spiritual growth.
4. For resolving all problems in connection with the Drug Rehabilitation Centre.
Roger Weil is Secretary of the Slav Lands Christian Fellowship, Bromley, BR2 9DB.
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