News from Siberia
Vladimir Radzihovski came as a pioneer missionary to Nizhni Vartovsk in 1993. He has worked there almost alone and his health is now deteriorating. He recently wrote to me as follows:
Dear brother in Christ Roger!
Greetings to you in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ!
Thank you very much for your care, understanding and encouragement. On the 12th of December the temperature dropped to -44°C. Today is -33°C and next day could be only -12°C. The snow is deep, about 45cm (18 inches).
Last winter the skeleton of the steel foundation of our future House of Prayer was severely damaged. Therefore this summer we’ve spent much time fixing this problem. Now we see that it’s all solved with God’s help. The foundation’s thermo-isolation was done properly according to the local climatic and landscape requirements. Now we are preparing the shuttering of the external walls.
We do not ask you or any other Christian organisations for financial support. We know that others, while doing work for God, have greater needs than we have. Also we know that we should try our best with what we have. And if there is something we still can’t do then we ask the Lord for help and patience.
Of course, I do not know how long I can continue to live in Siberia. My health is now poor for the conditions of this climate. Therefore I would like to see all the work accomplished before leaving this place, whether going to the Lord or back to Ukraine. But I know that it’s God’s work and he knows best when and how. He holds all the opportunities in his hands and he will give us wisdom to use them in his time. Without him nobody can do anything. We need prayer support and spiritual discipleship more than financial help. There are many opportunities for people to make money in our country. My prayer is that the believers in my country would at last be able to work not only with financial support from our brothers from the UK and USA and other western countries, but that they would learn how to provide for the Church in their own country independently. I know that it is possible. Compared to Tadzhikistan and Uzbekistan, where the standard of living is much lower, it would be really too difficult to open your own business and provide for the Church as well, since many people can hardly provide for their own families . . .
I think that some Christians in Russia could support Christian workers even in other countries. Unfortunately,during the Soviet time people never learnt how to do business or how to make their own decisions and to be responsible. Therefore many people, including Christians, are still thinking exactly as they used to think in the communist era – that someone else should make decisions and take the lead instead of them. It is very difficult to teach people how to start their own business. They are in despair when they lose their jobs because they don’t know what else to do. Many of them could do something with their own hands if they really make an effort.
I give thanks to the Lord for one brother from our church; his name is Igor. He noticed my worries over the work in the church and concerns over my poor health. He is trying to encourage me by doing lots of work as regards building matters . . . He also is helping me in planning and organising some missionary trips to the small Settlements in Nizhnevartovsk area. Thus we could visit the Settlement, ‘Zayceva Rechka,’ twice this year. We managed to spread amongst the population New Testaments, brochures and leaflets on Biblical subjects. Last Sunday we visited one more Settlement on the other side of Ob River – ‘Vampugol’. The ice on the river was 2 metres thick and we could easily get across. Unfortunately we managed to get there only round 8pm. It looked like people were already sleeping. The Settlement had only one street and about 40-50 houses and one shop. We purchased 200 New Testaments and at Christmas we will go there with the books of Holy Scripture.
There are also 3 more Settlements in that direction: ‘Bilino’, ‘Bolshetarhovo’ and ‘Chehlomey’. We have the intention to go there for research if the Lord allows. When the temperature goes below -30Â°C then the car doesn’t work, unfortunately. In this case we have then to change our plans and not to go far away from home. Also the schools have to cancel lessons and some organisations allow people to stay at home.
Please, continue to pray about us to the Lord, that he will use us for his glory, that he will direct us in working for his Kingdom, that we will always be useful servants for him.
With love and gratitude in Christ,
Your brother Vladimir and Oksana, Katya, Liza and all our Christian family
THE TESTIMOMY OF ALEXANDER, FORMER ALCOHOLIC & DRUG ADDICT
Greetings to all with the love of our Lord Jesus Christ who became the Redeemer of all people. His Love and Mercy did not avoid even me!
My name is Alexander. I would like to testify about what God has done in my life. I am 34 years old. I was born not far away from the city of Yekaterinburg in a small town. Like all children I finished school and then went to University in Yekaterinburg. I qualified as an engineer. Then I moved to Tobolsk with my wife and child. In Tobolsk I met some new friends who, as I found out later, loved to entertain themselves with drugs. I wanted to stop the relationship with them because what they were doing was against the law and I greatly respected the law. Also I heard a lot about the possible consequences of drug taking from other people’s experiences.
Unfortunately my family life was not working at all well at that time. I used to go to my friends every time I had a row with my wife. Tobolsk was a new town to me and I knew no one else whom I could turn to. I was very lonely. I asked myself often where is joy in this life, because all I could see was pain and disappointment. In order to forget reality I started more and more ‘diving’ into a bottle of wine. As a result my family life was getting worse. I became unfaithful and very abusive. Soon we had to divorce and my ex-wife got married a second time and moved to another town. I was left alone. My so-called friends were the only option left for me, so it became a habit to go to them to get some ‘encouragement’ via alcohol. In two years time I ended up by becoming a chronic alcoholic. I was not a human being any more and yet I tried to change my life. But I ended up by becoming a drug-addict after I was offered the alternative of drugs! It horrifies me now when I recall that time, and me with the nickname ‘narkosha’, which means drug-addict. But at that time I thought that at last I had found real peace and joy! Reality was far away, peace was inside of me and all my troubles did not exist any more. I thought it will never end!!! But it was just a delusion. In order to reach the state of euphoria I needed more money, which I never had. My life became absolute hell. More and more I started thinking about committing suicide. That thought was driving me on and on.
God came to save my sinful soul when I had lost hope and any belief in the meaning of life. I was invited by people who called themselves Christians. When I recall my first impression about these people I remember that I instantly knew they can help me. I do not know why I knew it. It was like somebody telling me – ‘here you can find your salvation and deliverance.’ For the first time in my life I heard the Good News about Jesus Christ. I was told plainly and clearly what God had done for people, what is the purpose of life and many other things about God and Christianity. After some time Pastor Oleinik asked me whether I want to accept Jesus Christ as my personal Saviour and Lord. I will never forget that day when God gave me the gift of eternal life.
I am very grateful to the Lord for sending into my life these remarkable people who were wanting to serve me. God, through these brothers, delivered me from drug and alcohol addictions. We also, with a group of brothers, were praying and fasting for deliverance from smoking addiction.
Praise the Lord for this wonderful deliverance from all my sins! I also am very grateful to the Lord that he gave me new life, a new family, a new hope and restored to me the meaning of life.
So at the moment I am a member of the Tobolsk Evangelical Church. For me it’s a great honour to labour for God for the expansion of his Kingdom. To him alone will be all the honour and glory throughout the whole of eternity! Amen.
NEWS FROM THE CHURCH IN TOBOLSK
In Tobolsk we are supporting three full-time workers, Pastor Timothy Oleinik, Assistant Pastor Alexander Lepuhin and Youth Pastor Pavel Setchov. They are all actively involved witnessing to different groups of people. Every two months they send us detailed reports of their work, the meetings they are leading either in people’s homes or the church, the conversations they have with needy people, and different areas of the church’s ministry they are engaged in. For example, Timothy Oleinik writes:
1) Our Drug Rehabilitation Centre has been functioning now for two years, located in a small village outside the town. There are estimated to be almost five million heroin addicts in Russia, supplied largely through the porous border with Afghanistan. It is cheap and easily available. Matters are made worse by corrupt law enforcement officials and high unemployment. There are currently nine men under treatment cared for by Maxim, himself a former addict and his helper, Vadim, a former alcoholic. Both of them live at the Centre. Manual work, group-prayer and Bible study, communal living and helping each other, form the basis of the work. It is a spiritual battle fought primarily with spiritual weapons. Twice a week they are visited by different groups from the church and once a week they come to a service at the church followed by a meal.They greatly value the interest and support they receive by these personal visits. Usually they are able to return to ordinary life, with the continuing support of the church, after six months. As soon as a vacancy occurs there is always someone to fill it. The Town Administration, formerly so hostile to us as ‘Sectarians’, have completely changed their attitude towards us as they see the practical effects of the Centre. Indeed it is now a positive talking-point throughout the town. Comparisons are made with the nearby Orthodox Cathedral who do nothing for the poor and needy, absorbed instead with their daily liturgical ritual and esoteric ecclesiastic studies. Our church supports the work financially and in prayer. We would love to open a similar Centre for women in the future, as there is an acute problem in the town with female alcoholics.
2) Moslem families from Uzbekistan and Tadjikistan are moving to Tobolsk looking desperately for work. We have helped some of these in practical ways, in registration etc. We have invited them for tea meetings at which we have spoken about Jesus Christ and shown a video of Moslems who have turned to Christ. Now a Moslem lady and her daughter are coming to church. Many of these families are now very friendly towards us. The economic crisis in Russia falls especially hard on the poor and unemployed. Our daughter Church is located in a very poor suburb of Tobolsk, with old broken-down wooden houses inhabited by the poorest of the poor. Here we converted an old vehicle repair shop into our second Church. We have been caring for the children of these poverty-stricken families by holding regular mid-week meetings. We provide them with a meal, Bible stories and sometimes a Christian film. The children look forward to these occasions and are now bringing their parents, some of whom come from the local Tartar minority who are Muslim. At Christmas we held a special evening event to which many came. It was a great opportunity to get to know a lot of new people whom we had never seen before.
3) The unusually cold weather (-40°C) caused a disaster to the interior of the church when our boiler broke down. The whole central heating system froze, pipes and radiators broke and the full-time staff had to sleep in our flat while repairs were carried out. Now the church is functioning again but the repair bill is likely to exceed £800.
4) We teach our members to be outgoing to others in spreading the good news. One such family had to move to another city where there was no church, so they invited their neighbours to small meetings in their own home. They soon felt that God was really blessing their testimony and working through them. The number of those coming steadily rose to about thirty, too many for their flat, so they are now renting a room for their services. We in Tobolsk marvel at God’s providence and are now helping this new young church to become firmly established. Alexander Laskin recently lost his job and his wife needs a serious eye operation. Thank you for the help you sent them.
Youth Pastor Pavel Setchov writes:
We continue to hold weekly Bible Studies for our young people and twice a week there are separate prayer meetings where they are free to share their needs and problems. In December five of the eight people baptised were from our youth fellowship. We continue to help the Sunday School work in both our churches. A girl called Katia, who stopped coming to church over a year ago, told her mother she wanted to commit suicide. When we heard about it we all prayed fervently for her, and great was our relief next day when her mother told us that her daughter had changed her mind!
Roger Weil is Secretary of the Slav Lands Christian Fellowship, Bromley, BR2 9DB
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