Four Russian Pastors in Siberia
1. Pastor Boichenko of Tumen
We joyfully greet you! We thank the Lord for you, your faithfulness over the years, your kind concern for the very poor among us and your generous support for our mission workers. May the Lord reward you abundantly.
Until quite recently we Baptists and Evangelical Christians were regarded with the utmost suspicion as some kind of evil secret society and called ‘Sectarians’. We were derided as non-Russians because we have a ‘Western Faith’. However we have persevered, especially at Christmas and Easter time, to hold well-organised, modern-looking evangelistic events in the city centre attracting hundreds of onlookers. And this has definitely broken down barriers and shown, not least to the authorities, that after all, we are normal people just like them!
During the month leading up to Christmas we organised a number of public events collaborating with other likeminded Churches in our city. We distributed about eight thousand small Christmas gifts containing Christian calendars and gospel literature. People were very receptive and accepted them gladly! In addition to outdoor events this year we hired the best auditorium in the city and presented a well-rehearsed, modern programme for children and young people. So many people came that the hall was soon full and some, unfortunately, had to be turned away. Each of the small children were so happy to receive a small Christmas present at the end of the show.
THE DRUG REHABILITATION CENTRE
This is now complete and fully functional, housed in a small township called Borovoye a few miles outside our city. At first people living in the surrounding houses were horrified that dangerous drug addicts and criminals had taken up residence next door, some even considered moving elsewhere! However when they saw how quiet and well-behaved the inmates were, and when they met our members of staff on the street, they completely revised their opinions and were full of admiration for the saving work we were doing! Twelve years previously the small wooden house we were using here for holding meetings was broken into and badly damaged; our very presence was bitterly resented! Now the town’s administration even allows us to use their facilities for holding our outdoor activities for children during the summer! How times have changed!
Recently, a middle-aged man called Victor came to us. The last thirty years of his life he has spent in prison for murder. Earlier in his life he had visited church services on a number of occasions. He seemed to hear an inner voice calling on him to repent and turn to God, but he rejected it and vowed not to go there anymore! It happened that one night he had got into a drunken brawl and killed a man. Sentenced to prison, after many years he was taken ill and eventually discharged as an invalid. Now he is changing and sincerely has turned to God in repentance. He realises now that if only he had heeded God’s call over thirty years ago, his life would have been completely different and he would never have become a murderer. Please pray for him and for us as we seek to bring God’s Word to him.
DEGRADATION AND TRANSFORMATION
Two teenagers, Vladimir and Ivan, lived with their parents in Tumen. After the death of their father they fell into evil company; their lives went from bad to worse and all attempts by their mother to reform them came to nothing. By 2007 life became so unbearable for her through their drug dependency that she divided the flat in two, half for them and half for her. They were now addicts and in order to feed their habit they sold their half of the flat. They managed to find old basement rooms somewhere but were registered as homeless and found to be suffering from AIDS. They were both in the most pitiable condition imaginable! Vladimir (27) was the first to come to us in 2013 with all kinds of illnesses, and a helpless addict as well. He soon turned to Christ for salvation and quickly showed unmistakable signs of transformation! Finding his younger brother Ivan (25), he too agreed to come to our centre in 2014. We believe that both have been genuinely born again of God’s Spirit, love the Lord, and earnestly desire to serve him. Ivan has joined a missionary training school and Vladimir has gone to a Bible College in Omsk. A team from there visited our Centre and together with them we preached the gospel in nearby villages. It was a joy for us to see their zeal. Seeing the enormous change in the life of her two sons, their mother has begun to visit our church. May the day soon come when she too will follow the same path as her sons.
2. Boris Oleinik in Kirov
We have been serving the Lord in northern Russia for twenty two years now, having come here from our homeland in the Caucasus region of southern Russia. At Christmas time we had the opportunity once again to bring the gospel to our neighbours both young and old. During the holiday we held a week of meetings for children in our church. This year we managed to involve their parents as well when they came to collect them in the evening. One lady who spoke to me afterwards was overjoyed with the whole programme we had provided for her children.
USING THE INTERNET
Together with other churches in our city we advertised a young people’s Christmas programme over the internet. It was called, ‘Choices which will determine your destiny’. It was the first time we had done this and about fifty young people responded. We presented the gospel using the theme we had advertised, and gave all at the end an invitation to turn to God in repentance. One of those who did so was the daughter of one of our members, who came to our church only because she was made to by her mother. We have noticed a change in her already. Formerly she was very passive but now one can see the joy in her face! So we give thanks to God for her and for her testimony. There were others too who repented or renewed their vows to follow the Lord Jesus Christ. One young man came to me and expressed his joy for participating in the whole event! Others thanked me for the word I had preached. We simply thank God for his presence there and for touching so many people’s hearts!
Christmas time is an opportunity to invite people to our services. We live in a large, six storey block of flats, it is quite a long one so there needs to be two separate entrances for everyone living there. I decided to knock on the door of every one of the forty eight flats, with a small gift of sweets and a Christian calendar inviting them to one of our Christmas services. At the very least I hoped to establish a little friendly relationship with them. However in every case it was politely declined! Our immediate neighbours see us as a family going to church, and sometimes ask us where we are going, so at least they know who we are and what we stand for. But, sadly, that is where our witness begins and ends. It is very frustrating and is a feature of the difficulties facing missionary work in Russia today. I could not help thinking at the time of the parable of the nobleman who made a great feast and sent his servants to invite his guests to come, but they all with one consent began to make excuse! But whatever the response, we must continue to sow the good seed both in season and out of season here in our city. Once again we are most grateful to all our friends in Britain for your material and spiritual support during the past seven years. It has meant, and still means, a treat deal to us and to our church, thank you!
3. Timothy Oleinik in Tobolsk
Pastor Timothy Oleinik’s wife, Tania, was taken seriously ill with cancer necessitating emergency surgery at the end of April. Everything had to be paid for, but we were able, with God’s help, to meet all the medical costs. At the time of writing she is expected to be discharged from hospital shortly.
THE RESCUE CENTRE FOR DRUG ADDICTS AND ALCOHOLICS
We had two weddings of former inmates whose lives have been transformed through the work of the Centre. One of these couples now acts as its assistant director and will soon replace the director who is leaving for other work. Another female inmate who was on the verge of losing her parental rights – she has three children – we sent to a Christian Centre for female addicts only. She was there for a year with her children before returning to Tobolsk a completely changed person. This testimony has influenced her own sister to start attending our services. We are now wanting to invite other members of her family to come and find Christ and his forgiveness in our church. We have many such miraculous cases which cause us to thank and to magnify the Lord for his goodness. God is wonderful in counsel and excellent in working.
PASTORAL SUCCESSES AND CHALLENGES
Our church is on a prime location in the centre of our town. So we are well placed to meet all kinds of people who come through our doors, good and bad. One such was a morose, middle-aged man who seldom spoke and kept to himself. His strange behaviour alarmed us and we could tell something was wrong. We discovered the reason for this was that he had sworn to avenge the death of his murdered sister. He had a knife ready to use now the murderer had served his sentence and had been released. On his way to kill him that evening he had met one of our brothers in the street and they got into conversation. He persuaded him to discuss his feelings of hatred and revenge with me before taking any further action. To our great relief this he consented to do. He finally agreed not to carry out his plan. After several more conversations he gave the problem into God’s hands. However we continue to meet with him to try and rid him completely of his lust for revenge, but we can see he is still spiritually very weak.
Then there is a lecturer turned alcoholic. A former neighbour of mine, who lost both his profession and his family through drink, came to see me several times. He knows that he needs to repent and turn to God. Although he is of the Orthodox Faith, he believes only we have the ability to save him. Although a well-educated and well-spoken man, he was not ashamed to thank me in floods of tears for not rejecting him. May his folly be the means, like the prodigal son in the far country, of him turning to God as his Heavenly Father.
Muslim Tartars are turning to Christ. All around Tobolsk there are settlements of Tartars living in the forests where they have been for centuries. Some of them have moved to our town and we continue to bring the gospel to them. It is not easy for them to quit lslam which is an inseparable part of their ancient culture. We rejoice that one family, after visiting our church several times, were among a group of twelve people recently baptised.
4. Zhenia Lozhkin in Yar
TERMINATION OF LEASE
Our small meeting room is in a village called Yar about twelve kilometres outside Tumen. It is a temporary steel structure that we were allowed to put up on a small rented plot of land. We have been here for twelve years holding meetings on Sundays, Tuesdays, and Thursdays. As Tumen has prospered the price of property in our village has soared, and now can only be afforded by the very rich people we call, ‘New Russians’. Our landlord wants us to move, so we are praying for God to guide us concerning the future; humanly speaking we cannot afford to remain here much longer.
OUR STREET WITNESS
People from the Muslim Republics of central Asia (Uzbekistan, Tadlikistan and Khirghizistan) come to Tumen seeking work. Frequently we witness to them on the streets as they stand and wait to be hired as casual labourers. We found one Khirghiz who had been injured in a street fight. He was lying in a coma so we took him to the nearest hospital. When he recovered, we invited him to one of our home meetings where he heard the gospel for the first time and accepted Christ as his Saviour. Now he and his family attend our church in Tumen. His eldest son, Alik has just been baptised and says he wants to be a preacher.
We are allowed to visit a Hospice for young, terminally ill patients where we tell them about our Saviour and give them Gospels and literature. We very much hope they are receiving our message of hope and salvation before they leave this world for ever. Please remember me in prayer for my service both in Yar and in Tumen.
For further information contact Roger Weil, 02084 020 695. He is the representative of the Slav Lands Christian Fellowship.
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