Three Christians in Siberia
I. Valera Oichanko has been leading the work in Tiumen very successfully for the past eighteen months. Here is his latest report.
We are very glad to be able to share with you the experiences and blessings we have had in our service for the Lord in Tiumen. We also thank you for your prayers for us and your support.
The summer months were full of activity especially among the children’s and young people’s work. In Tiumen we held a week of meetings for our children called ‘Summer Camp’, and more than fifty attended. Our main purpose was to help them know more about the Lord, to teach them how to have fellowship with him and enjoy meeting with other Christians. We also had children from non-Christian families. In addition to Bible lessons each day we had a full programme of sporting events, competitions, model-making and embroidery. For the older girls food preparation, and for the older boys, how to light camp fires and cook a simple meal! It was a blessed time and we felt God’s presence throughout the week, not only with the children but their parents as well. It was a joy for us to see their happy faces and to hear their prayers to God for their families and friends. Surely the Lord spoke to the unbelieving parents who were present through their children. At the end of the week they didn’t want to go home and asked if we could continue the meetings for several more days!
We repeated these children’s meetings in our daughter Fellowships outside Tiumen in the settlements of Onokino and Yar. The children came from unbelieving homes where many of their parents are alcoholics or drug addicts. We were impressed at their openness and their willingness to listen and take part in the programme, to pray and to sing Christian songs! Several children came simply to eat the food because they are half-starved in their own dysfunctional homes, due to their parents’ lethal and crippling addictions.
We organised a tented camp in the forest for the young people in our church. We felt it was a specially blessed time around the camp fire at night as we discussed spiritual things, prayed and worshipped the Lord. Sometimes this went on almost until dawn! These meetings enabled us also to draw closer to our young people and make friends with them. We rejoiced that many of them were changed by this time together and want to devote themselves to the Lord and to his service.
Therefore we ask you to join us in prayer that the good seed sown in the hearts of all these children and young people will bear fruit for God in the future.
Drug addiction is now a serious scourge in all Russian cities including Tiumen. We would like to start to work among them. Recently a brother from Omsk has joined us, himself a former addict, who has devoted himself to this service. We are praying about opening a Rehabilitation Centre and have begun looking for suitable premises. Please pray for this new venture.
This year we have held two baptism services where twelve people sealed their covenant with God and were added to the church. But due to the economic crisis a number of our members have gone to other countries seeking work. Others have emigrated to Germany or the United States. In addition, each year between eight to twelve of our older folk die. So our membership stands at 230 whereas last year it was 203.
On Saturdays we visit hospitals and give gospels to those who will accept them. We have about forty children in our Sunday School divided into five groups. We continue to visit the Children’s Home outside Tiumen once per month where we are allowed to preach the gospel. We also try to help them with clothing and other necessities.
So this is a small picture of our ministry in Tiumen, please remember us in your prayers.
II. Pastor Timothy Oleinik reports on the work of his church in Tobolsk during the last six months.
His health broke down earlier in the summer and he spent several days in hospital. Pastors in Siberia over-work themselves and seldom take a day of rest. This is one of the reasons why we help them to have a regular summer break in the warmer south of Russia.
Fawzik, a Muslim lady from one of the Tartar communities living in the forests outside Tobolsk.
I was born in a Tartar Settlement deep in the Siberian forests living with my parents. We were very poor. We were nominally Muslim but in fact had no faith. We lived without God but on religious festivals visited the mosque. God and religion were never discussed in our family.
When I became an adult my parents arranged a marriage for me. Muslims customarily do not consult the wishes of the bride. Soon I had a child but our family life was very unhappy; my husband didn’t work and was constantly drinking. When he was drunk he usually got into fights. Neither I nor his child mattered to him and soon he left us. I experienced a deep sense of betrayal and misery. I decided to leave this isolated Settlement and move to Tobolsk in search of a new and better life. I married again but my second husband also drank. My only consolation was my children, but in my spirit I was always crying out to God. Secretly I was praying to God and speaking with him. So things became a bit easier. I began to seek God by visiting either the mosque or the Orthodox Church, but in neither place could I find peace for my soul. My unsuccessful search resulted in dark depression. Several times I visited a psychiatrist seeking help. The tablets he gave me only brought temporary relief. My sense of dissatisfaction increased and the mental pain I felt made me want to scream.
Then one day I met an old friend of mine, a Tartar like me. She told me she was just going to a church where people of all nationalities were welcome. She seemed so happy and explained that there both Russians and Tartars sing praise to God and pray together. Looking at her joyful face I asked if I could come with her. And what do you think? As soon as I entered the service I knew immediately that this is what I had been looking for all these years! I felt God’s love and his presence there among all these people. I burst into tears and began praying to God accepting him into my heart.
This caused such an upheaval in my life that it is, even now, difficult to describe. Christ became the centre of my life and I began to pray both for my husband and our children.
My husband, seeing such a change in my life, also began to come to church with me. Now he has repented, believed the gospel and been baptised. After some time one of my sons also believed and was baptised. My joy knew no limits! Now I am praying for my second son. He is not unsympathetic to my faith but his wife doesn’t want him to go to church. I believe that he too will be saved; it’s only a matter of time. Now I am always joyful and love speaking to people about Christ – he is the goal of my life and gives it new meaning. This summer God gave me a wonderful gift – a former Tartar friend of mine was baptised and now comes to church with her daughter. We are so pleased that God’s Kingdom is increasing and people are receiving salvation.
Roger J. Weil works with the Slav Lands Christian Fellowship 020 8402 0695
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