The Gospel in Northern Siberia
Our dear friends and supporters of our ministry in this Northern Siberian city of Nizhnivartovsk,
After six years of slow and painstaking labour, because we had to do most of the work ourselves, we completed our wooden church in 2014. We came here in 1991 on the first evangelistic mission to Siberia within living memory, and by God’s grace we are still here!
Those were days of seemingly limitless freedom, but they did not last long. The Orthodox Church, unable to stem the flood of missionary work on what it regarded as its own sacred territory (Holy Russia), persuaded the Government that all Protestants were bringing in dangerous anti-Russian doctrines and foisting them on a simple and unsuspecting populace! The Government responded by denying us any involvement in the public space and labeling us ‘sects’ akin to the occult, whose beliefs and practices were wicked and dangerous, and must be avoided like the plague. Over the years we have tried by all means to make the gospel known, sometimes being reduced to holding meetings in our own home.
We have seen slow and steady growth in the meetings but, since our church is on the outer fringes of the city, it is far from where the people are. We decided that it is our responsibility therefore to go to them. But, being ‘odious sectarians’, it seems people are suspicious of us , and think that they have no need of our gospel anyway.
We went instead to people who, recognising their need, gladly welcomed us and our offers of help and support–sufferers from alcohol and drug dependence, single mothers with children and the like, such people are ready to listen to God’s word.
Seeking More Accommodation
We realised that in our church there was a large amount of spare capacity just waiting to be utilised in the roof space above our heads. We had only to build a new staircase and ample living quarters could be provided for several people to be able to stay short-term.
We are very thankful to those who helped fund the skilled workmen and the whole enterprise, including new flooring, roof insulation, wiring, lighting, windows, walls, doors, kitchen, bathroom, toilet–everything!
The Men’s Work
This began before our ministry to women and prior to any thought of residential care. They were mostly middle-aged with a crippling history of addictions and prison sentences, They visited us for aid and comfort but also for regular Bible studies, discussions, and to learn how to pray for themselves. Recognising that they are made in the image of God, they should now live as his creatures in this world. They attend our services regularly and have broken the chains of their former addictions. Some are now living with us and one has professed conversion. He has expressed his gratitude to God for his forgiveness, and giving him a totally new life in Christ after spending most of his life in prison. He now serves as our caretaker and delights in making himself as useful as he can.
The Women’s Work
We have three women staying with us at present. Two are now completely free from their previous addictions. All now visit our services regularly and pray and read the Bible for themselves. We gave an old sewing machine to one of them and she has rediscovered her skills as a former dressmaker. It was thrilling to hear her pray, praising and thanking God for saving her from the darkness of her terrible past. Another lady, because of her criminal past, has lost everything–her husband, her children (loss of parental rights), and employment. For the first time in years she has found peace and stability–such are the type of people we feel priveleged to minister to. We also visit single mothers in their homes, helping them with food and clothing and giving spiritual support as we have opportunity.
In our regular preaching ministry we have been emphasising the importance of understanding the Biblical doctrines. We have just completed studies on the true meaning of baptism and will shortly commence a series on the Lord’s Supper.
Once again, we want to express our thanks for those of you who have supported us materially and spiritually.
In July last year, a member of the Russian Duma [State Assembly], Mrs Yarova, introduced a new bill under the title ‘To Increase Efforts Against Terrorism’. It was briefly explained, accepted, and passed directly into law. (Bear in mind that, at the time, an airliner full of Russian tourists returning from Egypt had been destroyed over the Sinai desert by a terrorist bomb planted by ISIS. There had also been carnage on the Moscow Metro, caused by a terrorist bomb similar to those planted on the London Underground.)
The main points of the new law are as follows:
- Religious terrorism is funded from abroad. Therefore all foreign funding of religious activity is forbidden, all such groups (non-Orthodox!) are referred to indiscriminately as ‘extremists’ (extremist activity is not defined but would include Protestants of every kind).
- Russia officially recognises only four ‘traditional’ religions; The Orthodox Church, Islam, Judaism, and Buddhism (Protestants and Catholics alike are excluded).
- Meetings held by all extremist groups are only permitted to take place in designated premises once official authorisation has been obtained.
- Any activity carried out in public by an extremist group is only permitted once persons have obtained written permission to do so.
- All literature held by extremist groups, whether in private of in public, must be checked by the police and receive official authorisation.
- Extremist meetings are not allowed to take place in private homes.
- Extremists are not allowed to hire public buildings for the propagation of their views.
- Foreigners are not allowed to conduct any religious activity in Russia.
For the first time since the fall of Communism in 1989, Christian believers are once more seen as enemies of the State, and their activities on a par with those of Islamic terrorists! The police recently arrested a man for offering Bibles to passers-by on the street. Since the new law fails to define what ‘extremism’ is, the police are free to interpret all activities by ‘extremist groups’ as criminal.
A Prayer for Russia
Pray…’for kings and all in authority, so that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life in all godliness and honesty.’ (1 Timothy 2.2)
‘Pray for us, that the word of the Lord may have free course and be glorified even as it is with you, and that we may be delivered from unreasonable and wicked men, for all men have not faith.’ (2 Thessalonians 3.1)