An article on the work in Russia.
Ten years ago we began to distribute the Word of God and to preach Christ on the east side of the Ural Mountains in Siberia. We greatly appreciate the Lord's people who prayed and supplied needed funds for the purchase of nearly 750,000 New Testaments and Bibles. Approximately sixty Christians helped in the distribution over the years. It all began with the presentation of Russian Bibles to a communist youth leader and his grandmother, and God, in turn, by His wondrous grace, has been pleased to save many souls. There are now four companies of believers gathered to His worthy Name.
The Russians themselves gave very encouraging remarks: "I have been asking God for five years to send us a pastor to tell us about Jesus," said an old nun. An old war veteran spoke with feeling: "The first American I ever met set me free from a German prison after WWII. He set me free, and now you are the second American, and you have brought us the Bible." And a highly esteemed Moslem leader said: "It is the most important mission of its kind to our city in the last l00 years."
For six years much liberty was granted to preach in the public and people willingly received the Word of God. But this was curtailed in 1996-97 when a new law forbade the public work of the foreign missionary. From reports of the work of the Lord elsewhere in Russia, there seems to be some liberty yet for public gospel work.
A number of brethren and sisters from the west still work in the area. Frequent visits for ministry and gospel are made to the Saveruralsk assembly on the west side of the Urals. A brother, Pasha, formerly of the Cascara assembly, moved to this area in 1995. Brethren, including Louie Smith of Michigan, Eric Fowler of Labrador, and Howard Pratt of Ontario, accompanied Pasha with ten weeks of gospel meetings. Sinners were saved, baptized and the assembly began.
Twelve hours to the south is the third largest city in Russia, Yekaterinburg. David and Elizabeth Richards from Vancouver have devoted much time working here with a small band of believers who are receptive to scriptural principles of gathering. He has been invited to go elsewhere for ministry and gospel, but is endeavoring to see the work established where he is. He is also having Biblical teachings translated and sent to other assemblies.
Much further to the east of the Urals, in the land of Siberia, is the city of Tyumen, which received many New Testaments. Steve Kember, Malcolm Stanley, and Max Mclean, all of Canada, sowed the good Seed here and in the region to the southeast. Just north is the Moslem village of Cascara, where brethren, including Larry Perkins of Michigan, worked to see an assembly of believers planted. A number of Christians from Tyumen also gather there. Local brethren have seen blessing in the gospel going out to others. Another two hours drive to the north is the village of Yarkova where gospel work has been done. One sister, Larisa, a doctor, who is in fellowship at Cascara, continues to invite brethren to come to Yarkova to preach the gospel to various groups of people that she invites into her home. Some denominational believers in the area are receptive to assembly truths.
Four hours north of Tyumen is the city of Tobolsk where the work began. Many brethren, including Tom Cooper of Michigan and the late Mark Walvatne of Minnesota, have seen souls saved and baptized. Most of these converts, however, drifted into the local Baptist church. In the summer of 1999, some were saved during eight weeks of gospel meetings, followed with ministry. Brethren also came from Cascara on several occasions for ministry and baptisms. During the spring and summer of 2000, Christians received another three months of ministry from visiting brethren.
Some of those saved in Tobolsk include two Ukrainian young men working in the area, along with Alex, a retired helicopter pilot. Alex is the father of Dema, a college student saved five years ago in Iowa and now in fellowship. A language tutor of mine heard the gospel and professed faith. She dealt wisely in spiritual matters with her atheistic and drunken husband, Igor, and a twenty-year-old daughter, Larisa. God saved both of them. An elderly man was saved. Previously his wife tried to persuade him to come to her church and repent before the congregation. He refused, not believing that this was a scriptural thing to do.
Alex was approached by the KGB as to why the Christians were breaking the law by meeting regularly in a home. "How do these people differ from the Baptist and Orthodox?" He was to present them with a list of six basic principles of faith and six principles of assembly gathering practices, comparing these to the beliefs and practices of other religious groups. He has also been approached by an Orthodox leader, who tried to sway him over to his religious views.
Two weeks after we left Tobolsk news was received that the Christians began as a local assembly, meeting in the home of Igor and Tanya.
Twelve hours on to the north is the city of Surgut. About a dozen Christians continue in the fellowship. Sad to report, however, several of the believers gave ear to the exclusive teaching of gathering "on the one Body" doctrine and left. Because Surgut is so far north it is difficult to go there.
A devoted woman, Lydia, from the Surgut meeting moved a great distance to a village near Novosibirsk. There she has seen a number saved. She asked for brethren to come and help with a baptism and to give ministry. We visited them, but because of the distance it is difficult to return. Other examples could be mentioned where there is a call from believers, saying, "Come over and help us." Due to limitations of obtaining a visa, fewer brethren are able to get into the country and go to these needy areas.
We mention these assemblies, along with a few of the names of dear believers so that the Lord's people might keep up their prayers. We should remember the words of the Savior in John 4: "Lift up your eyes, and look on the fields; for they are white already to harvest," and in Luke 10: "The harvest truly is great, but the laborers are few: pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest, that He would send forth laborers into his harvest." Pray, brethren, pray!