In last month’s newsletter, I gave an overview of some of the exciting things that happened during my six week trip to Russia. I want to continue this month with part two of his report.
Predvestnik’s role as a ministry in the former USSR is just beginning. We began in 1991 by equipping young people to use cutting edge media technologies and creative ministries to communicate the Gospel to their own culture in a new, exciting and relevant way. Now we have more opportunities than ever before to have a great impact. There are several new ways in which we are reaching out to this area of the world. During this last trip, I met many young people who are on fire for Jesus and have a destiny in their hearts to be world changers!
This resort city is literally carved into the lower hills of the Caucasus Mountains on the eastern shore of the Black Sea. There are many fruit trees, beautiful gardens and stone beaches overlooking the sparkling warm sea. The sweet fragrance of flowers is everywhere and cool, dry mountain air gives relief from the hot sub-tropical summer weather. Sochi is not at all what I have come to expect from a city in Russia!
I was sovereignly placed as a part of a team of young ministers from several churches in Russia and Lithuania. We were able to minister in a growing church of 500 people – Zhivoye Slova (Living Word) – This church has become a base for conferences, retreats, missionary outreaches and evangelism for many churches throughout Russia. Sochi is close in proximity to 35 nations (ethnic peoples groups) in the Caucasus Mountain region (including Chechen, Ossetian, Kalmyk, Ingush, Dagestan, Karbadin, Abkhaz, Balkar, Georgian, and Armenian). The church in Sochi has a vision to send missionaries to Muslim nations to the south: Turkey, Iraq, Iran, Azerbaijan, Syria, Lebanon – and to the Jews in Israel.
In the summertime, Living Word Church holds outdoor cell meetings in the large City Park. They are able to evangelize interested onlookers who have come to Sochi from all over Russia on vacation. While in attendance at one of these outdoor meetings, we were invited by the pastor to lead two meetings – Sunday morning and Wednesday night. I gave two messages: one on the Great Commission and one on the Universal Priesthood of the Believer. The rest of the team ministered in music, drama, pantomime and dance. I was pleased to discover that God chose to speak to His people through creative ministry as well as through preaching.
In the course of two weeks, we counseled and prayed for dozens and dozens of people. During the Sunday meeting, I led over a dozen people to make a public declaration of Jesus Christ as Lord for the first time. Many of these people were visitors to Sochi who had come for a vacation, but had encountered Christ instead! For instance, two of the people who professed Christ for the first time were from Minsk, Belorus and a remote town in Siberia!
We also prayed for dozens of members of the church who felt a calling into missionary work or full-time ministry. One Armenian girl told me that she felt a calling to be a missionary to Iran and wanted me to pray with her for confirmation. During another meeting, a woman asked us to pray for her teenage son to be saved. Two days later this young man came to us and told us that he had become a believer only the day before. We saw people delivered from demonic oppression, filled with the Holy Spirit, and many people received words of knowledge which greatly encouraged them.
Our time in Sochi was a wonderful time of labor and rest in God. We were welcomed with open arms by a powerful church that is in a very strategic place to reach this part of the world. I spoke with the pastor about returning to Sochi in order to help the church set up a newspaper staff and also produce literature in the Turkish language which may be distributed in Turkey.
RUSSIA’S PRO-LIFE MOVEMENT
Last month, I told you about how I was able to meet with Elena Uteshinskaya who has headed up Russia’s first national pro-life movement. This ministry is vitally needed since Russia is a nation where abortions outnumber live births by more than two to one. We want to help Elena get better organized in her office in Moscow by providing some much needed computer equipment, and to train her to begin publishing pro-life literature relevant to Russia’s situation. Elena is very advanced in the compilation of statistics on abortion in Russia and has a keen understanding of how the abortion holocaust relates to Russian culture.
For instance, Vladimir Illych Lenin was the first leader in Russia’s history to legalize abortion in 1921. This was part of Lenin’s “free-sex, free-love” (read: anti-family, pro-sexual immorality) philosophy. Stalin later outlawed abortion when he saw the detriment to the society. But it was legalized again in 1955 by Nikita Kruschev. Elena believes that the removal of Lenin’s body from the tomb in Red Square (yes, he’s still there) will be a vital part of the spiritual restoration of Russia and will lead to the ridding Russia of abortion.
MINISTRY TO THE UNIVERSITY CAMPUSES
In September, I was able to minister in two meetings in churches overseen by my friend Pastor Sergei in the Moscow suburbs of Podolsk and Klimovsk. I am currently working with Sergei to produce his newsletter which will be used to raise support to plant churches and cell groups on the university campuses throughout Russia.
I see a strong relationship developing between Sergei’s network of campus churches and Predvestnik. One night in September, we went to Moscow State University and held a cell meeting with Pastor Sergei and Rusty Russell of Miracle Life Ministries. Over 20 students and our team crammed into one small dorm room! Moscow State is to Russia what Harvard University is to America. Some of the top students in the world attend this university, including young people from Vietnam, China, North Korea, Mongolia, many nations in Africa, the Middle East and even Cuba. This is a strategic spot for evangelism and teaching of Christ’s liberating power for whole societies. Yet there are only a handful of Christians at this institution and very little evangelism is taking place. We spent our time encouraging the Christian students to action and praying with them.
At this meeting, out of the 24 present, two young people invited to the meeting by their friends, gave their hearts to the Lord. I was able to lead one young woman in a prayer of salvation. As she professed Jesus as Lord for the first time, I saw a real change come over her and she told me that for the first time in her life, she had an assurance in her heart that Christ lived in her. This was a source of real joy to her friend who brought her to the meeting. Now there is a small cell of two believers at another institute. They plan on beginning a cell meeting at their institute so that they may evangelize their friends!
NEEDED: RESOURCES FOR 1996
Buying computer equipment; training another newspaper staff in Sochi; equipping Pastor Sergei in his office in Moscow; and helping Elena Uteshinskaya is part of the plan for 1996. I have a burden to help start newspapers to reach Muslims, to help the Russian pro-life movement, and to help Pastor Sergei raise his support to reach out to the campuses. My resources are limited, yet I believe that God has put all this on my heart. It will take a financial miracle for this to happen next year, but I believe that it will come to pass.
A few years ago, God gave me a Scripture for this time – “Behold I have made you a new, sharp threshing sledge with double edges, you shall thresh the mountains and pulverize them, and you shall make the hills as chaff” (Isaiah 41:15).
In the Bible, mountains and hills often symbolize the Gentile nations. The Church is Mount Zion. So this Scripture speaks of the Church having the prophetic word, a sharp instrument, to build up and tear down the nations. God is bringing us into a time when we will have the prophetic word for the nations in our hearts. Now He is giving us the resources to preach the Word to the whole world.
Will you be a part of what is happening in the great nation of Russia and the republics of the former Soviet Union? Through your support of Predvestnik you can help to rebuild the former USSR by sowing the seed of biblical reformation into the hearts and minds of young people. Please pray with us and believe God for a miracle that together we might rejoice in the Lord!