Category Archives: Russia

Good Ministry = Good Seed + Good Soil + Time

1405 good seed

After 30 years (Back) Roman, Slava, Natasha, Valery, Don … Slava (Front) Sveta, Nina, Anke, Galya, Zhanna

34 years ago Slava and I met secretly in his rented room to talk about our faith. Last month we met again in St. Petersburg at the official office of a mission founded by his brother, Valery. Every person in this photo can tell a story of 30 years of struggles and victories to be faithful to Christ and His Great commission. On this trip after 28 hours in planes and airports (weather delays) and just 5 hours of sleep, there I stood with the friends who were charter members of our Leningrad small group Bible study in 1982.

Evaluating someone’s life and ministry is always hard, because so many results depend on circumstances that are unseen or outside our control. Wisdom suggests we be patient enough to see whether the seeds we plant stand the test of time.

THEN: 32 years ago Roman was newly married to Sveta and had a wicked, sarcastic sense of humor. Honestly, he drove me crazy in our Bible studies. But at home he also typed copies of books using carbon paper, so his friends could read them too. Slava and Galya were the Leningrad Baptist Church youth group leaders attempting to prevent Roman’s activities from getting reported to the KGB. Valery, Slava’s youngest brother wasn’t married yet to Zhanna, but had set up a Bible memory group for junior highers using a series of cassettes that explained discipleship. Zhanna nearly lost her first job, because she gave a sick friend in the hospital one of Roman’s “contraband” books to read. The other Slava was sharpening his tech skills by setting up a video library and a secret recording studio. Later TWR hired him to create Christian radio programs for USSR.

NOW: After founding three mission agencies Slava pastors a church in Vyborg. Roman runs Mirt ministry center and publishes a Christian journal that reaches 11,000 lay leaders every few months. Valery and Zhanna founded Wycliffe Russia and now are focused on providing good missionary care for the Russians sent out to work on Bible translation. All have travelled to India, Africa, Europe for their Lord.

IN BETWEEN: But they also have fought personal as well as faith battles. Two have to deal with diabetes, 1 lost his job, one has been ill 2 of last 3 winters with bronchitus. They have kids and grandkids who struggle to practice the faith these parents taught them. Parents have died and friends too. Car accidents, moves, financial struggles …

Why were these friends available to be photographed? They had just finished a weekly Bible study. That’s right, the first thing I remember doing with this group, they still do today – meet to read the Scripture and discuss how it applies to their life and ministry. Not because someone says they must, but because they are convinced they must to stay strong and sharp for His name’s sake. This is good seed planted on good soil!


The Babushka on my Doorstep


A “Babushka”

One crisp fall day in Leningrad, I walked home from the parking lot to my apartment. I enjoyed the swishing sound my feet made as I walked through the colorful leaves that had begun to fall on the sidewalks. As I emerged from the archway facing Park “Pobedy” and looked into our courtyard, I noticed that a small crowd had gathered around the basement stairway next to our entrance. They were blocking the path to my door.

Stepping closer I could see that my neighbors were staring at an older woman, a “babushka”, seated on a concrete step clutching her shopping bag. Her extremely pale face contrasted sharply with the golden-brown loaf of bread sticking out of the dark nylon bag. “She is sitting very still,” I thought. People around me spoke in a hushed whisper. Gradually, I realized that this elderly woman had died just a few minutes ago – right here on my doorstep.

A short time passed until flashing lights announced the arrival of an ambulance. I was puzzled why the crowd’s reaction was to quickly disperse. A young medic jumped out of the van, stooped over the lady and checked her pulse. She frowned, and then looked around to ask if someone recognized the woman. “Where does she live? Is her family nearby?” she asked brusquely. A lady pointed to the stairway entrance next to mine and answered, “I think she lived alone up there, but her son lives somewhere in town.” By now I was the only man left watching.  The ambulance driver got out of the van, opened the back and unfolded the stretcher. He looked around, then caught my eye and signaled me to help him lift the lady onto the stretcher. I numbly complied lifting her legs as he took her shoulders. I shuffled along beside the stretcher and watched him push her on the stretcher into the van. As he slid into the driver’s seat, I overheard the nurse grumble something to him about the hassles they were going to face with this one. He picked up the CB microphone and called the dispatcher.

It took all the strength I could muster to climb up those steps past the spot this unknown babushka had used to die on. I stumbled out of the elevator on the third floor, entered our apartment and burst into tears in the entryway. I tried to tell Sheryl that someone’s mother died at our door and no one seemed to care. After that wave of grief flowed past, we both experienced another wave of comfort. We knew that if either of us were to die unexpectedly, we would meet again in heaven and live forever with God.

I still can’t forget the pale white face wrapped in her brightly colored scarf. The last thing my unknown neighbor ever did was walk around the corner to buy a loaf of bread. 300 million Eurasians like her still blindly are walking around that corner into an eternity without Christ!

Julia’s Story

There is no God!

Julia’s parents were members of the Communist Party of Czechoslavakia. They taught their teenager daughter that God does not exist. Their beliefs, however, did not “protect” Julia from meeting Christians when she attended university. Julia believed in Jesus and told her family of her decision. They were incensed. Both her parents and her sister held high positions in the Party structure; Julia’s new identity as a believer jeopardized their jobs. But the small fellowship of Christians gave Julia the support and courage she needed to continue in her faith despite pressure from her family.

After a serious car accident, Julia’s faith deepened thanks to her small group leader who took Julia into her cramped apartment. Julia watched Milena, manage with grace the demands of her recovery, a job, plus a household with young children. Julia can’t forget how sacrificial love looks.

Today, Julia and her husband Pavel are mentioned among the top 20 most influential believers in the Czech Republic. I’m sure Milena had no idea that choosing to love an injured student would make such an impact.

Do you have a “Milena” or “Julia” story to tell? Drop me a note or email. Let’s encourage each other “all the more as the Day draws near!”

Seeking for Truth and finding Propaganda

Thirty years ago while walking and praying along the bank of the Neva River in Leningrad, USSR, I scanned the incredible vista of the Winter Palace, church cupolas and golden spires. Jutting out in the distance on the roof of an old industrial building, in huge aluminum block letters, gleamed the phrases, “We Will Complete the 5 Year Plan” and “Praise to the Communist Party”. And I thought, “Does anyone still believe these slogans?”

Neva "vista"

We just endured two months of intense political advertising before the mid-term elections. Does anyone really believe those awful television ads full of quotes ripped out of context that attempt to make an opponent into a caricature? I’m so glad I don’t live in Iowa where they will endure six more months of this next year for the “privilege” of narrowing down the 20-30 presidential wannabes to 5 or 6 the rest of us will vote for! What happened to: “we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor”? Thomas Jefferson et al.

Unfortunately, political consultants aren’t the only deceivers left on earth. The apostle John said, “many deceivers, who do not acknowledge Jesus Christ as coming in the flesh, have gone out into the world. Watch out …” II John 7-8. But it isn’t just those “bad people on TV” we have to watch out for. Don’t we regularly deceive our friends, our family, even ourselves. How long do we spend listening to the master deceiver, Satan, and making up our own lies to cover up that nasty hole in our heart that only Jesus can fill?

No wonder John felt “great joy” discovering children of a lady he knew who were “walking in the truth”. What a thrill we have knowing Jesus, who is the truth,lives in us and will be with us for ever”!

Next Generation

Sipping tea with lemon and eating a slice of cake, I looked across the table at the Integra Russia staff and thought, “This is the next generation! They do care for their people and the gospel! Sure they have problems, but they are facing them.”

That evening, I listened at another Moscow table crowded with young people Neil was attempting to feed before their train left that night. They recalled fantastic adventures during a mission trip to the Caucasus. Then a newlywed couple dropped by and said thanks to them all for coming to their wedding.

Three days later while I was adding up my expenses at the kitchen table, a Russian mom and dad seated behind me had a heart to heart with a son who wanted to borrow money. He laid out his plan. By Christmas he would pay them back, set up his apartment and then be ready to get married to his sweetheart. I overheard the word “responsibility”, then something like “… rely on God.“ I don’t think he was going to get the money.

Plans, ideas, energy, zest for life, romance, joy and tears – the next generation in Eurasia is stepping up!