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!