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Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Foursquare Churches Legally Registered!


Dear Friends of Russia,

It is with a heart filled with joy that I let you know the Foursquare Church of Russia has completed it's filing for legal registration. The government would not accept the name Foursquare, saying it was not Russian, so we had to go with “Full Gospel Churches of Russia.” There is a backlash against registering "foreign" religions in Russia. They then informed us today that if we go more than a year without breaking any laws, we may be able to apply to change the name to the original choice.

Thank you so much for all your prayers. We could tell you were praying for us. This morning we were talking about how God had given us the peace of the Lord that everything was going to be fine. If God controls the hearts of kings, the hearts of a few governments officials is no problem.

I thought it would be helpful to explain why registration so important: What limited freedom these pastors and churches have is granted to them through being legally registered with the government. Over the past few years more and more of their freedoms have been taken away. The nationalist, the communist, and the Russian Orthodox Church are working together to limit and even “stamp out” all forms of “foreign religion.” This continues to make the life of the evangelical Christian difficult. They are members of a minority religion with few rights. They are viewed with suspicion and discrimination against them is encouraged. While registration will not remove this, it does help the churches.

Please continue to pray that the spiritual strongholds of Russia are destroyed (Nationalism, Xenophobia, and Autocracy). These strongholds result in blinding Pride, Fear and Hatred of all things “foreign,” and the desire to control. It is against these strongholds that we must take a stand. Pray for the pastors, churches, and Christians of Russia to be free from all forms of these national strongholds.

Continue to pray for the continued development of a healthy movement of Foursquare Churches in Russia.

Pray for the leaders to be strengthened in faith and filled with wisdom for leading God’s people.

Pray for the churches to be of one heart and one mind, and free from the national strongholds.

Pray that our leaders and churches continue to be “salt and light” in this nation. One thing we constantly seek to cultivate is the understanding that we are not “against anyone.” We are not against the Orthodox Church. Rather we are thankful for those who have borne faithful witness to Christ in that Church. We are not trying to import an “American” or “European” religion into Russia. We are helping Russians develop an indigenous, authentic expression of the Gospel of Jesus Christ that is relationally connected with the global Foursquare Family of Churches.

Pray that God will continue to guide and bless us as we seek “to build healthy, indigenous, reproducing churches throughout Russia.”


Jeff Roper
Foursquare Regional Missionary Serving Russia, Ukraine, Belarus, and Moldova.
Russian Leaders and Missionaries

The Jar of Honey

Mark 12:41-44 41 Jesus went over to the collection box in the Temple and sat and watched as the crowds dropped in their money. Many rich people put in large amounts. 42 Then a poor widow came and dropped in two pennies. 43 He called his disciples to him and said, "I assure you, this poor widow has given more than all the others have given. 44 For they gave a tiny part of their surplus, but she, poor as she is, has given everything she has." NLT

It was a simple jar of honey, given to me after I had preached at a local church. Such a simple gift, but given in love. Love for God and the desire to bless those who minister in Christ’s name. In America a jar of honey would be an unexpected gift to a visiting preacher. You might expect a check, a handful of cash, or perhaps an invitation to a local restaurant for an after church meal, but not a jar of honey. In Russia such a gift is not unusual, but I hope I never take such a gift lightly.

Like the widow mentioned in Mark 12:41-44, the young woman, who gave me the jar of honey, gave a gift out of her relative poverty. It was a gift more to God, than to me, and I accepted it as such. This jar of honey would probably sell for nearly $10.00 in the local market. That is the average daily wage of a worker in Russia. Honey is a luxury that many families here cannot afford, yet it was given to me, an American, who compared to most Russians has a huge salary. I was humbled and honored to accept this gift.

This jar of honey reminded me of so many more gifts of this nature that we have received. The gift of friendship is probably the best one. A young woman, who has helped us over and over again said to us, “Well that is how one treats strangers when they are in your country!” How profound. Then there was the time we were invited to tea with a local grandmother. She lives in a small apartment near us. Almost everyday we see her outside selling her vegetables or flowers from her garden. She baby-sits to supplement her meager pension. Yet, because we say hello to her whenever we see her, she has become our friend. When we went for tea she insisted that we take home two large jars of pickled vegetables. The fruit of her labor, given to us in love.

Another family gave us a jar of home grown vegetables after visiting their church. Just recently, while doing business, we stopped at a small indoor kiosk to purchase a pad of paper. The vendor realized we were from America and quickly pulled her 2005 calendar of her desk and said “here, I would like to give you something, I’m sorry it is almost used up, but I just want to give you something”.

Russians are a giving people, even though they often have little to give

It is easy to give a gift out of our wealth, but so much better to give a gift out of our need. At the same time, as one who receives such gifts, it is frightening to be responsible for them. How do we respond when we have so much and the giver has so little? As “faith” missionaries, Karen and I are supported by the gifts of others. It is a difficult lesson to learn how to graciously receive a gift. How hard to just say, “Why thank you so much!” We always want to repay the person by giving something in return. This is often the way we respond to God’s grace. He gives it to us freely, paid in full, by Christ. We try and repay God or earn what He freely gives. Our response should be one of thanksgiving for His wonderful mercy.

Rom 6:23 23 For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord. NLT

Thursday, December 01, 2005

God's Strength

John 14: 12-14 Truly, Truly I say to you, whoever believes in me will also do the works that I do, and greater works than these will he do, because I am going to the Father. Whatever you ask in my name, this I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask me anything in my name, I will do it.

We have come not in our own strength and gifting, but in total weakness and humility. Without a promise like this one from the gospel of John there would be no ability to walk forward in what God has called us to do.

I heard someone in a leadership conference this year say, “Our zeal and enthusiasm for the lost and our desire to see lives changed probably far exceeds our abilities.” For someone living in a foreign culture, struggling with language and communication, constantly finding themselves ‘doing the wrong thing’ and often being culturally embarrassed, this statement reverberated within my spirit.

Constantly carrying an ache around in my heart for the lost ness of the people I live among and love, I long to find a way to penetrate the darkness that sucks the life from them. For many people in Russia life has never been better, but the hopelessness of the soul is so obvious to those who are able to recognize the symptoms. It’s always fun and energizing to share the victories and the ‘cool stories’ with friends and family, but the reality is that daily we are faced with an overwhelming sense of how small and ineffective we are. It’s an inevitable mental struggle when the fruit of our labor seems so obscure.

Fortunately, the reality of that feeling is not reality at all. It is the smoke and mirrors of a spiritual enemy whose only goal and purpose is to destroy; people, families, lives, ministries. God’s love for these people so far exceeds my love that I find rest and reassurance that my purpose is God’s purpose; to see them come face to face with a loving Savior.

When our children were little we raised chickens for fun and I remember how the hens, when they “went broody,” would sit patiently for weeks gently tending and turning the eggs until the life within could no longer be contained in a hard shell. With the tenacious instinct with which they were created the babies broke through the shell that held them prisoner and came out into the light and freedom. The hen did nothing but faithfully fulfill her purpose of nurture and care. The life came from the source of the Creator.

Knowing that by ourselves we can do nothing, Michael and I pray daily for our people that the Holy Spirit would brood over this region. In helplessness we pray from a position of disadvantage, a place of difficulty, asking in Jesus name for people to be birthed into the kingdom that God would be glorified. His promises are Yes and Amen.