Translate into Russian

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Serving the Homeless and Addicted

Karen and I are Foursquare missionaries and serve as associate pastors in Cornerstone Church, Nizhny Novgorod. This church is one of over 60 churches in the Association of Cornerstone Churches, a Russian church planting movement. Each church has as a foundational ministry an ongoing drug rehabilitation program and many of the churches also have a church based ministry to the homeless.

Listening to Teaching at the Homeless Center
As a part of our responsibilities, every week Karen and I teach at both the local drug rehabilitation center and the homeless center which is actually called the Social Center for Rehabilitation.

More of those who live at the Homeless Center
Currently the drug rehabilitation center has about 40 young men and women enrolled in the program and at last count there were 37 older men and women living at the Social Center, most of who have struggled with alcohol addiction.

Our Brothers & Sisters
Formerly homeless and without a family
Now they have both.

We want to emphasize that these ministries are the PRIMARY MINISTRIES of the church! They are church operated and funded. The church focuses on outreach to those within society who have fallen through the cracks, the addicted, the homeless, the hungry, the prisoners, as well as the families of these people. As a result the church, which is now just over three years old, is made up almost entirely of former drug addicts, homeless people and those who have been in prison. Over 80% of the congregation has come to faith within the last two years! This is phenomenal!

Worship at the Drug Rehab Center

Karen and I are so privileged to be a small part of the ministry of this church. We love our assignment and we love the Russian people with whom we work. We daily thank God for allowing us to be here, to see lives changed and to see the Power of the Gospel expressed in such very practical ways.
The Joy of Freedom!

Some of the Young Sisters
Former Addicts

Friday, April 24, 2009

Just Like Another Piece of Trash

She was lying dead on a garbage heap just like another piece of trash, but this one human. Her head was crushed and bloody, her hands scratched, nails broken, clothes dirty and ripped. Dead.

She had been an alcoholic, but it could have just as easily been drugs. Another young person caught in a cycle of abuse, hopelessness and despair.

Nearby several grandmothers clucked saying, “yes we knew her,” “she drank here,” “they all come here to drink and to hang out in the dark.” Children playing nearby stepped closer to watch as a grandmother lifted the sheet to see the brutality of the murder etched in blood.

Brutal death like this is no stranger to the streets and alleys of Nizhny Novgorod. Every week we see them on the news, young, broken human beings, drug addicts, and alcoholics, homeless. Each one, at one time a little child with hopes and dreams of a happy life, now broken and dead because of hopelessness, lack of self-respect, sin, and bad choices,.

I weep inside every time I see another young person who has died a senseless death, another body lying in the street, or in a hallway, like so much trash, another young man or woman who has leapt out of a window to stop the pain and emptiness.

Despite this, every week we see hope. We see changed lives. We see young men and women making good choices. Working here with Cornerstone Church, helping the addicted, the homeless, the prisoners, gives us great joy. We know that Christ can change any life. We KNOW IT! We see it happen week by week. A young man, 36 years old, 3 times in prison for a total of nine years is now a radiant believer, living free from addictions while he helps others. A young woman, homeless, begging and selling herself is now living life with hope and dignity.

How could we not be here? How could we not help? What else could be more worthwhile than this? Our passion for these people, these dear, wonderful, precious people drives us, compels us to stay here. We wouldn’t do anything else if by staying we can help save one more young person from a life of despair, from a life of hopelessness. So…we stay, we work, we pray, we love, we mentor. That is our life here. The life we have chosen. The life we love.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Leadership Conference - Nizhny Novgorod Russia

Young Russian Church Leaders

For three days this week 65 leaders from all over Western Russia gathered just outside of Nizhny Novgorod for the annual Cornerstone church leadership conference. We were privileged to both attend and to serve these dedicated young men and women.

Conferences are a big part of church life in Russia. To be a Protestant believer here in Russia is to be classified as belonging to a cult and to be on the fringes of society so when believers gather together in conferences they benefit from the fellowship, teaching and gaining the perspective of a bigger picture.

Most of the attendees at this conference are former drug addicts and criminals, not unusual since the entire Cornerstone movement is dedicated to evangelizing the marginalized of Russian society.

It was a joy to see the exuberant worship, the sheer joy of knowing Christ and being set free from despair and hopelessness. The worship, as always was loud and heartfelt. It is almost impossible for me to not have tears in my eyes when I see these young men and women wholeheartedly worshiping the Lord who has set them free.

The days were filled with workshops and “master classes” taught by some of the senior leaders in the movement. It is almost laughable to call them senior leaders because most of them are about 30 years old. The reality is, though, that they have been believers for 5 – 10 years, have each planted several churches, started numerous rehab centers and led hundreds of people to Christ. Oh, that we could all say the same!

Mealtimes were spent discussing some of the teaching and just enjoying being with like-minded believers, those who are sold out to Christ and are radical disciples serving not for money or position, but to see the Kingdom of God expand through reaching the lost and hurting. What a privilege Karen and I have to walk alongside these faithful servants and to serve them in some small way.Pastor Dimitry Teaching

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Church Planting - Dzerzhinsk, Russia

Karen and I recently visited the city of Dzerzhinsk, Russia located 55k from our home in Nizhny Novgorod. Dzerzhinsk is a city of about 250,000 people with fewer than 6 churches.

Our young friend, Pastor Sergei Zheldak, invited us to visit and spend time with his church planting team which is seeking to establish a new church in this city. The team consists of 7 people and no one on the team has been a believer for more than two years.

We met Pastor Sergei in Nizhny Novgorod two years ago just after he had entered the drug rehab program himself. Over the last two years he has completed both four month terms of rehabilitation, and then for almost a year served as a leader in the rehabilitation center. Last fall he went to Novosibirsk, Siberia to attend a 3 month Bible and Missionary training center. Upon graduation in January he returned to Nizhny Novgorod, gathered a team around him, and together they moved to Dzerzhinsk.
Another brother who only recently graduated from rehab, also named Sergei, serves on the team. He is a vibrant young believer who's life has been dramatically changed by the Gospel and because of this both his wife and his mother-in-law have become believers.

Masha is another interesting young woman who is part of the team. She told us that at one point she had been in a women's monastery considering taking her vows, however, while there she met a young man and they decided to live together. Unfortunately he was a drug addict and Masha soon began using as well, becoming addicted. The young couple ended up married with two children.
Last fall Masha realized that she needed help and entered rehabilitation. She graduated from the first four months and while attending the second course she was allowed to go home on weekends to see her children. Regrettably, one weekend, she succumbed to the temptation of drugs. Masha told us that within three hours she sank to the deepest pit in her life realizing what a great mistake she had made. She confessed her failure returned to the center.

The policy of the center is that if you use drugs during your rehab course you must leave. So Masha had to exit the program. The good news is that the rehab leaders don't give up on people and seeing that she really was repentant Masha was told that she could finish her second four months as a probationary member of the new church planting team in Dzerzhinsk. She is doing well and is a valued part of the team.
Lydia is an older woman who's son is a recovering addict now going through rehabilitation. When her son entered rehab Lydia was taken under the care of the 'mother's of addicts' ministry of the church in Nizhny. Within a short time she found Christ and decided that she wanted to serve the Lord. She heard about the new church plant happening in Dzerzhinsk and asked to become a member. She is officially in charge of the new Mothers' ministry and is the unofficial mother of the team.
The team has been leafleting the city with flyers announcing the new drug rehabilitation center. They have also been able to place advertisements on every bus, trolley and street car in the city. Every Wednesday the team holds a meeting for those interested in the program. Currently there are several young men from the city who have entered the drug rehab program.

In the last two weeks eight young people have died from overdosing in Dzerzhinsk. As you read this article please pray for this team. Pray that there will be open doors of ministry in the city. Pray for favor for this team of men and women as they bring the Good News of the Gospel to the drug addicted and outcasts of Dzerzhinsk, Russia.