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.