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Sunday, August 16, 2009

Prostitution in Russia

As we drive around the city of Nizhny Novgorod and to areas outside the city limits we occasionally see young women selling themselves openly on the streets. At least five times during this past week we saw working prostitutes soliciting overtly during the daytime on pubic streets.

Within the city itself there are several locations where prostitutes congregate regularly. It is sad to see these young women standing at the bus stops obviously trying to get the attention of men driving by who might be interested in what they are offering. Many of the young women look to be college age, noticeably dressed and openly soliciting business. We often wonder if they are earning money in the only way they know how, are they drug addicts, or worse, are they slaves.

Outside of the city you can often see young women standing by the side of the road, waving down trucks and cars. They usually hang out near truck stops or major intersections, but occasionally you will see a sad, young women standing in what seems to be the middle of nowhere selling herself.

The women outside the city are nearly always more rough and desperate looking. We believe that many of them are being pimped out into sexual slavery. A large case of forced prostitution and mass murder was uncovered in 2007 near the industrial town of Nizhny Tagil according to the Russian newspaper, Komsomolskaya Pravda. A gang of pimps had abducted girls and forced them to work as prostitutes in their brothel, killing the ones who refused. A mass grave with up to 30 victims was found. The law in Russia prohibits prostitution but we have read that the fine is only about $65. Aids and other sexually transmitted diseases are rampant here. Addicts and sex workers are prime targets for HIV, hepatitis and AIDS.

It is difficult to imagine the forces in life that drive some women to prostitution. Obviously one of the big factors is drug addiction. Pray with us as the Cornerstone church planting movement continues to bring the good news of the Gospel to those who are addicted. The Gospel brings hope to the hopeless and breaks the chains of addiction and spiritual bondage. Every week we see young people who were addicted to drugs set free by the power of the Gospel.

Sunday, August 09, 2009

Ministry in Russia

We have been very busy for the last few weeks with our regular load of ministry responsibilities.

Of course, Sunday is a day of worship and we gather together with our friends at Cornerstone Church. Church attendance this summer has averaged about 185 people. This fall Pastor Dimitry has decided to go to two services because the rented hall is getting too full on Sundays.

Today's church service was in many ways pretty average. We had about 190 people with about 15 visitors. The worship was loud and exuberant, if not always in tune. We celebrated one graduation from the Social Center - a six month course which teaches homeless people how to get back on their feet and back into society.

Homeless Center Graduate

We also saw four former drug addicts graduate from the drug rehabilitation program. All four of these youg people have graduated from the second course and will continue to serve the church and the center by ministering to those who are going through the rehabilitation program.

Former Drug Addicts Now Serving Christ

Pastor Dmitry preached a short but powerful sermon about the grace of God and casting your sin upon the Cross of Christ. Many people responded to a call for prayer and were encouraged to trust Christ completely for the forgiveness of their sins.

Pastor Dmitry also gave a call of repentance for those who had never trusted Christ and nine people responded and prayed a prayer of repentance. Afterwards the entire church celebrated communion together.

9 People - Most of them addicts - Praying To Receive Christ

Every Wednesday we visit the Social Center for Homeless People and the new Dzerzhinsk drug rehabilitation center. We spend time in fellowship and teach for at least an hour each visit.

With Our friends at the
Homeless Center for Social Rehabilitation

Dzerzhinsk Drug Rehabilitation Center
On Fridays we visit the Bogorodsk drug rehabilitation center. This center is the main one operated by Cornerstone Church of Nizhny Novgorod. It takes almost 1 1/2 hours to drive to this center. The center usually has about 30 people who are going through either the first or second course of rehabilitation. We often sit for a while and have tea and talk with the leaders, then there is a time of worship led by the rehabilitants and afterward I teach for 1 1/2 hours. Often after teaching we have a question and answer period where I will take any question about the Bible or the Christian life and try and answer it for these new believers.

Bogorodsk Drug Rehabilitation Center

This week we will begin a regular time of teaching at the new drug rehabilitation center in the city of Gorodets where there is a new church being planted. This will probably become a regular Thursday appointment.

Pastor Oleg (left) and His Church Planting Team

Mondays are sometimes a day off and sometimes a ministry day, depending upon the need. Tuesday is a study day for me as I try and prepare most of my teaching outlines on this day. We are currently giving pre-marriage counselling to two couples and because of their work schedules we find ourselves skiping our day off to meet with them.

We love what we do. We wouldn't want to be doing anything else or living anywhere else at this time in our lives. Our ministry is fruitful as we help disciple a church full of new, young believers.