Translate into Russian

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Another Sunday - Another Changed Life

Today was Sunday and we attended service at Cornerstone Church. Russians love to celebrate birthdays and today 8 people were honored. This is something that happens every Sunday in most Russian churches. We also regularly hear the testimony of someone who has just graduated from the rehabilitation course.

This is Olga. She is a young woman, 30 years old and was addicted to hard drugs for three years. A little over four months ago she entered the rehab program in the new church plant and rehab center in Balakhna. This new church has about 10 people in rehab at this time. Karen and I visit there almost every week. Olga was overcome by emotion and stage fright, so her testimony was short, but she thanked her pastor for reaching out to her and starting a new center were she could hear the gospel, come to Christ and be set free.

This is Pastor Oleg, he is the lead pastor on the new church plant in the tri-city region of Gorodets / Balakhna / Zavolzha.

Oleg was one of the people celebrating a birthday today. 3 years ago he was a drug addict with no hope and no future but death by overdose. He entered the rehab program in Nizhny Novgorod, graduated successfully and then came on staff at the center. Last winter he and a small team went to Novosibirsk to attend missionary training school for three months. Upon graduation he returned to his hometown and opened a rehabilitation center. This church has not yet established Sunday services, but they serve God in a bigger way by reaching the hopeless and the outcasts of society and giving them hope and a reason to live.

Afterward we had dinner at home with a young couple who are facing the challenges of marriage. We were able to share with them some of the principles that we have learned over 35 years of marriage and give them hope for a lasting relationship.

Tomorrow night we will take the overnight train to Moscow to meet some American friends who will be visiting us and teaching a seminar for women. It will be a busy but time for the next 12 days.

We love the young men and women that we work alongside and have the privilege of discipling. It is such a joy to work here and support the young Russian leaders God has called us to. Every day we thank God for allowing us to be here and serve in this way.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Anya - Desiring to Serve God

55 kilometers outside the city limits is a small village with a drug rehab center and once every week we drive there to teach and fellowship. After the teaching today one of the young women, Anya, shared her testimony with us.

My name is Anya and I am 33 years old. I started using drugs when I was 18. My husband had started using before I did and he introduced me to drugs. After several years of drug use my husband ended up in jail and was gone for two years. During that time I stopped, but when he returned home to me I began again. Soon I became pregnant and gave birth to our daughter. I drifted in and out of drug use and eventually found myself in prison for 2 years. It was a bad time in my life.

Sadly, I didn’t learn anything because after completing my prison sentence I came back home and continued in my old lifestyle of drug addiction. Several more years passed and my husband and I divorced. My life continued to be unhappy and my addiction grew worse. I kept thinking that someday I would enter a rehab program but I could never make the decision.

Finally 6 ½ months ago one of my friends said, “Anya, won’t you enter the drug rehab program?” I agreed and very quickly found myself in the Cornerstone Church Drug Rehabilitation center. At first I thought it was a very strange place and the people might be crazy, but I decided to stay because I wanted to be free from drugs.

Over the next few weeks I prayed to receive Christ as my savior and I began to grow in my faith. Two months ago I graduated from the first step of the program. I am now a small group leader / mentor in the second step of rehabilitation. I live for one week in the city in the group home where I help evangelize, serve the church and learn about how to do rehabilitation work. On the opposite week I live and work at the rehab center. There, I lead a small group of women who are like I was when I entered the program. I help them to learn to pray, read their Bibles, grow in their faith and make good choices. I’m so happy now.

My daughter is living with my mom who is an Orthodox believer and doesn’t understand everything I am doing, but she is pleased to see me free of drugs. My desire is to complete the second course of rehabilitation and then go onto the third course. Not everyone goes through three courses, but I want to serve people and to learn more.

After that I have a desire to go to Novosibirsk, where Cornerstone has Bible and Missionary training school. I would like to study there and become a member of a church planting team. Of course I also desire to be reunited with my daughter who is now 13 years old. I understand, however, that it took many years for me to make a mess of my life and now I need to take some time to rebuild my life with Godly character.

Karen and I remember seeing Anya on the first or second day that she entered rehab. She was shy and looked worried. We are so pleased that she is making good choices and that she has really determined to become a disciple of Christ.

The Bible says that the Gospel is the Power of God for salvation to everyone who believes. We see young men and women like Anya, believing the Gospel and being set free from addictions, crime and other bad behaviors. Please as you read this, pray for us, the pastors and leaders of Cornerstone church, and the young men and women in the rehabilitation, homeless, and prison ministries. Pray that the Lord will raise up a generation of Anyas who will take the Gospel to the young men and women of Russia.

Our thanks to everyone who gives and prays, helping us in order that we can continue to live and work in Russia.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Dima - A Young Servant of God

Once a week we go out to a village near the town of Bogorodsk to teach at a rehabilitation center and it is something that we always look forward to.

The center is operated by Cornerstone, a Russian church which we work alongside. On average there are usually about 30 young men and women at the center going through the 8 month rehabilitation course. The success rate for those who complete the full course is about 50% after two years. This is much higher than the secular rate which is typically about 3% from the information we have read.

We love watching the transformation that happens in the lives of the young men and women as they go through the course. We will be featuring some of their testimonies on the blog over the next couple of months.

This brother is Dmitry. He is one of two senior leaders currently working at the center. Dmitry, or Dima, as we call him is a great young leader. He has a really gentle disposition, while at the same time maintaining his authority as a leader. That is a great combination.

Dima is 32 years old and a veteran of the Russian army, having served for a year in Chechnya. He is also a former drug addict starting when he was 16 years old! He is lucky because during that time he never ended up in prison, which is usual for drug addicts in Russia.

Three years ago a drug using friend of Dima’s went through the rehab program, successfully completed the course, and is now living a happy life with his wife and children. After Alexei's rehabilitation they would see each other occasionally and Alexei would always encourage Dima to enter rehab, but he declined the offer every time. Finally in December of 2008 Dima realized that he couldn't go on living the drug lifestyle and wanted help. He called the Drug rehabilitation center hot line and entered the program.

Dima, like most rehabilitants, spent his first week in rehab wondering if he would stay. Being suddenly immersed into Christian Charismatic worship and life can be very overwhelming for those who enter the center. Almost all of them at first think the place is full of crazy people. Dima, however, overcame his fears and stayed.

Being a stubborn sort of guy he determined that he would stay through to the end and

over the next few months he began to grow in the Lord and see positive changes happen in his life. After the first four month course he went on to the second four months and began serving as a small group mentor/leader. It was here that I think his natural leadership skills began to be noticed. He completed his second four months and decided to stay for the optional additional four months. At that point the current senior leader of the center was leaving the position to go off to missionary training school. Dima was asked if he would become a senior leader. He thought, “no one else is available. I suppose I should do this.”

Dima now lives every other week at the center and a week in the city. At the center he has responsibility for about 30 addicts going through rehabilitation. When we watch Dima working with people we see an intense young man who really cares about people. We also see a gentle but determined young man. We really hope that he will continue to serve and perhaps to go on to church plant and pastor in the next year or two.

Dima has a wife and a young child. His wife works full-time to support the family, allowing Dima to be in ministry on a very small salary/stipend. They live together with Dima’s parents. Next week we will have them over to our place to share a meal and to speak into their lives.

It is a real joy for Karen and I to be able to work alongside brothers and sisters like this. When you read this pray for Dima and his family. Pray that the Lord will continue the work that has begun in this young family and that they will continue to live for and serve Him.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Just an update

It is hard to believe that we have not updated this blog since the start of the New Year. We have been busy, but not that busy. I hesitate to write about everything we do here because much of it is routine to us. How many stories can we write about ministry to drug addicts?

So what has been happening here? Well Cornerstone church has sent out two new church panting teams in the last 5 weeks.

One team has gone to the city of Ulyanovsk . The team is small, only 4 people, but they have already rented a home outside the city and opened a drug rehab center. They have 5 people in rehabilitation. Soon they will rent an apartment in the city and increase the outreach that they do. In the spring they will find a hall to rent and begin public church services. These brothers and sisters are off to a great start.

A few weeks later a larger team left for the city of St. Petersburg. . St. Petersburg is a historic city and served as the capital of Russia for years. The Russian revolution started in St. Petersburg.

The team to St. Petersburg consisted of ten people, the largest team sent out so far. Like the Ulyanovsk team, this team has also rented a house outside the city and begun a rehabilitation center. They also have 5 rehabilitants. This month they have plans to rent a second home and they will then begin a ministry to homeless people. Next month the plan is to rent an apartment in the city, increase the outreach and evangelism and then begin public church services.

Both teams need people to pray for them. It is never easy to start a church. None of these church planters are more than 2 years old in Christ. No one on the St Petersburg team has even had a formal Bible School education. They have no financial backing. Both teams however have a lot of faith and a lot of zeal. God will use these young men and women to expand the Kingdom of God and bring many people to Christ.

We have been busy teaching at the local centers for the last month, but we have also experienced a lot of interruptions to ministry. Our Russian car has broken down twice and the repairs cost us about a week of time. Karen has been sick recently with cold/flu so we didn’t do much last week in order to not spread any sickness to the centers.

So, life goes on – ministry goes on. We love being here, serving the Russian people and seeing lives changed by the power of the Gospel.