18 Dec 2007
An old man, … all alone, … shuffles his way up to a memorial commemorating a horrendous time for Russia. As he progresses along, he remembers those of his family who were sent off to fight in the war … and never returned.
He is left alone. … Even the strangers that stop by seldom speak.
Crowds of people in the cities … hurrying to and fro; …workers enjoying a break from their toil; … children lining up for their first day of school; … college students heading for their classes; … all following a familiar path and seldom alone. Someone always seems to be next to them; … someone to talk to; … someone to share the daily routine.
Among the crowds of humanity there may be a few … one or two … who are following a different path … a lonely path among those who call themselves Russian Orthodox, … or Muslim, … or atheist. The few who have chosen a different path are believers in Jesus Christ.
Overlay: Less Than .1% Evangelical Believers)
They would like to share their faith with those around them. … But, who will hear?
Peter Zhuk, Senior Pastor for Baptists in Bashkortostan, tells us how it is with the believers in this republic.
Male Voice #1 -- Peter:
I am concerned that Russian Baptists are treated like a sect and are not recognized as a traditional religion or denomination. The Orthodox and Muslims have more power. Often, when we seek permission to conduct an evangelistic activity, we are asked if the Orthodox archbishop has already given us permission for such an activity, which of course he has not and will not. They won’t accept us as a valid religion, even though, according to the law we have the same rights as others. That’s the situation we find ourselves in right now.
The Orthodox Church has a 1000-year history as the state church of Russia. In addition, the large Muslim population in Bashkortostan continues to have a strong influence on the local, as well as the regional government. This makes it difficult for evangelistic programs. Peter goes on to say …
Male Voice #1 -- Peter:
Our missionaries and church workers need encouragement because we have a political situation in Russia right now that is allowing us less and less opportunities to openly conduct evangelistic activities. They are trying to drive us behind church walls. They say to us, “There’s your church building. Go and conduct your evangelistic activities there.” This puts me on guard, as it appears to be leading us to stagnation. Our brothers have difficulty in moving forward, they are told to conduct their services in their buildings and settle down.
Often, humanitarian and educational activity is the only avenue open to missionary work. Rufina, director of the orphanage in Durtuli, discusses the importance of outside help.
Female Voice #1 -- Rufina:
We have government support for basic needs; however, it is great when someone else is able to help us. We want to surround the children with beauty and good relationships so that when the child grows they will continue taking this approach to life.
Items such as clothes and even something small or seemingly insignificant brings joy to a child from one viewpoint. From another viewpoint, that child knows that someone cares about them and that is important.
Mark and Lydia have a ministry helping 12 different orphanages in Bashkortostan.
Female Voice #2 – Lydia:
At least twice a year we try to visit each orphanage and get updated on their needs so that we can help them by bringing such items as clothes, shoes, hygienic and medical supplies. We receive packages such as toys and sports equipment from abroad and take them to the kids. We work with volunteers from many different places such as England, United States and Canada.
Male Voice #2 -- Mark:
Some volunteers, while here, live in orphanages along with the kids, fellowshipping with them and assisting with their own resources and strength.
Recently we helped the Durtuli orphanage to acquire a piece of land and building on which some of the kids can live and work. Soon they will have a small business using a tractor and other farm equipment to raise the crops for sale.
Also, we helped set up a new computer classroom here at the orphanage. It’s our first experience with such a computer project and it’s a very good gift for the orphanage. We would like to see similar computer classrooms in every orphanage in Bashkortostan.
Alcoholism and drugs are national problems that destroys many lives.. Empty alcohol containers are just about everywhere. Alcohol is for sale in most kiosks along the street.
Valentine, for many years, has worked with the people in prisons as well as in the often-neglected alcohol and drug rehabilitation centers in an effort to rebuild destroyed lives. He distributes Bibles, teaches classes and encourages those behind the prison walls and in rehabilitation centers.
Natalya has a similar ministry but addresses the young people who have no meaningful family and often end up on the streets.
Female Voice #3 -- Natalya:
We minister to the kids in many different ways. When we get a kid off the streets, it’s important that he or she becomes a normal, full-value member of society.
Therefore, first off, we feed them, clothe them, get them shoes. After taking care of those needs, we are able to give attention to their documentation needs including identification, medical and school records. We help those living on the street find a home.
Most of these kids have a family, if you can call it that. Often the father is in prison or is dead; the mother an alcoholic. The children are left alone and not cared for. We take it upon ourselves to care for such kids.
At the present time, our family and two helpers are all that is involved in this ministry. We really do need help, at the minimum a team of ten people in order to work with these children.
Victor and Natalya are also directors of the “Summer Children's Christian Camp ... SAIL OF HOPE”.
Male Voice #3 -- Victor:
For many years, we have prayed for our own campground in order to conduct children’s activities. We have been conducting this type of camp for fifteen years. In the beginning, we held the camps on rented property with rented quarters. Later, because of rising costs for property rental, we started having camps in tents and small cabins, which we set up each summer in the countryside.
In the year 2007, it was possible to purchase a camp 30 miles from Ufa. The camp is located in a great part of nature in the countryside and it’s a good place for the kids to rest and for us to conduct all kinds of activities.
After a lot of work, we were able to use the camp for the first time in July of 2007 but still there is much to be done and a need for more finances to get it done.
Classes in English as a Second Language also offer outreach opportunities. Many young men and women as well as some older people are eager to develop fluency in English. The fellowship time and the friendships developed in these classes allow sharing of God’s Word in the small groups.
Several small churches have been started … often meeting in homes or in rented office space. Most congregations are small and their pastor is bi-vocational and has limited time to devote to the outreach work.
Half of the churches in Bashkortostan do not have their own building because it is difficult to find a place to rent and very expensive if found.
There are four million people living in Bashkortostan but merely four thousand evangelical Christians and only 24 Baptist churches. The responsibility to take the Gospel to this entire Republic is great. Your help is needed. Your prayers are essential. Your support can make a difference. You can be part of reaching Bashkortostan for Christ.
The believers know that with Christ they are not alone. They feel the power of your prayers. The door to Bashkortostan may close soon. The need is urgent for you to be personally involved. Will you go before the door closes? Will you be the one to stand along side the few who have chosen to follow Jesus?
Sunni Hanafi SOON-ee Hahn-AH-fee
And whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus. … Colossians 3:17
PRAY that many will respond to God and GO to Bashkortostan.
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