April 22nd, 2013
Transformed from the Hatred of Man to the Love of God
- The Northern Caucasus region, represented in the map by the pink areas, forms a natural gateway from Russia to the Muslim world. This is both a dangerous and strategic region for evangelism and ministry outreach.
A tinderbox of explosive, ethnic hatreds, this region is home to the tragedy of Beslan and the war between Russia and Georgia. Here a Christian pastor was murdered in front of his church and two young Chechens who had been helping with our summer camps were murdered. But Jesus and His gospel proclaimed and lived by young Next Generation missionaries bring peace to this place of hatred, conflict and war.
School Without Walls (SWW) training in the region provides local discipleship and ministry training programs designed for Christians to grow as Next Generation leaders at the same time that they develop innovative outreach that meets the needs of the people in their specific area. Response to needs can be quick and effective.
With SWW training and resources from Russian Ministries, Next Generation leaders are making a difference heart-by-heart and community-by-community. Here are just a few of the ways Christian leaders in that part of the world are taking the love of Christ to people in this war-torn and hate-filled area:
- Reaching children through summer camps, sports clubs and other avenues for both fun and spiritual growth
- Distributing spring and winter gifts and evangelistic programs for children and families that tell the story of Jesus
- Presenting Christian puppet shows to Muslim villages by young people
- Distributing humanitarian aid, including food, shoes and clothing for people displaced or impoverished by war.
- Starting Bible studies and churches in unchurched communities
- Teaching youth about the dangers of drug abuse, promiscuity, HIV/AIDS and how Christ offers hope
- Providing Christian counseling in the midst of war and terrorism
- Reaching out to orphans and abandoned children
Marat, age 20, student body president of the North Caucasus Mountain Metallurgical Institute (NCMMI): “The lectures I saw and heard made me think about things I’d never thought about before. I learned much that was new and useful. I think this needs to be shared with everyone if we want our children to live in a good, kind, pure world.”
Zira Dzgoeva, age 9: We live with our grandmother and go to school in Tskhinvali. “Our mom ran away to Tbilisi, Georgia, and lives there with my brother. No one wanted to be friends with me because my mom is Georgian. At camp I learned that Jesus loves everyone. I became friends with Diana and Zhorik from Vladikavkaz. Now I come to the church every day. I even do my homework here, and have a lot of friends who also love Jesus! Thanks to Him for this camp!”
William, age 18, NCMMI student: ”When I attended the lecture on abortion I was moved to tears hearing about how unborn children are killed. A phrase on one of the PowerPoint slides especially made me think: ‘For some, life ends before birth.’ I will share what I heard and saw with all my friends. I want to help them choose the right path in life.”
Oleg and Radik, who recently moved to the Caucasus from Tatarstan, shared about their outreach in a Chechen village: “We had prepared ourselves for a possible violent reaction from the villagers when they saw that the gifts contained children’s Bibles. However nothing of the sort happened. On the contrary, on our next visit we saw a young hairdresser in a barbershop reading one of the children’s Bibles between clients. The first time we went to Chechnya we were scared, but now we testify about Christ there without fear!”
Mamuka Kochiev (camp leader): “My whole family, my wife, daughter, and I, are SWW students, and this year we all participated in summer camp ministry. One of the most difficult episodes took place in Ingushetia, where there were 140 orphans and children of prisoners participating in the camp. One day the leaders were doing an object lesson on “You reap what you sow,” and they threw handfuls of candy from the stage out to the kids. The Ingush women immediately started saying, “They’re throwing candy at our kids as though they’re dogs.” We once again sensed just how strong the inter-ethnic animosity is, and started praying. And the Lord answered our prayers through the children, who came up to us and shared their candy with us and diffused the situation.”
How You Can Make a Difference:
Cost per student: $480
Total cost for 50 students: $24,000
To give by check, make your check payable to Russian Ministries and mail to: Russian Ministries, P.O. Box 496 Wheaton, IL 60187
All donations are tax-deductible.
Tel 630-462-1739 • Fax 630-690-2976
April 15th, 2013
- Wade Kusack (far left), director of Russian Ministries’ religious freedom efforts, was recently with the family of Pastor Dmitry Shestakov (second to left). Shestakov faced imprisonment and other forms of persecution for religious activities in his homeland of Uzbekistan before seeking asylum in Ukraine.
Restrictions against evangelical believers continue to grow across the former Soviet Union/Eurasia, aided by widespread corruption, governmental discrimination against ideas perceived as “foreign” to the nation’s traditional culture, and a lack of understanding of the law by both officials and the public.
Daily, churches are being closed down or threatened with closure in Central Asia, while new laws impose more restrictions on worship and evangelism.
One example is Pastor Dmitry Shestakov of Uzbekistan. In 2007, he was arrested at one of his own Sunday services and charged with distributing extremist religious literature and other violations. At the trial, it became clear that there was no evidence to support these claims, but the National Security Service insisted that he still be sentenced to four years’ exile in a work camp.
In the camp, he was tortured, abused, and pressured to convert to Islam. At the end of his term, authorities threatened him with another three years, but he was miraculously released . . . only to be placed under severe “administrative supervision” for years, such as being forbidden to leave his home town without written police permission.
In January 2013, Pastor Shestakov and his family were forced to leave everything they had and seek asylum in Ukraine, asking for refugee status from the UNHCR. They face many challenges, including the possibility of deportation back to Uzbekistan, where Pastor Shestakov will most likely face imprisonment. Your prayers are urgently needed for their safety and future. Financial support is also needed now to provide the Shestakov family with housing, food, medical care, and other essential services.
Your prayers do matter. Thanks to your prayers and support, united with thousands of others through Russian Ministries, the Lord is gaining victories even now!
- ANSWERED PRAYER: Pastor Thomas Kang (right) has been released from prison in Russia after enduring six months of imprisonment. He is joined in this photo by Anatoliy Pchelintsev, a Russian Christian lawyer and defender of religious freedom.
Last February, we told you of the plight of Pastor Thomas Kang, who had been detained by Russian police for months on a fabricated charge of attempted bribery. The true motive of his arrest, however, is shown by the fact that it occurred the day before he was due to open “House of Joy,” a retreat for low-income families as well as a gathering place for Christian celebrations and prayer services.
On April 2, after six months of imprisonment, a judge heard Pastor Kang’s case and released him with a fine. Although justice cannot be said to be fully served, the lawyer who represented Pastor Kang said that this was the best possible outcome in this situation. “In my opinion,” he said, “my client was, to put it simply, set up. This case shows once again that you can’t give even the slightest cause for provocation.” He also said that Moscow police were investigating the money and jewelry, which “disappeared” during a Tula police search of Kang’s home.
Together, we can make a difference. Please continue your prayers for persecuted Christians across the former Soviet Union/Eurasia. And as the Lord leads, please give to Russian Ministries’ Religious Freedom Fund, to support churches and families facing persecution and give emergency aid to fellow believers in crisis.
Find our more at Forum 18.
April 10th, 2013
Thank you for the part you played through your prayers and gifts in helping to make Gift of Hope 2013 a record-breaking outreach. Christmas is such a natural and joyous time to share the good news of Jesus with others. With your partnership, we were able to reach out to more children than ever before!
Russian Christmas, celebrated on January 7, is a natural time to share the gospel. This year, Christians from Russia, Ukraine, Moldova and Belarus all worked together to make the project an outreach success.
Youth from one church in Molochansk, Ukraine, made the story of Christmas come alive, acting it out in Bible-time costumes, then teaching from the Bible after the play was completed.
Young Christians in Omsk, Russia, make weekly visits to two different orphanages, one exclusively for children with special needs. This year, 70 volunteers from 10 churches helped deliver 1,500 Gifts of Hope to children in need. The caring staff and the orphans were deeply grateful for all that the team did to make Christmas a special time for the orphans.
Gifts were distributed to children who attended summer Bible camps in the troubled region of Chechnya as a way to continue building on the foundation that was laid last summer.
Number of Gifts Distributed: Russia: 60,000 Ukraine: 10,000 Moldova: 3,000 TOTAL : 74,680
The Gift of Hope project involved: 411 churches 258 towns and villages reached 3,489 volunteers 543 receiving institutions
Liza, a handicapped child, was thrilled when a team of Christians from Dnepropetrovsk, Ukraine, brought Christmas greetings to her. "She had tears of joy because someone had thought of and remembered her," said Roman, one of the team who delivered the Gift of Hope boxes in Liza's area.
School Without Walls students and church members in Kabardino-Balkaria in the Northern Caucasus, decided to give many of their Gift of Hope boxes away during one-on-one home visits. The outreach team gave gifts to needy families, building community with their neighbors and giving time for personal interactions and evangelism. Families listened attentively to the gospel, many with tears. One father said he did not think such generous people existed anymore, and brought his whole family to church the next Sunday.
When seven-year-old Katrina heard about the Gift of Hope program at her church in Kherson, Ukraine, she donated all of her own Christmas presents. She helped the team distribute the gifts and was deeply blessed to see the joy on the children's faces. Imagine what's ahead for this girl as her heart grows closer to Jesus!
Thank you for your compassion toward these children. The stories above show that your Kingdom investment has had a wonderful return. These children are the future leaders of their nations. By reaching out to them, you are helping them become the stable, confident Christian leaders their nations of need. Now, we turn our attention to next Christmas. The need is so great, with literally hundreds of thousands of children across the region living in poverty and despair. Will you reach out once again to fill next Christmas with hope for even more boys and girls in need?
February 21st, 2013
For the last nine years, Pastor Thomas Kang has been building his dream home in Russia. He designed “House of Joy” to be large enough not only for his own family, but to serve as a retreat for low-income families and the children of soldiers (Pastor Kang is a former military chaplain) and as a gathering place for Christian celebrations and prayer services.
But the dream turned into a nightmare when Pastor Kang and his assistant Ekaterina were summoned to the local immigration office just the day before “House of Joy’s” opening celebration . . . and Pastor Kang never came out again.
Police wanted to talk to them about one of Pastor Kang’s builders, a Ukrainian whose work visa had expired only days earlier. They told Pastor Kang he had to pay a 2,000 ruble fine, which he was willing to do.
However, they then began to question Pastor Kang—a Korean-born naturalized U.S. citizen—about his own activities, accusing him of unspecified violations and threatening him with shadowy punishments. As hour after hour went by in meaningless questions and no concrete charges, it became clear to Pastor Kang that they were simply trying to extort a bribe, an all too common practice. He declared his intention to leave, paid the fine and added a 1,000 ruble “open giving of thanks” to help the police in their work.
Immediately, the officer he was speaking to called in other officers who were waiting outside and arrested Pastor Kang.
Ekaterina, who is in fragile health, was detained overnight without food or water while they continued to question her about vague accusations of wrongdoing. She was released the next day, but Pastor Kang was sent to a detention center.
Without informing Pastor Kang, his family, or his lawyer, police then searched Pastor Kang’s apartment in Moscow, claiming they were looking for recordings of his voice, although they didn’t say why. This might have explained the removal of computers and cell phones from the home, but does not explain the disappearance of several unrelated valuables and 28,000 rubles.
More than four months have passed, investigators have still not produced the legally mandated report of the search to Pastor Kang, and he is still being held at the detention center on a charge of attempted bribery. What was the source of the vague threats against Pastor Kang at the immigration office? Why is such a simple matter taking so long to resolve? Is it specifically to keep him from opening “House of Joy” for Christian worship, or a more subtle attack of Satan against this devoted man of God?
Russian Ministries is committed to raising awareness about Pastor Kang’s plight and advocating for his release. Please pray for Pastor Kang and his family during this difficult and frightening time. And as God leads, please give to Russian Ministries’ Religious Freedom Fund, to provide support and emergency aid for persecuted Christians in the former Soviet Union/Eurasia.
February 19th, 2013
At 9:20 a.m. local time Friday, a meteorite exploded over the Chelyabinsk region of Russia. Amateur video shows a thick streak of smoke and flame low in the sky, and then the camera is shaken by a loud sonic boom and shockwave.
At least 1,000 people, including some 200 children, are reported injured, mostly by flying glass as the blast shattered windows. Praise God, at this time there are no reports of fatalities, although some people are still hospitalized.
Russian Ministries has a presence in Chelyabinsk through a School Without Walls program, summer Bible camps, and the Gift of Hope Christmas program.
Pastor Mikhail Guts of Chelyabinsk spoke with Pavel Tokarchuk, our Russia Director, shortly after the incident. Pastor Mikhail’s son, who was in school at the time, said that the blast caused his desk to hit the wall. Mikhail’s wife said the blast was so strong it felt like the whole house jumped.
According to Pastor Mikhail, people in Chelyabinsk began to panic and run out into the streets. Someone screamed, “It’s the end of the world.” Local authorities called on people to stock up on water and stay home. Pastor Mikhail asks for your prayers for the injured, and also as the believers in the region minister to their frightened neighbors.
Although the injuries reported have so far not been serious, and no believers have been reported injured, please also pray for those whose homes and businesses were damaged, and for those who were left terrified by the incident.
Updates will be posted on our Facebook page. For more information or to schedule an interview, contact Russian Ministries at: 630-462-1739 or email@example.com.
February 4th, 2013
During the last several years the global community has observed a sharp increase in religious freedom restrictions and violations in the countries of FSU, including: the fining, arrest and imprisonment of religious leaders; forced closure and liquidation of churches; the ongoing confiscation and destruction of religious literature, and much more.
As a result of this alarming trend, Russian Ministries (USA), in cooperation with its global partners listed below, and the Office of Congressman Joe Pitts (R-Pennsylvania) are sponsoring a briefing on religious freedom issues in Eurasia/Former Soviet Union, with a focus on causes of suppression of religious freedom. The briefing will take place:
When: Wednesday, February 6, 2013, 11 a.m.-2 p.m.
Where: Rayburn House Office Building, Room B-340, Washington, D. C.
Light lunch will be served.
The purpose of the briefing is to:
1) Raise awareness among political leaders, religious leaders, human rights and advocacy organizations and the media about the general state of freedom of religion in Eurasia/Former Soviet Union.
2) Analyze some of the causes of increasing restrictions on freedom of religion, including such issues as blasphemy and anti-extremism laws in Russia and bans on legal existence in Central Asian states.
3) Highlight specific cases of violations of freedom of religion and encourage support from the global community.
Prospective speakers will include:
- Ed Brown, Senior Human Rights Advisor, Stefanus Alliance International
- Anatoly Pchelintsev, JD, Co-Chairman of the Slavic Center for Law & Justice, Attorney-at-Law
- Matti Sirvio, Founder of the Greater Grace Protestant Church in Azerbaijan
- Rasim Khalilov, President of the Evangelical Alliance of Azerbaijan and Pastor of the Word of Life Church
- Peter Ivanov, Uzbekistani Lawyer
- Ivan Pashkevich, Former Deputy Chief of Staff for President Lukashenko (Belarus)
Russian Ministries, Wheaton, IL is spearheading this event in cooperation with the following supporting organizations:
Stefanus Alliance International, Oslo, Norway
Light to the People, Stockholm, Sweden
Christian Solidarity Worldwide, London, UK
Religious Liberty Partnership
To indicate your interest in attending, please RSVP to Wade Kusack, Russian Ministries’ project manager for religious freedom issues
(email: firstname.lastname@example.org or phone: 630-462-1739).
January 17th, 2013
The ban of adoption of Russian orphans by Americans has headlined news with the passing of a law by the Russian parliament and President Putin, which will punish an entire population of orphans in Russia who have become the pawns in a political battle between the Russian and American governments. Although its significance is not yet clear, the latest news from the Russian government that implementation of the new law will not happen until 2014 may give a short-term reprieve—possibly to the 46 orphans already assigned American parents. But punishing the children for purposes of political posturing cannot be good for anyone in any year.
Most of the 1,000 Russian orphans who might have found a home in America during 2013, will probably remain in orphanages in Russia. There has been much concern about what will happen to orphans with disabilities, especially considering that American adoptions “are common, especially of children with serious disabilities, who have little chance of being adopted by Russian families.”
Statistics show that only ten percent of orphan graduates will have a successful life, after they leave the orphanage where they were raised. As many as 80 percent may become alcoholics and drug addicts. Thousands of Russian girls will turn to prostitution. Ten percent of Russian orphanage graduates commit suicide.
But all hope is not lost. God is working through this injustice, and many Russian Christians are becoming more aware of the orphan crisis in their country and acting to adopt or foster. Often Russian Christians have small homes, but they have huge hearts for adoption and are reaching out to adopt and foster orphans in unprecedented numbers. The Russian government, which previously did not promote adoption, is now encouraging its citizens to adopt and provide foster care. Our Home for Every Orphan partners in Russia, Ukraine and Belarus are fanning the flames of adoption movements by national Christians in these countries. And national Christians are increasingly advocating on behalf of orphans to their governments. For example, our partner, Russia Without Orphans, has presented a petition to the Russian government, to exclude disabled orphans from the adoption ban by Americans.
As never before, there is need and opportunity for Christians in Russia, Ukraine and Belarus to step forward to care for the orphans in their countries. And this is happening. Although Americans (who have adopted 60,000 Russian orphans in the past twenty years) can themselves no longer adopt Russian children, there is so much Americans can do to stand with Christians in Russia and Ukraine to help make it possible for them to adopt and foster the thousands of orphans in their countries.
In a few weeks I will be traveling to Ukraine for a conference organized by Ukraine Without Orphans, one of our Home for Every Orphan partner organizations. Six hundred pastors and their wives from Ukraine, and also Russia, Belarus and some of the other FSU countries, will be attending this conference to motivate, mobilize and provide training to encourage thousands of Christians in their countries to adopt orphans. I would be especially grateful for your prayers for this conference—defending the Fatherless and Changing the Nation.
|IF YOU WOULD WISH TO HELP:PRAY—Join the Pray for Every Orphan network. Sign up for prayer updates at prayforeveryorphan.orgGIVE to help find caring Christian homes with families in Russia, Ukraine and Belarus—Join hands with Christians in Russia to help them lobby for the disabled children but above all be able to adopt their own children. See more information at doorwaystohope.org—a partner organization of Russian Ministries.
GIVE to help orphans who are in orphanages—Help Russian Ministries reach out to orphans who are living in orphanages as Russian Ministries provides Bibles and Christian books and special gifts at holidays, as well as helping children in orphanages experience a Christian summer camp. Find out more at russian-ministries.org.
STAY INFORMED—Follow orphan ban updates on doorwaystohope.org/blog.
Coordinator, Home for Every Orphan
Wheaton, IL 60187
September 10th, 2012
With September comes the start of a new school year for children and students across the former Soviet Union. This year, thousands of these young people will begin the new school term with something new and unexpected: a knowledge of Jesus Christ they discovered at one of our summer Bible camps.
The camp for those with disabilities was especially poignant. Campers came from Zaporozhye, Poltava, Summy, Donetsk, and Khmelnitsky. Like all the other camps Russian Ministries sponsored, when they arrived they found local School Without Walls students and other Christians to love and care for them. The photos in this e-news update show some of the campers and staff from the camp.
Praise God with us that, with help from people like you, Russian Ministries helped sponsor more than 6,000 campers this past summer. Your prayers and financial support helped make it possible for us to reach out to these children and students.
The camp included people with mental or physical disabilities.
Large group sessions focused on Jesus and the truths of the Bible geared especially for the camps.
Fun songs and motions brought smiles too everyone.
Times for songs and personal testimonies stimulated questions.
Special guests made the Bible seem real.
One-on-one interaction demonstrated care to the camper and gave them the opportunity to share from the heart.
Children had the chance to share Bible verses or personal truths to others during group meeting times.
On their way to a gathering.
School Without Walls workers helped lead the fun and the Bible learning.
Skit times gave people a chance to have fun and encourage one another.
To pray regularly for Russian Ministries, click here.
To give to support the training of local workers in followup, click here.
August 6th, 2012
On July 31, the court of appeal in Baku, Azerbaijan, upheld the decision of the lower court, which liquidated Greater Grace Protestant Church on April 26th. Although all church activities are now deemed illegal, God’s people at Greater Grace are not giving up. Pastor Fuad speculates that the judge’s decision was forced and already has plans to appeal to the Supreme Court of Azerbaijan, and to the European Court on Human Rights if necessary. Thank you for your continued prayers and support to help our Christian brothers and sisters in Azerbaijan.
Support Russian Ministries in its effort to promote Freedom of Religion and stand up for persecuted Christians in Eurasia and Azerbaijan.
If you didn’t sign the Petition yet – it is the best time to do so. Sign the Petition, share it on your Facebook wall, and send the link to your friends.
Here is the link to the petition: http://a18a.org/
To help support persecuted believers in Azerbaijan and other countries of the former Soviet Union, visit Russian Ministries’ giving page at: https://www.russian-ministries.org/how/ProcessDonation.php and select ‘Religious Freedom Fund’ from the designation dropdown.
Thank you for your prayers and support!
July 25th, 2012
Church Liquidation Decision to be made on July 31
As we reported in May, Greater Grace Church in Azerbaijan has been threatened with liquidation by the government under laws suppressing religious freedom. (To read our earlier message on Greater Grace Church and other persecution in the FSU, click here.)
Since then, God has graciously used the prayers and support of friends like you to open the door for hope.
The church’s appeal hearing was held on Tuesday, July 17, and the change in the court’s attitude was dramatic. Pastor Fuad of Greater Grace Church reports that the hearing was a real attempt to discover the truth. Unlike the previous hearing, the church’s attorney was allowed to present their arguments.
The Representative of the State Committee for Work with Religious Organizations admitted that their only real complaint was that the committee did not like the church. The Representative further admitted that they were under “intense pressure from all over the world.”
After carefully listening to both sides, the judge postponed the decision until July 31.
Pastor Fuad thanks every friend of Russian Ministries who has created this “intense pressure” through their prayers and:
1,000 petitions to the Embassy of Azerbaijan in the U.S.
1,000 petitions to the Embassy of Azerbaijan in Germany
3,000+ petitions distributed to the U.S. Congress
An electronic petition to the U.S. Congress
Between now and July 31, please pray daily that the judge will rule in favor of Greater Grace Church, sending a signal to the State Committee that persecution of innocent Christians will not be tolerated.
Here are four more steps you can take right now to support Greater Grace Church and persecuted Christians across the former Soviet Union:
1. Pray for God’s protection for all believers in the FSU, for His intervention in the governments of Azerbaijan, Uzbekistan, and other persecuting nations, and for freedom of religion and revival in the region.
2. Give to Russian Ministries to help support national leaders in their fight for religious freedom by continuing to provide Christian literature, training, and support to Christians, and especially pastors, in persecuted regions.
3. Contact the Embassy of Azerbaijan in the U.S. to protest the closure of Greater Grace Church and all other attempts to eradicate Christianity from their country, before July 31:
By email: email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org
By phone: 1 202 337 35 00
By fax: 1 202 337 59 11
By mail: 2741 34th Street NW, Washington, DC 20008
4. Learn more ways you can help persecuted believers in the former Soviet Union by contacting Wade Kusak, Russian Ministries’ Project Manager for Religious Freedom Issues in Eurasia, at: email@example.com.