Thursday, June 7, 2012

Give us this day our daily bread

Have you ever wondered what kind of difference you are making in this world?  What real change are we making in this ungodly society?  The world certainly seems to be changing but not necessarily for good.  Purity and godliness are being replaced by hatred and humanism.  God’s name is used mainly as the butt of jokes or curses. 
Three Orphan boys in a local village
We have lived in community in Russia for 15 years where it is the lowest in human development but highest in suicide and alcohol and drug abuse.  Many times we have looked out our apartment window and witnessed the abuse of children by and drunken father and women being beaten a partner.  We have stepped out our door to bums rejected by society who lie bloody in our stairwell looking for a warm place to spend the night.  Orphans knock regularly on our door asking for food.  Men and women seek help for their relative who is addicted to drugs.  Seeing the needs of such a desperate society the question always comes to our minds, “What real change am I making in this world?”  
Through all the needs and desperation we believe daily every loaf of bread we give the hungry, every kopek (Russian dime) we give to the homeless, every person we show love, if done in the name of the Lord changes the world.
I saw a man in the hidden in the corner of a “Pradukti” (convenient store) counting the coins he collected throughout the day on the dirty floor.  He stayed hidden from the clerks otherwise they would have surely thrown the man to the cold street claiming it was bad for business.  After I bought a few small items I turned to walk out of the store then I spotted him counting his coins.  Begging on the street hadn’t made more him then a few dollars that day.  It was barely enough to buy a loaf of bread.  I couldn’t help but give him my few “rubles” (dollars) I had in change.  I handed him the money and said, “God bless you.”  He sat shocked barely able to say thank you as he looked at the bills.  He couldn’t believe the gesture seeing that the bills he now held were far greater value then the coins he had collected all that day. 
Homeless man passed out in front of a dumpster
A woman named Chu-du-ra rang my “domaphone” (doorbell) to our apartment.  She was asking for me but I didn’t remember her.  I went outside to meet her.  Something said to me, “Bring some money.”  She had been drinking and hadn’t eaten for a week.  She remembered me from church and said she came to me because I would always help any one who asked.  She was asking for money to travel to a near by village.  I didn’t know what she would do with the money but she promised it wouldn’t be spent on alcohol.  I gave her the money she needed regardless how she would eventually spend it.  
I asked if she had food for the trip.   She didn’t, so we went to the grocery store.   Looking as she did she wasn’t allowed to go inside but I went and bought her all sorts of prepared food, milk and bread.  Before we parted ways I reminded her of God’s saving power from addiction.  She was doubtful she could change but with tears in her eyes she listened to the words God gave me. 
Homeless women given a loaf of bread
Three Tuvan girls came to our youth ministry directly from the Children’s Tuberculosis hospital a few blocks from the church.  They had never been inside a church before and never heard of the love of God.  They sat and listened to the message simple and clear, God can change their lives.  During corporate prayer they had the opportunity to give their hearts to the Lord. 
They for the first time felt God’s power in their lives and were Spiritually fed.  We gathered around and laying hands on them prayed for their healing.  The Christian students in the group had much faith to their prayer because they hand already seen many healings take place in the past in the Tuberculosis hospital. 
I can’t say that I am a world changer but I can say that daily in some way, big or small, I give bread to the hurting and help those who are lost find Spiritual peace.  

Friday, April 6, 2012

A Church Plant with a lot of "Firsts"


Russian church planting team
Chrulock, Siberia A church plant with a lot of "firsts"

This was a church plant with a lot of firsts. It was the first time in which we had an entire region involved in the church planting possess.  It was the first time planning meetings took place months in advance.  It was the first time we used the "mother church" planting principle to start the church. And, it was the first time the national church alone strategically took the wheel to plan this church plant.

And they made sure their bases were covered.  They met with town officials and carefully chose and rented the hall in which we met.  They established who would be the new pastor of the plant and he made contacts and developed a core leadership before the crusade took place.

It was the first time the nationals alone did friendship evangelism in the city establishing love and care for people before the gospel was presented to them.  The locals knew they were concerned for their well being and they wanted to know why.  The new pastor and his leaders did friendship evangelism in the city, trimming trees, picking up trash, painting windows, and washing floors.  Even the local government took notice, and they wondered why.

Finally, it was the first time most of those in the city would hear the good news of Jesus' love and except Him as Savior. Needless to say, when the crusade was announced people cam out in record numbers.

I flew from the United States to preach the opening meeting of the crusade. My first stop was Moscow where I had brief meetings that morning with the leadership of the Russian Pentecostal church.  Then, in the evening I was off to Omsk, Siberia, and the region where we were planting the church.  The city was north of Omsk and was called Churlock.   From the airport we drove straight to the crusade.  I didn't know what to expect.  I have been involved in numerous crusades and church plants but never in which was my only responsibility to preach the message.  But, to my amazement, as I walked into the meeting my eyes feasted on the four thousand people waiting to hear the good news!

When worship began there was such electricity in the air that each of us stood in amazement and anticipation that God was going to do some thing extraordinary.   As I spoke from the pulpit, I knew it wasn't going to be my wisdom or simple words that would lead people to Christ.  It was unmistakably the Lord's service and through all of the prayer and preparation He was going to save meaning that day.  Solemnly, as I gave
the alter call and asked for those who were willing to give all to Christ over 900 people came forward to say, "yes".
It was truly a night of firsts.  We know that it was only the beginning of church planting in that region and that there will many more opportunities. And, I know, for God to see those He desires and that He created say "yes" to Him for the first time will never get old or tiring. He will continue making our efforts as exciting and as fulfilling as the first time because there is great satisfaction we when fulfill his purpose on this earth.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Saving Armenians in Siberia!!

Pastor Armen 
There are hundreds of thousands of Armenians living in Siberia with no gospel witness.  Armen Vazgenovich is a pastor reaching this people group in the city of Krasnoyarsk, Russia.  Here is Armen’s testimony is his own words. “My name is Armen Vazgenovich Matosyan. I was born September 26, 1967 in a non-Christian family. During my life however I’ve been seeing God through my dreams and visions. When I was 12, I experienced clinical death and I saw God at His thrown, and God sent me back. I finished a high school in Armenia and 1985-1987 I was in the army. I got to know God as my personal Savior in 1989; the same year I received water baptism and baptism of the Holy Spirit simultaneously.

After that I was thrown out of my house and rejected by my family because of my faith.  I started my ministry as a youth pastor in the town of Vanadzor, Armenia. Some time later I received a vision from God and clearly understood that He wanted me to go to Siberia and minister there. I didn’t understand why Siberia, but I was taught to be obedient to God in everything.  In several months, my family and I left Armenia for the Siberian city of Krasnoyarsk.  Having come to Krasnoyarsk I met a lot of Armenians who lived and worked in this city. Making acquaintance with them, talking to them, getting knowing their needs I understood why Siberia. 
We started working with Armenian people, and in May 2001 the church was opened. Today we have 120 regular attendees in our church. Our church is considered to be an “Armenian” church but I would say that we are international church, because 30% of people in the church is Russian, Ukrainian, Finn, Estonian, Latvian.  Our church continues growing.
We have 22 new converts, this is the number of people who repented not only at Sunday meetings, but also in the middle weak services.  We have 70 mature believers, 50 growing believers and 17 leaders.
We want the word of God to be spread through Krasnoyarsk and the Krasnoyarsk region therefore we use all possible ways to tell people about Jesus.
Not long ago we began to publish newspapers in Russian and Armenian. We go to large and small towns and villages to share Gospel. We want to visit every place and witness to as many people as possible.  This is why we have opened a Bible school. My dream is to minister in as many places as possible because I see how desperately people need God in this region.  We have a wonderful worship team, they can sing in many languages and they use their talents to serve God and people going with us to different places of Krasnoyarsk region.  Thank you for your support and prayers.”
  



Monday, January 23, 2012

Earthquake hits Tuva, Siberia

As we were getting ready for a new year all seemed peaceful in our region of Tuva, Russia.  But, on December 27, at 11:22 pm, a 6.6 earthquake hit Kyzyl, Siberia.  
Being jolted from our sleep we awoke to our walls shaking and pictures falling.    There was nothing to do but stand in the safest part of the house and watch the walls breath.  We waited for what seemed like an eternity for the shaking to stop.  Once the force of the earthquake had subsided mass panic happened throughout the city.    People left their homes to stand on the streets in -30 degree weather.  Standing beside their buildings they didn’t realize what danger still ensued.  An hour later a 4.8 tremor hit and people ran down screaming, “It’s the end of the world.”  
For hours, people tried to find shelter from the cold, too scared to go back in their apartments.  They traveled to their relative’s homes in nearby villages for a warm place to stay in small one story wooden houses.
The news flashed on the Internet that an earthquake had hit Southern Siberia.  It only took our family a few hours to try and call us about the news.  At the epicenter, 60 miles east of Kyzyl, the quake rated 8.0 on the Richter scale. 
Throughout the night and into the morning we continued to feel aftershocks.  Schools were canceled and students at the local University were told to go back to their villages to start the holiday break early.  The University was too damaged to hold classes.  When all the shaking had finished and all the screaming and panic subsided the report came that no one was killed.  But, there had been  hundreds of thousands of dollars of damage to buildings and thousands of people were displaced from their homes.  The Governor of the region, who is a Buddhist by faith, addressed the community and three times gave God thanks.  God had spared our lives in our small Republic of Tuva.  
This New Year 2012 we are proclaiming the name of the Lord like never before.  Many Buddhist believers, after the quake, went to pray at the local Russian Orthodox Temple.  They asked for the mercy of God on their lives and the lives of their families.  People are searching for answers and want to find peace.   
If you want to help us in our efforts to rebuild Tuva and help proclaim the name of the Lord to people in need you can!  First of all, we need your prayers.  People are in great fear and need faith only God can give.  Please pray that this experience will awaken their souls and that they will respond to the Word of the Lord.  Secondly, we want to help rebuild buildings that have been damaged.  If you, or your church, would like to financially support our rebuilding and humanitarian aid efforts you can through our stateside missions account.  This is God’s time for Tuva to come to know the only true God.  
 
If you or your church want to support our disaster relief efforts in Tuva make out checks to AGMD in the Memo include Account #245678 Class 60
Mail to AGMD 1445 Boonville Ave Springfield MO 65802

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Orphans in Russia



“As long as little children are allowed to suffer there is not true love in this world” - Isadora Ducan  
Today I visited a little orphanage in our city.  When you walk away from a Russian orphanage thoughts and feelings you never have had begin to emerge.  "What if that was my son?  What if James was the new arrival like Alexander who just got here, scared and confused?  What if he didn't have pants that would stay up and was forced to sit on a toilet for 15 minutes every hour because he only had one set of clothes?  What if he was constantly sick because there is medicine but no way to diagnose his illness?"  
video

I feel like I have little to give or offer these children.  My smiles do them no good, they don't reciprocate the gesture.  They aren't happy.   There is no joy in their hearts.  I guess you might feel this way walking away from any orphanage.  But, when you walk away from an orphanage in this Russian Republic where human development is the lowest in the country, these feelings of hopelessness are at an all time high in my heart.  
As I walked into the room for 1 to 2 year olds, they were getting ready to leave to go to a music lesson downstairs.  It was their time to hear something different then mere instructions given but the nursery workers, "Stop crying...sit down...come here!"  With my arrival into the room they were prevented of leaving and the tears were falling and their protests were forthcoming.  They look at me not only as a foreigner but also as if I were an alien from another planet.  I felt their eyes examine me and I sensed that they could care less if I was there.  They just wanted to get out of the room.  Even at such a young age their body language was loud and clear as they questioned the meaning of why I was there. With their gestures of distrust they seemed to say, “What hope could you give me? What good are you to me?” 
Among the children at this baby house are those disabled and too small to walk.  Before I went to see them they made me put on a surgical mask, white jacket, and plastic over my shoes.  They whisk a boy into the room and completely undressed him as if I will give him a full examination and prognoses.  Kair-jik was his name. He has no use of his fingers or toes.  They were stuck together from birth.  His head is twice the normal size.  His penis is inverted.  His mother was a drug addict.  She abandoned him over a year ago.  
"There isn't a doctor who would operate on him", the worker says to me.  She hopes I can find someone how can help him.  She is genuinely concerned.  He is a year and a half old but Kair-jik's life is over before it has had a chance to begin.  I think, “What can I do, I'm not a surgeon?  I'm not a doctor.”  
Six to nine month old babies sit on make shift toilets that look more like buckets to me.  They are just staring at me. Regardless if they need to go to the bathroom or not there they sit. If they would soil themselves there wouldn't be a set of clothes to change them into.   With my voice and eyes I try to get a response from them but there is none.   It's breakfast time for them so my time had to be short.   
We met with the director of the orphanage who has worked at there for twenty plus years.  She looked familiar to me.  She is one of my neighbors who live in my building.  She’s a kind lady but by the look of her eyes she seems to be carrying a heavy load, much more then she can handle.  Michael asked, "What is the greatest need at the orphanage?"      
She says, "The last ten years there have been a lot of changes that have taken place here.  First of all, the birth rate has risen in our area.  Many more parents abandon their children because they do not have the money to support all the children they have.  The majority of women who are giving birth are sick themselves.  They suffer from TB, syphilis, or they are drug addicts.  The babies are born with many problems and many illnesses because of this.  In the 1990s we had only a few children that were disabled.  Now we have many children that have congenital defects (growth problems) from birth.  
The government helps us and they take an active part in our orphanage but it’s not enough.  We need help.  We need medical exams done on the children twice a year but exams cost money, which we do not have.  The State provides different medicines but we can not diagnosis issues and there is no money in the budget for analysis." 
She continues, "We have issues with clothes for the children.  Children within the first three years of their lives have great needs.  They need lots of tee shirts, underwear, pajamas and toys to play with.  We have no money to buy any of these things.” 
Michael asked, “How much does the State government give you per child?”  We have three dollars per day per child for food and only three dollars every three months for clothes.  After money spent for milk, food, clothes and shoes there is no money at all for toys."   
I live not more than a few miles from this baby orphanage but I might as well live a million miles away. I didn't know such a need existed.  
Only one out of ten orphans will become a functional member of society.  Only ten percent of the children I met today will make it.  The rest will be lost.  They will make wrong choices.  They will fall to drugs, into prison and worst yet, suicide.   I've heard it said that the test of the morality of a society is what it does for its children.  Here I am, only a few miles from this orphanage and this is only the second, maybe third visit I've made.  Really, how moral am I?  
Of course, I brought many toys, clothes and shoes with me, three suitcases in fact.  But, these children still don't have underwear, tee shirts, or even pants that cover their bottoms.  They walk around in soaks.  There aren't any toys in their playground.  Why should they bother, I guess?  The kids cannot go outside.  They have no winter shoes or sandals for the summer for that matter.  
But, what will they play with inside?  I guess they will play with each other.  Maybe they will fold a small blanket and pretend there is a baby doll inside as I have seen done by little girls many times.  I tired to give them toys today but my question I have is about their tomorrows.  What will tomorrow bring for these less fortunate?  
Over 1 million children are living in institutions in Russia and 95% still have a living parent.  Their parents can't afford them or they themselves are ill so they give the child to the State.  Approximately 1.5 - 3 million children are living on the streets in this country.  Maybe they started at an orphanage like this one.  
I met a few children today they found on a street as a baby.  No one knows who the mother is or the father.  If they aren't offered something more when they are babies I fear they will go back to living in the street desperate of food, medicine, clothes, and most of all in need of love.



Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Empowering Siberian Youth Leaders

This is the “I”generation.  Really!  Apple isn’t the only one cashing in on this generations need for materialism and individualism.  In this consumer motivated generation we find the devil gaining momentum and the church being disconnected.  
In an effort to see this generation of young people come to know and love God in their own unique way we have begun a campaign in Russia to build a bridge between the church and the igeneration.  Unlike the United States, Russian youth ministers have never read a book about youth ministry, they have never been to a seminar on how to minister to youth, nor have they seen a youth ministry in action.  There is a great need to make contact with these youth leaders connecting them to each other in order to create a united front to reach the youth of Russia more effectively. 
The first tool we want to use to connect youth leaders is the Internet.  Mcvictory.ru is scheduled to launch in May 2011.   “MC” in Russian is the English equivalent for “YM” (youth ministry).  It isn’t designed to show off a ministry but to share information and give encouragement to all youth ministries in Russia.    We want to do the impossible.  We want to bring all 9 time zones together to reveal what is effectively reaching this generation in the Russian culture.  Mcvictory.ru is designed to open eyes to the needs of youth and give tools to leaders to meet these needs.  
Great efforts to reach youth are already happening throughout Russia.  “Next” a Russian youth ministry in Omsk, Siberia took signs to a local park.  Standing in the middle of the park in a large circle they spelled out this sentence, “I have decided not to have sex before marriage!”  They also proclaim their love to God by doing acts of kindness.  They go to the street and exchange cigarettes for pieces of candy and tell people about Christ’s sacrifice.  This youth group is making a difference in their community and their youth ministry continues to grow.  
Larger Russian churches have youth groups of 100 to 200 teenagers and college age students.  Although the youth ministry is large the youth pastors in these groups are not supported by the church rather they are are full time “tent makers” or laymen.   Regardless of this fact, they love young people and they are making an incredible impact on a generation desperately needing God.  
First Ever Siberian Leaders Conference
In March 2011 Heather was able to fund and conduct the first ever youth leaders seminar for all Eastern Siberian youth ministers.  The name of the conference was “Ignite Youth 2011”.  Fifty sold out and dedicated youth leaders were in attendance.  They were desperate for a touch from God and that is exactly what they received.  
One testimony from the conference was, “I didn’t know how ‘out of touch’ I was with youth, but now my eyes are opened.”  Another person said, “I received exactly what I needed to make my ministry more effective.”  
The last evening of the conference the youth leaders went to the streets to do what we call interview evangelism.  Each group started a conversation with a young person by asking 7 key questions leading up to salvation.   The response was overwhelming.   One youth leader had a divine appointment leading a teenager they had known years ago to the Lord.   
We are working on another endeavor to ignite these leaders who are ready to do whatever it takes to reach this generation.   In the works now is a bigger gathering for hundreds of leaders.  We want to invite all Siberian youth leaders to a conference in the centralized city of Novosibirsk.   We want to reach across denominational barriers to walk hand in hand with each other in youth ministry.
Our goal in Breaking the Ice ministries is to not only see youth connect to the youth ministries but to the become a part of the body of Christ.  We believe this generation is the church here and now.   They can make an impact for God like no other generation in history!          

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Spring in Siberia????

Spring is finally arriving!  Well, at least the snow is melting a little bit and although temperatures are still below freezing in Siberia we feel a little relief from the bitter winter.  Winter in the US was a harsh one this year but here in Siberia we saw -50 degrees below zero.
The temperatures are extreme here and we have been experiencing extreme moves of God everywhere we minister.  My wife preached in a local village last Sunday.  Her topic was, "What to do when the darkness seems to prevail."  The people were weeping as she spoke.  You could see the pain in their faces because the darkness is so great in our area of the world.  But, at the end of the message the entire room stood up in a united prayer to end the darkness in their lives and allow the light to come through.  One woman gave her heart to Christ to conclude the meeting. 
Yes, spring is coming and the sun is breaking through the clouds.  We are seeing hearts once cold to the gospel break under the power of God.
I traveled throughout Russia in Feburary this year.  In Volgograd, Russia we saw 15 people give there hearts to Christ in one service.  In Omsk, Siberia, I preached at the largest church in the city and 20 people came to the front of the church to repent of their sins.  I also traveled to Perm, Russia.  There stands a church filled with thousands of believers worshipping the Lord.  They are worshipping in a building the communist leaders once preached their propoganda.  When I gave the alter call in that place 40 people said yes to Jesus Christ. 
Everywhere we go we are seeing spring time in this frozen tundra.  There is so much more on my heart to do.  In March, we will launch our 500th church plant in Siberia.  We have labored here since 1996 and God is truly blessing our "Breaking the Ice" ministry. 
But, not only have I labored but thanks to those who have partnered with us with prayer and support, 107,600 people have not only received Christ as their Savior but are active members in church today.  Most of these people had never before had a gospel witness. 
There is still so much more to be done.  Our vision over the next 10 years is to launch 1000 new churches in unreached areas that have no gospel witness in Russia.  There are over 21,109 cities, towns, and villages and 67 people groups with a adherent of 36 million people who have no gospel witness in Russia.   
Thanks for all who pray for us and partner with with us to see Muslim to Buddhist, Shaman to Atheist communities have a gospel witness.  Because of sacrifices from our partners in the States and Russian national pastors we are seeing those people who have not been reached with the gospel hear of God's goodness for the first time.