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Warm Hearts for Christ in Cold Yakutsk

By Eric Mock
SGA Vice President of Ministry Resources

“Reach Russia Now” was on the hearts of a young man and woman in Soviet Russia. There are some old pictures that seemed to indicate a traveling group of Baptist believers making there way to the remote lands of Yakutsk in the 1920s. Yet by the 1930s, there was no evidence of any believers. In this land of many people groups, atheism and animism were the completing religious views.

All that changed in 1983. Valery and Valentina were relatively new believers. Valery had grown up in Yakutsk but had moved away. He had become a believer in what he called the “underground church” three years earlier, and his future bride Valentina had been a believer for only one year. He had prayed for three years about coming back to Yakutsk to take the Gospel to his people. After speaking with Valentina, they agreed following their wedding they would move wherever God would lead them. Valery remembered the proverb . . . Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the LORD that will stand (Proverbs 19:21).

So they made strips of paper and wrote the names of places they wanted to go on each trip. They folded the strips up small and tight, and tossed them into can. They prayed, shook the can and Valery pulled out a name. “Yakutsk!” he pronounced. Valentina was shocked, and said, “What? Let me try!” She tossed the name back in the can, did a better job of mixing up the papers in the can and drew Yakutsk agan! Seeing their calling confirmed and following their marriage, they moved to a small village outside of Yakutsk, seemingly in the middle of nowhere. Valentina had been a well-respected schoolteacher before she came to faith. After becoming a believer, people wanted to fire her. Realizing they could not fire her for poor performance, they wanted to send her to an asylum for as she termed it, “crazy people.” So when they arrived in the village in Yakutsk, the local school would only give her the job of janitor (but later she became a teacher again). They were tasked by their home church to visit and care for two believers who had been imprisoned for their faith. They faithfully cared for these men and encouraged them. These two men were released from prison in 1986, and others from their sending church and family told them to leave that desolate place as there were no believers and no spiritual fruit. But they remembered the slips of paper in the can and remained convinced that their calling was certain. Then in 1991, when communism miraculously fell, many people began asking questions.

By Gods grace, five women came to faith and were baptized that year! The first church in Yakutia had begun. From this humble beginning, both Valery and Valentina began to travel as much as 1,000 kilometers away taking the Gospel from village to village. But in their church plant, there were two new believers that God raised up. Stas was saved and baptized at age 15, along with Galina, in 1993. Young Stas began to travel with Valery from village to village, and by age 16 was preaching in new churches that were being planted. Galina began to reach out to nearby villages. Valery and Valentina’s new church began to meet in a building that was once a beer pub. As I sat with Valery and Valentina in their humble home with no indoor plumbing and limited heating, I saw two people who for 34 years had been faithful to their calling, and to each other. And now this generation of believers who began as a result of their faithfulness are the ones that SGA is training and equipping through Reach Russia Now to take the Gospel to hundreds more unreached villages.

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