SGA Vice President of Ministry Operations
. . . entrust these to faithful people who will be able to teach others also (2 Timothy 2:2).
Our brothers and sisters across the former Soviet Union are accustomed to difficulties and challenges, and the past two years have been especially difficult. The COVID-19 pandemic hit hard, and then this past February, the military invasion of Ukraine began with all of its related tragedies.
Yet despite these challenges, we are rejoicing and praising God for His hand of blessing on the seminaries and Bible institutes sponsored by SGA. They continue to prepare hundreds of faithful students for lifetimes of ministry.
When the Russian military invaded Ukraine in February, all of the plans at Irpen Seminary had to change. It was devastating.
The students were sent away due to the fighting, but some of them had no place to go. Many in the city of Irpen sought refuge in the seminary building, which made it a target. Irpen Seminary was hit by 50 mortar rounds.
When the shelling and troops departed, academic dean Benjamin Brinza returned to inspect the building. By God’s grace, the worship center, library, and dining halls were undamaged! For the last few weeks, Benjamin has led a team of volunteers that have cleared all the debris, filled the huge holes in the roof and are sealing the roof to protect the building from further weather damage.
Now Dr. Igor Yaremchuk, the seminary president, Benjamin, and SGA are pressing forward in restarting pastoral training this fall if it is safe to do so and local fighting does not begin again. Students will reside both at the school and at SGA’s Regional Ministry Center. Also, in light of the influx of Ukrainian refugees into Poland and through our new relationship with the Polish Baptist Union, Irpen will begin an Extension Center in Warsaw. This will be a joint program with Ukrainian and Polish students, with Irpen Seminary and Polish Baptist teachers. This too will begin in the Fall.
At the moment, 238 students are studying at the Almaty Bible Institute and its extension centers. This spring, 24 students graduated from three different programs. Alexander Karyakov, the school’s director, joyfully reports that all graduates are continuing their ministry in local communities across Central Asia. Over the past six months, they held 21 modular sessions spanning six different programs.
In addition to training in Almaty, they continued teaching at their extension centers in the Russian cities of Omsk and Krasnodar, plus Tashkent, Uzbekistan.
At Novosibirsk, there are currently 146 students in both bachelor and masters level studies, with 14 graduates this year—including four from the graduate program. These masters level graduates are a great help to the professors at Novosibirsk as they continue to grow.
They also provide teachers for extension centers and for SGA-sponsored Antioch Initiative training. At Novosibirsk Seminary, a major development is the addition of an extension center in Khabarovsk in Russia’s Far East.
As God provides and leads, we are praying that this eventually develops into the Far East Training Center. Also, they have started the second group of students at their extension center in St. Petersburg, which is also growing and in demand. Extension centers continue to be supported in Ufa, Voronezh, and Irkutsk. Also, a college-level education program for the deaf is planned for this fall. In addition to all this, SGA is assisting five students from Yakutia in their studies at NBTS, and officially this May the churches in Yakutia have joined the Russian Baptist Union.
This is amazing progress in the Far East and Siberia!
At Minsk Theological Seminary there are 221 students enrolled. Of that total, there are 37 students in the pastoral program, 26 in the Music department, and 40 in the Biblical Counseling program. They expect that by the start of the fall term, these numbers will increase significantly.
Then in Israel, there are 166 Russian-speaking students that were trained through Israel College of the Bible. Along with training at the school in Netanya, training is also conducted at extension centers in four locations. There are 23 students graduating from a Biblical Counseling program, which was added to their Biblical Studies course load. With the advent of the invasion, the last course taught this past term was Crisis Counseling, and we made this training available to students in Ukraine and Poland.
Join us in praising and thanking God for His blessing and hand of protection on these vitally important Bible training ministries during these challenging days. Having faithful men solidly trained in the Word of God is needed now more than ever!