Worshiping and studying the Gospel together in a brother's home.
Mar 23, 2020

Artyom Zemlyanov
SGA-Sponsored Missionary Pastor in Far East Russia

For those who do not know the Lord, anxiety comes. They do not know Jesus, and that means they are doomed to despair, fear, and loneliness in this life. But the worst thing is eternal torment, which they face at death without Christ. This thought doesn’t let me rest. There are dozens of people on my prayer lists, mostly from Blagoveshchensk and Dukhovskoye.

Snowy road in October.
Snowy road in October.

The end of October was very snowy, and that made the roads very hazardous. Every Tuesday I made a 40-mile journey to find myself in the place where God is at work. The local social center building got noticeably colder with the coming of winter. The room wouldn’t get any warmer than 50 degrees F. We held the meetings sitting in jackets. I had to buy an electric heat cannon, because the small heaters at the facility were not effective. This allowed us to raise the temperature a few degrees before the evangelistic meetings. But cold is not an obstacle for children—they are happy to come for a cup of hot tea in a warm and friendly atmosphere. They learn Bible truths about salvation in Jesus Christ. We always have treats on the table. Having tea together is a powerful icebreaker in developing relationships, especially when it’s as cold outside as -22F!

The temperatures turned severe in December. In my old-fashioned car, I didn’t take off my gloves and hat since the car heater didn’t do any good. But at the end of December, thanks to the help of SGA partners, we managed to buy a minivan that greatly facilitated preaching the Gospel. The purchase of a relatively new roomy car became a huge blessing for our entire witnessing team, and I hope for residents of many villages as well.

Worshiping and studying the Gospel together in a brother's home.
Worshiping and studying the Gospel together in a brother’s home.

When night fell on the frozen ground, we gathered in a brother’s home to once again delve into studying the Gospel texts. The Lord brought people to these meetings whom I would not meet in my usual circumstances. Some came once and did not show up anymore, some joined the group and stayed, and they invited others later. It was amazing to see people who held the Bible for the first time in their hands! I asked them how God motivated them through the Word, and they answered that the Lord encourages them to faith, repentance, and to a personal relationship with Jesus. Nobody taught them these phrases, but their hearts vividly reacted to the power of the call made through God’s Word! Their first, timid prayers, were addressed—not to a foggy, distant invented god—but to a real living, loving Christ! Only God’s Word gives faith, not our eloquence or knowledge.

Once I shared about the orphan ministry that our team is developing in the Amur Region. I talked about the spiritual emptiness and loneliness of these children, which leads to bitterness and disregard for themselves and others. As an example, I remembered a teenage girl who, in answer to my question about the meaning of life, muttered that she had no meaning in life, and therefore she lives the way she does. Suddenly Masha, about whom I wrote in a previous letter, emotionally reacted to this story and told the story of her life. It turns out that she, too, was brought up in an orphanage and she is very familiar with what children face there. The first time she heard the Good News about the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ was from a team of believers who periodically visited their orphanage. Then she did not understand, and rejected the call, but after many years Jesus again called her, bringing her to our meetings. Now she reads the Bible on her own, she prays and shares her faith with others!

Another powerful story is connected to a man named Yuri. A month earlier, his son Sasha showed an interest in faith and began to attend our meetings regularly. Yuri is in deep slavery to alcohol. Because of this, his parental rights over Sasha were taken away. Sasha’s mother is also an alcoholic. She left the village and disappeared. No one knows whether she is alive or not. Sasha is brought up by relatives, and his father drank over the years, living in a house where electricity has long been cut off for non-payment. 

When Yuri came to our study, I was very surprised at his appearance. He had cleaned himself up and now looked much younger than I first thought of him. But the most amazing thing was to see how late Sasha arrived, and when he came in, he sat in the only free place—next to his father. When the time came to study and everyone took turns in reading the verses of the text, Sasha handed the Bible to Yuri and pointing out the place, said, “Read.” I furtively watched them trying to hold back my tears. Father and son, whom sin once separated, now sat together with a Bible in their hands, learning the joy of the Gospel!

Salvation is the work of Christ, and He invited me to join His work, and I am only an instrument in His powerful loving hands. The peace and joy of forgiveness abides in my soul. Jesus loves! Jesus saves! Praise Him!

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