A few weeks ago, we had the wonderful opportunity to hear the testimony of Pastor Yuri Apatov, executive secretary of the Euro-Asiatic Baptist Federation— a cooperative fellowship of the individual Unions of Evangelical Christians-Baptists of each former Soviet country. The vital importance of SGA’s partnership with the faithful churches that make up the Federation cannot be overstated. As our faithful partners provide the resources for fruitful ministry, this broad network—thousands of churches strong— has been strategically placed by God to share His love and preach the Gospel across all 11 time zones of the former Soviet Union.
If we could select one word that sums up Yuri’s passion and that of the dedicated pastors that serve these churches, it is unity. And that is in obedience to the Lord, who said . . . that they may all be one, even as You, Father, are in Me and I in You, that they also may be in Us, so that the world may believe that You sent Me (John 17:21).
As Yuri relates, “During the Soviet days, we used to have one union for all Baptist churches in one country. Since the authorities persecuted believers, our brothers and sisters treasured their unity and connection. In the 1920s, many churches were liquidated, and the pastors were sent to prison camps in the 1930s. Yet during World War II and right after that, persecution certainly continued but we were allowed to start the Baptist Union within the Soviet Union. This existed until 1991 when the Soviet collapse took place, and then Baptists in each country developed their own unions. As time went on, we thought of how we had come together for our congresses in the past. We wanted to keep our unity, and so the Federation was formed. Our basic principle is that when we are together, we are stronger!”
Yuri’s own testimony is a wonderful example of God raising up a leader at just the right time to help achieve His purpose. Yuri came from a non-believing family in Russia’s Kursk region. He studied physics and mathematics at a special university, and while there, he began soul searching. Reading books by Tolstoy and Dostoevsky raised questions about belief in God and he began thinking. He eventually visited Moscow’s Central Baptist Church and became a believer, which was a shock to his atheist communist parents and at the university. He was thrown out of Komsomol (the Soviet communist youth organization), but by God’s grace not expelled from the university. Yuri’s military specialty was rockets. He would later find out that one of the colonels connected with his case had become a believer himself and also joined Moscow Central Baptist Church! And today, Yuri heads the Euro-Asiatic Baptist Federation, which SGA has been privileged to serve and support for many years!
Please join us in praying for SGA’s ongoing partnership with the Federation, as well as for the individual member churches across the former Soviet Union. Having such a broad network helps accomplish so much more ministry, and the conflicts in eastern Ukraine and the Nagorno-Karabakh region is a great example of how our joint labor can accomplish much for the sake of the Gospel. Ask the Lord to open even more doors for outreach in the days ahead!