A Letter from Al and Ellen Smith, serving in Germany, Belarus and Russia
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For many years, I have been writing to you about the ministry of my friend and colleague Andrey Beskorovainiy, but this month I thought it would be interesting for you to hear from him in his own words (translated for the benefit of those whose Russian may be wobbly):
By God’s grace, my brother Pyotr and I arrived in Ufa at the invitation of our brother Nail, the senior pastor for Bashkiria. On arrival, we visited the family of Mircha, who arrived from Moldavia and has been in Ufa for a long time, attends services, and leads a group in their home. While we were there, Mircha gathered many Roma brothers, and we had a wonderful fellowship in God’s Word. We received the wonderful news that Mircha’s son Vasiliy had accepted Jesus during the Sunday service. That evening we shared God’s Word and praised the Creator with songs, witnessing and verse. It was obvious that the listeners enjoyed hearing about Christ’s salvation. The next day, on Sunday, Pyotr and I took part in the worship service and preached. At the time of the altar call, a young Roma family came forward. There was no limit to the rejoicing, but it didn’t stop there. After the service, a woman named Dinara approached me and thanked me for my sermon. She said she had wanted to come forward to accept Jesus, but something had hindered her from doing so. I asked her how she could leave without reconciling with God, and told her that she needed to accept salvation from Christ and let Him into her heart. I saw that she was crying, and then she asked whether she could pray for forgiveness at that moment. My heart filled with joy, I told her that of course, it was possible. And then Dinara prayed, and asked Christ for forgiveness. It was a prayer from the heart, and a new person was born. Hallelujah! (Luke 15:7, 10.) In the evening we gathered again at Mircha’s, but there were about 30 people. Again there was preaching, and many sisters prayed, renewing their relationship with God. There were many prayers. By God’s blessing, we were invited to the pastors’ service, where we received many blessings. The whole trip was blessed, and in the evening Mircha, his wife and Nail accompanied us back home. These are blessed people—pray for these brothers and sisters, and for us: 1) evangelism trip to Cheboksary; 2) repairs for our vehicle; 3) praise evening every month. Thank you for your prayers and material support. May God bless you.
For many Presbyterians, Andrey’s overtly evangelical focus may seem a bit unfamiliar. Altar calls would come as a big surprise in a typical Presbyterian service. In Russia, however, they are a common feature of Protestant worship; during the Soviet period, most people did not grow up in families that attended church regularly, so coming to Christ was a very conscious decision and one that had real-world consequences.
Andrey makes many trips like this one, whenever and wherever he gets an invitation, but not generally so far from his home in Kursk. Ufa is just west of the Ural Mountains, some 1700 kilometers from Kursk. Cheboksary, on the banks of the Volga River, is not quite as far, about 1200 kilometers from Kursk. The cost in money and time away from his other responsibilities is considerable. Still, he always accepts the invitation if he can, for the sake of bringing more Roma people to Christ. Although the Roma have been in Russia for the last 600 years, they remain marginalized in Russian society, living on the fringes of communities and the fringes of the economy. It can be a challenging existence. Coming to Christ represents a huge change in lifestyle and in outlook.
In one sense, Andrey’s ministry is intensely personal, in that Roma people find it easier to hear the Good News from another Roma person. Nonetheless, we all have a part to play in making his ministry possible, whether by contributing to Andrey’s work specifically or, equally important, to the costs of keeping us on the mission field to serve as liaisons and coordinators. If you are already contributing to the costs of our sending and support, thank you. If not, please consider doing so. Not everyone can come to Russia, but you can still be a part of our mission.
May God bless you all.
Al & Ellen Smith
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