[vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]Precious family of God,
We have been in Russia for 40 days and in Siberia for more than a month. I include a letter I received from our friend, Wouter de Villiers, a lawyer from Bethlehem, SA. Through the years a few of our SA friends visited us in Ukraine. Every one of them had a life-changing experience. Wouter is the first visitor who flew straight from SA to Moscow and then, after a day or two in Moscow and sharing some ministry opportunities there with us, flew with us to Siberia. He spent about ten days with us in Siberia. He was blessed with the people that we met and also by the word ministered. He was a great blessing to us and to the people that met him. Please read his impressions.
A VISIT TO SIBERIA
I had the privilege of visiting Siberia from 1/4/2010 – 13/4/2010. During this time I traveled and stayed with Leon and Dima (the faithful “perevochick”/interpreter). Spring has arrived on the 1st of April, but it still snows on almost a daily basis. Make no mistake, it is cold.
The “province” of Irkutsk is situated in the region of Siberia. Irkutsk province, about 25% of Siberia, is roughly the size of South Africa. Russia is a huge country which encompass approximately a sixth of the world’s landmass.
We were based at the Bible School in Angarsk, approximately 1 hour travel from the city of Irkutsk. At the base there is also a rehab centre, accommodation for students, and a church hall where they have services on Sundays. The centre is headed by pastor Anatoli who arrived there from Ukraine about 14 years ago.
Since then they have planted 84 churches and more than 70 rehab centers in many villages and towns in the Irkutsk province. All the pastors and rehab leaders were saved since Anatoli and his family arrived in Siberie and about 90% of them went through their rehab centres and they were all trained at the Bible school in Argansk and some went to Moscow for further mission training. They were then sent out as ‘missionaries’ to start a church in the many towns and villages in that very large and remote Siberian area. Finances were raised from their own communities. Some of the churches are still house churches and the rehab centers are in many cases a room or small wooden structure next to or near the pastor’s very basic wooden house where the rehabilitants can sleep. The rehabilitants are there voluntarily and subjected to a daily program of physical working and teaching from the Word. The average ‘success’ rate is between 70 – 80%.
From the base we moved out to other villages. It is here where you get a clear impression of the absolute poverty in which the people live. Besides the unbearable cold – this past winter the temperature dropped to minus 50 degrees – only in some villages only a very few houses have running water and flushing toilets. They have to get water from a few outside wells in the village and use the so-called “long drop system”. It works fine, it is just very inconvenient. Despite this, you don’t hear them complaining. They will treat you like a friend which they haven’t seen for a very long time and give you food to eat, even to their own expense.
The majority of people are addicted to drugs and/or alcohol – this is the result of the oppressive system of Communism. Those that are addicted are almost always HIV positive, many of them due to the use of dirty needles. During Communist times everyone worked for the State and was paid a monthly (very small) salary. Part of the monthly salary was often a bottle of vodka. This ensured that people were enslaved and easy to control. The salary was so small that no one could afford even a small vehicle. From a young age children were taught that there is no God. The result was an addicted, atheist society. After the fall of communism there was a great vacuum and there was unfortunately a flood of drugs, very cheap tobacco products and pornographic material that poisoned and addicted and killed multitudes of people from a very young age.
I further had the privilege to meet Christians who were jailed for their faith in Christ, for example an old man by the name of Constantin. He was jailed for 5 years in Siberia and another 5 years in Ukraine. Another pastor in Moscow spent 20 years in prison for his faith! (How is that for Refiner’s fire!). This is the 1st generation of people that came out of the oppression of Communism.
The people there have a brokenness and humility about them which I have not experienced or seen before. They show respect and honor, even to strangers. They have a love for Christ (those that know Him) unlike I have seen among communities before. They believe in the risen Christ and show respect to Him as if He is physically present (not that He was ever absent). On “good Friday” they would greet each other by saying “Christos vascrees!” (Christ is risen!), and then the other person would respond “vaistino vascrees” (He is indeed raised!) Normal conversations would often be ended with “slawo Bogu” (praise God). While I am writing this I remember the faces of some of them and the marks on their faces which is the result of years of struggle. It is difficult to contain my emotions thinking about them. You will not find pride or contempt there. These are humble people fit for the Master’s use.
I have been wondering why God allowed this to happen – approximately 100 years of oppression. Then I thought about the Jews, God’s own chosen people who were subjected to 400 years of oppression in Egypt. There is at 1st glance no good explanation for the oppression of the Jews in Egypt, they just happened to be born there! The same goes for the Russians. I however believe God allowed this to happen in both instances so that he can have a people which are humble in His sight, a people who are not spoiled with the “god” of materialism and convenience. I believe the Lord is raising up an army for Himself in Russia, but more specifically in Siberia, which will flood the earth with the good news of the risen Christ. I have met some young men and women at the Bible School who were healed from Aids during the last year. Some of them have the hope of getting married like many young people has, but some have only one cause to live for – they were “dead” a year ago with Aids – to preach the gospel of the One that loved them and healed them.
The visit has given me an acute awareness of the immediate and long term needs for the sake of the gospel in Russia, and more specifically Siberia. I believe Siberia will be honored and used by the Father for the sake of the martyrs that gave their freedom and lives for the gospel during the last 100 years.
Do we still remember the meaning of the phrase “the gospel of Christ”? Not the watered down version in terms whereof you are saved, but cannot help to continue to sin. The Good News is that Christ did not only save you in your sin, but also from sin so that we can again have a direct and intimate relationship with the Father. If you believe that we died with Christ and rose with Him (Eph 2:4-6), is any other interpretation possible?
The sinful Adam nature has been crucified and buried with Christ and in Christ you are new creation, you now have the nature of Christ in you (Rom.6:1-10, 2Cor.5:17). Since the risen Christ is now living inside of you, you are enabled by His Holy Spirit to be a dynamic living witness for Christ (Acts 1:8)! The Word, the Son of God, became flesh and in that Eternal Word, we were included before time began, and therefore co-crucified with Him and co-raised.
Since the Risen Word (Christ) is in us, the Word, by the indwelling presence of God’s Spirit, has also become flesh in the believer, each with the mandate to preach the gospel to the poor, to set the captives free, to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord… (Luke 4:18-19).
And did Christ Himself not say:
· “ Go and make disciples of all nations…”(Matt 28:18-20), and
· “ As the Father sent Me, so I am sending you into the world…”(John 20:21)
· Paul also added; “To you have been entrusted the ministry of reconciliation” (2Cor 5:18-19).
Is there anything in the above giving the impression of self-preservation? Is it not an instruction to focus your attention on evangelizing the world and getting yourself involved with missions to reach the nations?
The people there need finances. They have very competent administrators which are lead fully by the Holy Spirit. Precious brothers and sisters in Christ, we have such a great privilege and opportunity to finance the spreading of the gospel in that so-called “God forsaken” part of the world. There are areas in Siberia where the gospel has not even been preached before!! (How is that for effective Communism!). To the north of Siberia, the snow is so heavy and the infrastructure (if any) so poor that you can only reach some villages on horseback.
I am not talking about ‘luxuries’, like finances to paint a church or building a baptism bath that can be used for the more than 8 months of winter… I am talking about very basic practical needs to enable people that are totally sold out for the Gospel of Jesus Christ, to build a basic structure that can be used as rehab centre, that are already like a Bible and Mission school, where human wrecks are restored and equipped to be sent as missionaries to the thousands of lost and dying precious people for whom Jesus gave His life, gave His all… Money is needed to help pastors, who have no transport, to get a 2nd hand car, to get running water and a toilet in their homes, etc… Basic life necessities to enable willing pastors and helpers who have already given up all for Christ to fulfill HIS great commission – to more effectively rich and save the lost and equip them to effectively make use of the very urgent NOW opportunity in Siberia where people will be saved and healed and sent into the world as missionaries, as true disciples of Jesus.
There is so much more to say and photos to show, but I believe I have said enough, not only to give an idea of the situation in Russia, but also of the privilege we, as fellow believers, have to be involved in that vast and very strategic country in the fulfilling of our Savior, Jesus Christ’s great commission.
Wouter de Villiers
Since Wouter’s return to SA we have really gone into the interiors of Siberia. Everywhere more and more people are waiting and begging us to come.
The day after Wouter’s departure Pastor Igor, who is regional director in Usole-Siberskoye region, came to fetch us by car. He is burning with the zeal of God and in the six years since he past the Mission school he planted the church in Usole-Siberskoye and also established a strong rehab center.
Both the church and rehab work has grown from strength to strength. With his team, mostly people that passed through the rehab centre in Usole-Siberskoye, he also planted six other churches, most of them also with a rehab centre, in villages and towns in that region. Igor’s parents were both officers in the Russian army. After the fall of Communism, Igor, like thousands of other youngsters, became addicted to drugs. His body was destroyed and he was dying of aids and TB and his liver completely packed up, when God powerfully saved and healed him. He is now married to Maria, a very special person with a good background and education. They have three beautiful small children – after Igor was told that they will never be able to have children! Four months ago Igor developed a very high temperature. The doctors could not diagnose it. They gave him medication that helped temporally. A few weeks ago he was taken up in hospital. A week before we arrived they allowed him to leave but he could only keep his temperature down while continuing taking his medicine. When he came to fetch us, we of course immediately prayed for him. He says that God healed him again and he is now able once more to continue in his ministry with fresh zeal.
Igor took us to a beautiful village, Mishi-lovka, overlooking a lake and river, to Pastor Andrey. No running water or toilets in any of the houses there. We had a wonderful time flooded with the love of Jesus and melting everybody in His presence in their small wooden church building, called their ‘prayer-house’. Healing and salvation time. The few members and the pastor built everything themselves. The roads in that area are extremely bad and slippery because of the ice and mud.
In a very old Lada a member took us to the next town – about 10 000 inhabitants. Very blessed two days of morning, afternoon and evening meetings in the rehab centre and ‘prayer house’. Incredible thirst for God and people that wouldn’t let us go, led to about ten hours per day constant teaching and ministry, also to individuals. Wonderful testimonies of complete salvation in the revelation of Christ’s perfect sacrifice to reconcile and justify and redeem all people.
Pastor Igor came again to take us with his small car to his town, Usole-Siberskoye (about 90 000 inhabitants), and we spent two days from ‘early morning till late night’ ministering to the 30+ people in their rehab centre and teaching and preaching in the local church. It was a blessing to listen to testimonies of people in the rehab centre and the church of how the word they received, when we were with them for the first time in October last year, completely released them to live in the wonderful grace revelation of Christ as their righteousness. Their peace and joy in Christ has increased and God was bringing more and more people into His beautiful kingdom. Power manifestation of people being set free followed again the Word. Wonderful contact also with Pastor Stepan, from the other Evangelical church in Usole-Siberskoye. His congregation also attended the morning and afternoon sessions, about 8hours a day. He comes from a family of believers who went through the ’great tribulation’ of communism. His grandfather was such a powerful witness of Christ that his whole village became followers of Christ and God miraculously kept them and used them for revival in a large community. The villages around them also were powerfully impacted by the Gospel and at least 50% of all the inhabitants turned to Christ. After the first morning session, Stepan asked me to pray for him and he was completely broken in the presence of God and testified that God completely renovated and renewed him in every fibre of his being.
We were then taken to the town of Pastor Denis and Ira. Both came via drugs and prison to Christ. Denis also had aids and was told that he would never have children. Now, having been healed from aids, they have a beautiful 5-year old daughter and two healthy and very active sons. We spent two remarkable days with them and saw miracle deliverances and healings that were followed with ecstatic joy, as we ministered at their rehab centre and also in the evening to the church members.
Denis is the only one of ten pastors in his region, the villages and towns around them, that has a car. It snowed quite a lot that night and Denis had a problem with his car and could not take us to the next town. He contacted Sasha and his young wife, Luda, who took us to a village in the mountains, very beautiful and everything covered with layers of snow. They drove many kilometers from their town to come and fetch us and take us to this village. Sasha’s left hand is just a small stump with no sign of a finger. On his right hand his thumb is still left and two very short stumps of the rest of his fingers. He is an able driver, even on a snow-covered road! He told us that both he and a friend were drunk one winter night and he walked his friend home. From there he had to walk a couple of kilometers, in -40C weather, through a forest to his home village. He wanted to take a cigarette out of his pocket and could not. His fingers had frost bite. He lost the way, but, in his words, a ‘shadow’ appeared to him and told him to follow. He was led to a specific house in a small village where the only family lived that had a car. The man took him to a hospital in a town nearby. He lost his fingers, but praise God, not his life. While in the hospital he had an encounter with Christ and was saved. He then went to a rehab centre and Bible school and is now a pastor. He and his wife have a small daughter.
We had a powerful ‘grace-time’ and was just swamped with the precious presence of God in the small single room house of Pastor Vadim and his wife and their three very active small sons. Their one-room house, about 5 by 5 metres, is also the ‘prayer house’ where the congregation, about 15 people, gathers. Powerful encounter with Jesus as ‘the Way, the Truth and the Life. Begged to come back soon. After the four hour service and a lovely simple meal, Sasha took us to our next destination.
The next two days we spent in a small village, just more than a thousand residents. We stayed with Sasha and his wife, Natasha. Like every other house in that village there is no running water in the house and only the outside ‘long-drop’ toilet. They have three children. The eldest is a bright young boy,10 years old. He is a child of Natasha before she found Christ. The other two, a beautiful young girl, Maria, and Ivan, a bouncy one year old boy, God gave them since they met and got married about four years ago. Sasha was totally addicted to drugs since he was about 14 years old and, like at least 90% of the pastors we met here in Siberia, he also spent a long time in prison. He now ministers at the local rehab centre. He told us that the reason his left hand was so short and crooked and his shoulder so skew, is because, in his pre-Christ days, while under influence of drugs, he was shot. He can hardly use his arm. Sasha is extremely thin. He loves God with a passion. Before we left I asked Natasha for a nail-clipper. She said only Sasha had one and I could use it, but I must remember he still has aids. With a holy anger against satan and his terrible works of destruction, we ministered to Sasha healing in Jesus’s Name.
The pastor of that church is Andre. He was born in the far northern part of Siberia. As a notorious convict he spent 18 years in prison. After his release he continued in drugs and after about ten years he met Christ and was saved and totally delivered. Three years ago he got married to Vera, who also came via drugs and the rehab centres. Andre is truly filled with the Holy Spirit. He is a wonderful musician and worship leader. He is a very able and committed pastor. We walked a couple of kilometres on wooden beams and long planks which are used as ‘pavements’ in incredible muddy and melting snow conditions and afterwards had quite a job to clean our shoes and get all the mud removed! All of the local people walk with their ‘gum-boots’! Andre took us to different families where we prayed for people and again and again witnessed the power effect of the ‘grace-upon-grace’ that overflows from the fullness of ‘Christ in us’ that radically blesses and changes people and results in the precious ‘peace of God, our Father, and Jesus Christ, our Lord’!
Sorry, skipping a few days and places. I just had no time to keep a record of all the places we visited. It is just one constant flow of ministry and we are taken from one place to the other. During all this time Dima and I only once got to bed before 1 at night. Everywhere God confirms the word also with signs and miracles. The greatest daily miracles are the people instantly saved from sin and drugs and brought over from the kingdom of darkness into the glorious Kingdom of the Son of God’s love!! It is absolutely amazing to witness again and again this miracle transformation and how in one moment the densest darkness is completely erased by the glorious Son/Sun of Righteousness and then the exhilarating experience, also in your own spirit and the rest of the congregation, in sharing the pure and amazing joy of one suddenly finding himself immersed in the pure love and light of God!
Still deeper into this ‘ice-land’. After a train journey through the night we arrived in Taishet, where Pastor Valodia, regional director, met us. This is the main town of quite a large region. At this stage only 5 towns in that region of 40 towns have a small church. Taishet has about 60 000 inhabitants. During the time of communism this was only a ‘prison-town’. Thousands of prisoners in the many prisons. The state made use of the prisoners as ‘cheap labour’ for many of its projects. The Trans-Siberian railway is called the railway built on human bones. Stalin said that a worker was for him like a ‘candle’ – if he could get about two years of labour from a ‘candle’ he just replaced it with another. The prisoners were also used to work in the forests and fell the trees and prepare the logs, much of which was used for export. There was one large prison in this town specially built and used for political prisoners – any person that dared to oppose the government! Solchenitchen was also in this prison. The Christians were regarded as a very dangerous threat to the state and many Christian pastors and leaders and other believers spent many years in this prison where they were tortured and many died here. No mercy was shown. Since the fall of Communism that notorious prison was totally dismantled and a small Baptist church is now built on part of that site! We also visited the neigbouring town and had a glorious time of ministering there. Young addicted people started crying in God’s presence and were set free by the wonderful love and grace of Christ. In this town are also many prison buildings. Prisons were specially built in Siberia because of the harsh conditions. In the region where we are now the temperature dropped to minus 55C this last winter. Places were covered with 2 meters of snow. They had to daily clear the snow away so that their doors could open and light could get in through the windows.
We would have gone back for the last week to the capitol city, Irkutsk (700 000 people), for ministering in the larger churches there and meetings with the leaders of the different churches. Praise God that He saved us from making our own programs. In no way we would have planned to spend most of the last week in this region of Siberia. There was such an urgent call from Pastor Valodia and others from this region that Andrey, who arranged the Irkutsk program, cancelled that whole program and gave permission for us to come to this part of Siberia. Yesterday was one of the most important ministry days. The Holy Spirit worked so powerfully. We hardly started speaking when in the rehab centre, when, especially the men started crying in the powerful consciousness of the presence of God. We ministered for a few hours and men and women were radically saved and literally translated from the horrible kingdom of darkness into the Kingdom of the Beloved Son of God! The power of the Gospel unto salvation was again and again demonstrated before our eyes as we saw the miracle of the faith of Jesus suddenly filling a spiritually dead and totally lost person and revealing to him/her the miracle and perfection of the very righteousness of the Son of God being theirs! New Creation – ‘BEHOLD! ALL IS NEW!
Again a few days later. Yesterday a brother, Victor, took us with his Honda 4X4 to a village about 60 km from here. Impossible to have got there with any normal car! Praise God for 4X4’s and Siberian drivers! There were places that I thought it would be impossible to even try to get through, where Victor just smiled, went forward, sometimes reversed, but eventually got us through! I am so sorry we didn’t have a camera with us. I took a few photos with my cell-phone. During the last three days we had nice sunshine weather and the snow started melting again. We still passed through ‘mountains’ of snow pushed to the sides of the roads. Neither me nor Dima are good photographers and we often, after some events, realized we should have taken photos to share some of the amazing things with you. Oleg is pastor in this village, with about 2 thousand inhabitants. Precious man who is also a triumphant trophy of the glorious grace of Christ. A few years ago, shortly before he had to travel to the Olympic Games to represent his country as their number one feather-weight boxer, he started drinking again and was dis-qualified and lost his place in the team. He eventually landed in hospital and was so sick that the doctors gave up hope for him to live. In desperation he cried out to God and said that if God is and God gave him back his life, he would serve God. He was miraculously healed and released. Oleg has a passion for Christ.
The last ditch we passed through on our way to Oleg’s village, we had to get out of the car to see if the water was not too deep for us to travel through. Victor decided it was OK! We prayed and he got through! We realized that it had to be a short visit because with the snow melting everywhere that stream could become a roaring river and we would be stranded there for no one knows how long! I could write a book of what we experienced only there! Every house we visited the Holy Spirit worked remarkably. Just this one story: – Oleg took us to a house to visit the Bulgarian owner to whom Oleg has spoken on a number of occasions, but this embittered man could not get through to God. He is very agile with his one leg and 2 crutches! While we were talking to him his 20 year old son came into the house. God gave me a word for him and we hardly started speaking when it seemed as if he was arrested by the Holy Spirit and his heart just melted in the love presence of his Father. At that moment his mother came in and she was surprised to see us all there. We turned our communication to her and she suddenly started crying and wanted to run out of the house. We stopped her and after a few moments she in amazement just opened her whole being for her Saviour and prayed and thanked her Father with tears streaming down her face for His wonderful grace and love. After all that happened her husband spontaneously opened his heart for the God who first loved him. What a Godly miracle when darkness and all the lies of satan is cancelled by the ‘glorious light of the knowledge of God in the face of Christ’!
God worked so powerfully that we lost our fear of not getting back through the water! Eventually, after about five hours at the village, we were able to get through the water and again through all the other obstacles and reached the town in time for a very blessed evening service with the leaders of the church in Taishet and those from the neigbouring town.
5 May. 42 Days since we left Kiev, Ukraine, we are now in the train on our way back to Kiev. We already passed the two borders, where the border police came to check our passports. The first stop was at one 04.00 am. Praise God – everything OK!
So much happened during the last few days in Siberia. Incredibly full and ongoing experience from glory to glory. Supernatural power and consciousness of the presence of God that made it easy for people to receive the ‘abundance of His grace and love’. JESUS IS SO PRECIOUS AND BEAUTIFUL!!! Urgent invitations to return as soon as possible. Please pray with us for the program ahead.
We flew back yesterday from Irkutsk to Moscow and after the six hour flight and crossing the 5 time zones according to our watches, which we had to forward with 5 hours, the flight took us just one hour! What a bonus to suddenly have a day that is five hours longer than usual! It enabled us to do a lot more because we ‘redeemed the time’! At last via the electric train, via the Metro (3 X up and down elevators to change trains and that with our extra heavy ‘Siberian winter’ luggage), we arrived in the apartment of our Armenian friends, Sarkis and Naira. Praise God for prayers answered and Sarkis at last is in the process of getting his Russian Passport – after a few years of living in ‘fear’ without any passport in Moscow. We met Naira’s mother and she had a powerful encounter with God as we prayed for her. Came out of a background of absolute superstition where they were taught as children to pray to wooden and other idols. She found Christ as her Saviour after she was miraculously healed a few years ago.
In Moscow a meeting was arranged for us yesterday evening, and, as usual, we booked the last train from Moscow to Kiev. The room was packed with mostly young students last night. What a precious last opportunity for us and a powerful confirmation that the Holy Spirit is doing a unique work in Russia. Ministry just flowed and we had to literally ran out of the door and into a taxi to get in time for the train that departed at 11.30 that evening.
Back in Ukraine after 42 days in Russia, Siberia.
To me personally this has been the most challenging period of ministry I ever experienced in my life. In words one cannot fully describe how desperate and urgent the situation is and the need for the ‘Gospel of God’, the ‘Gospel of His dear Son’, the ‘Gospel of Christ’, the ‘Gospel of the glory of Christ’, the ‘Gospel of the grace of God’, to be preached and ministered in the power of the Holy Spirit. In Siberia I realized that nothing else than the ministry of Jesus (Math.9:35-10:1), and that of the early church in Acts, must be continued in this country…
Thank you so very, very much for your wonderful love-partnership in the continuance of the ministry of Jesus Christ, our Saviour and LORD. We consciously experienced your prayer-support. Thank you so much for your financial support. We experienced the compassion of Christ for these precious people. They served us in the love of Jesus. They lack so much. I gave away some of my clothes to pastors. Dima gave his laptop to Pastor Igor and Maria. Such strong and compassionate leaders filled with the zeal of the love of Christ. They so needed a computer for their ever growing admin. What money we had we prayerfully blessed people with. They travelled hundreds of kilometers often with their very old Lada cars to fetch and take us to the many towns and villages we visited and preached the Gospel. Every time God provided something so we could pay for their expenses, buy some very basic food or clothes for their small children. People asked us to thank our SA family and tell them they are praying for you now daily. They said we must thank you that you made it possible for us to come and visit and bless them with that which is without price. Never before in ministry have I been so conscious of the dire need of people for the Gospel of God, which is alone God’s power unto salvation, as in Siberia. I believe Siberia provides the most incredible opportunity and challenge for the church in South Africa to become involved in and become part of a pure and powerful revival/reformation/transformation move of God Himself that no man will be able to reverse. I, together with many others, believe that from that country, where there were such terrible persecution and suffering, God is raising up an army and body of Christ that will carry the Gospel to the uttermost parts of the earth.
Thank you so much for anonymous donations that were paid into our account while we were in Siberia, April, 09,16,28. Father Himself blesses you and according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus, our Saviour and LORD! Praise God for treasures where nothing can corrupt and where no thief can steal! What an incredible privilege that we can be co-workers together with Christ bringing glory to HIS NAME in fulfilling HIS GREAT COMMISSION!
We love and bless you in Jesus Name!
Leon, Jacobi and Dima and team.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]