Newsletter (4)

Monday, 30 July 2012 20:13

Persecution in Central Asia

One of our missionaries from Central Asia writes...

In October of 2011, Kazakhstan adopted a new law, which prohibits a free assembly of Christians without a mandatory registration.  The law extends even to the meetings of Christians in private homes and includes a comprehensive prohibition against missionary activity, Sunday school classes, and many other activities that essentially make it impossible for a church to exist in Kazakhstan.  But we are encouraged by the story of Daniel in the Bible, who continued to pray three times a day, even after the king signed a decree.  

Our churches share Daniel’s position, even though some believers are worried.  We do not know how this law will impact us once it is fully implemented, but we know that some ministers have already been taken to courts and were issued substantial fines.  According to the new law, leading a church is punishable by a fine of $3,000.  Those who attend church are also subject to fines.  The law also prohibits the transportation of religious literature into Kazakhstan.  

Churches are in danger of losing the literature that is kept in the pews.  Our church has already distributed all the literature among believers, for safekeeping.  Apart from this, we continue to share the Gospel with others and bring our children to church.  The pastors from neighboring towns continue to minister as they did before.   We rejoice to see the Lord’s mighty work in Turkmenistan.  In August, I visited believers there and performed a baptism.  During these church services in believer’s homes, people came forward in repentance.  

Christians continue to encounter many hardships, and it is very difficult to bring Christian literature into Turkmenistan.  Our work is all the more difficult because the only entry we can obtain into this country is a short five-day transit visa.  And yet, we are grateful to God for the people who we see come to the Lord in this country.   We are encouraged that God’s Word does not return void.  We know some people who turned to the Lord more than twenty years after they first heard the Gospel, when it was preached publicly during the 1990s!

Monday, 30 July 2012 19:58

Church-planting among Gypsies

A pastor from the Caucasus region writes...

Last year, the Lord blessed our ministry on four visits to the Carpathian region of Ukraine.  During one of these visits, I travelled with a group of ten ministers to visit a church in Podvinogradovo to hold a renewal of membership service.  The church is located in the middle of a Gypsy camp and is comprised entirely of Gypsies.  

We visited every family in this church, which has more than 400 members.  This year, we commemorated the 35th year since the Lord began His work among Gypsies in Ukraine.  After the service, 140 Gypsies were baptized.  What a marvelous sight it was to behold!  We praise the Lord for His work of salvation among this group of people.  The message of the Gospel is now spreading from the Gypsies of Ukraine to the Gypsies in Hungary [they are known there as Roma]!  By God’s will, we plan to ordain a few believers for ministry in Podvinogradovo and Uzhgorod, Ukraine.  

In the final week of August, I travelled with a fellow missionary to Uzbekistan to commemorate the 20th anniversary of a church in the city of Karshi.  In 1991, seven people from our church first travelled to Karshi to preach the Gospel.  At the time, there was not a single known believer in this town.  We just had an address of a married couple, Avel and Sveta, who were open to the Gospel.  They had previously visited our church in Russia and wanted Christians to come and share about Christ in their hometown.  We responded to their invitation.  

When we arrived, Avel and Sveta offered their apartment for us to use as a gathering place.  The Lord blessed those outreach services, and people came forward in repentance on the first day.  On the second day, we held an outdoor service.  Even more people responded to the invitation and we rejoiced in the Lord.  The following Sunday, Avel and Sveta were baptized.  Then on Monday, our missionary group was arrested and taken to a police station.  We were encouraged when the new believers and others who attended our church services came to the police station and told the officers that they would not leave until we were released!  Some time after midnight, the police finally let us free.  

The following week, authorities tried to interfere with our evangelism efforts.  They interrupted our services, conducted searches in the homes where we gathered, confiscated Christian literature, and threatened the people who attended our services and offered their apartments for church gatherings.  By that time, a local woman named Nina had come to the Lord.  She owned a decent-sized room that she offered as a meeting place.  Fellowships were held there regularly until church members constructed their own church building.   Much has changed in Uzbekistan since those early days.  Our brother Avel has gone to be with the Lord, and the church has baptized many more new believers.  Praise the Lord for His faithfulness!  During this trip to Uzbekistan, we also visited churches in the cities of Samarkand, Fergana, and Tashkent, holding church services and a conference for young people.  Afterwards, we safely returned to our home church in Rostov, Russia.

On May 3, 2012, the Lord called home a faithful servant and beloved minister of the persecuted church, Rev. Mikhail I. Khorev.  His son, Benjamin Khorev, reflects on his father’s life and ministry:

In 1985, our father wrote to us from prison, “My dear children, the Lord gave me the honor to defend His truth four times as an accused.  Please preserve all my criminal convictions as the most precious family heirloom.  These documents shall be my witness before the Lord.  These sufferings for the cause of Christ are the greatest treasure that I pass on to you as my inheritance.  The Lord has said, “And every one that hath forsaken houses, or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands, for my name’s sake, shall receive an hundredfold, and shall inherit everlasting life.” (Mtt. 19:29)  “He is faithful that promised.”  (Heb. 10:23) My father often repeated an important principle, “A price must be paid for everything!  Nothing is free!”  To enjoy the freedom to preach the Gospel and to bring children and youth to church - someone had to pay the price!  And he willingly paid his share: he served four prison terms for allowing children in church, leading youth services, smuggling Bibles into the country, and conducting Christian summer camps.  He courageously participated in ministry that made imprisonment inevitable.

My father was born on December 19, 1931.  The year marked the beginning of a five year government plan to uproot religion in the USSR.  His father, Ivan M. Khorev, invited fellow Christians to their apartment to celebrate the birth of his long-awaited son (the family also had three daughters).  Ten to fifteen Christians gathered to sing hymns and pray together.  A few years later, someone reported about this gathering to the authorities and in 1938, Ivan Khorev was imprisoned for five years for leading an illegal religious meeting.   Mikhail was six years old when his father was taken by two soldiers at gun point from their home in Leningrad.  My grandfather, Ivan Khorev, said on the day of his arrest, “Dear children, if we don’t see one another again, let’s agree to meet by the throne of God.  When I come to heaven, I’ll be waiting for you next to His throne.”  My father vividly remembered how his father had said his good-byes and waved at them as they looked from the window.  They would never see him again.  

A year after his father’s arrest, in 1939 my father started first grade.  He remembered how his teacher brought him to the front of the class, pointed at him, and said, “Children, take a good look at this boy.  He is a son of an enemy of the state.  No one is allowed to play with him.”  When he came home that day, he shared everything with his mother and asked her, “Why was our daddy called an enemy of the state?”  She tried to comfort him as much as she could, and simply said, “My dear son, let’s kneel together and thank God that your father was counted worthy to go to prison for Christ.  Jesus Christ was accused of greater evils.  Please endure, my dear.”   In 1940, his father wrote a brief, final letter to his wife that simply said, “My beloved, if you hear one day that I have died, do not believe it.  Those who believe in Jesus Christ do not die, but pass from death unto life.”  He wrote these words just hours before he went to be with the Lord.  My father’s mother became a widow at the age of 38 with four young children.

For many years they’ve struggled without means to survive and were ineligible for any government assistance, as a family of an enemy of the state.  But his mother endured all these hardships without complaining and never regretted the choice their family made to follow the Lord.  Our family grew up in a small, two room apartment in Chisinau, Moldova.  Our father would come home for two to three days at a time and then leave for two to three months.  I had asked him once, “Where do you live?”  “My dear son,” he responded, “I have a hundred homes.”  As a child, I could not comprehend: if my father is so rich, why do we live in such a tiny place?  When I grew up, I realized that thousands of Christians in cities across Russia, Ukraine, Belarus, and Kazakhstan welcomed him into their homes, allowed him to stay in hiding, and to keep safe Christian literature.  

In 1966, my father was arrested together with Georgi Vins and sent to the infamous KGB prison in Lefortovo, Moscow.  On day 14 after his arrest, he was brought in for questioning.  The meeting was attended by a new person who refused to give his name or title.  He began the questioning, “We are familiar with your ministry.  Why don’t you limit your activity to your hometown of Chisinau and stay at home.  You have an ill wife and three young children.  If you agree with our offer, we will classify your current arrest as a minor violation.  Our agents, not an angel from heaven, will release you.  A note to allow your release will be kept at this office; all you have to do is knock on the door of your prison cell and request to see the investigator.  That will mean you consent to accept our terms.  You’ll be able to continue your ministry in Chisinau, but from now on you’ll have to follow our instructions.”  My father chose rather to suffer with God’s people than to enter into any agreements with the enemies of the Church.  That marked the beginning of a two and a half year imprisonment. 

I remembered his second imprisonment on December 19, 1969.  Days before Christmas, he took us to a store to buy us presents.  Two people followed us as we walked home.  As soon as we returned home, someone rang the door bell.  Two policemen entered and showed us an arrest warrant.  Our father gathered us for prayer; we knelt down, and the two policemen took off their hats.  “My dear Lord, please compensate my absence in the life of my family by Your presence,” he prayed.  A police car waited by the entrance to our apartment building.  Three years later, he was allowed to return home to us.  Our father loved us, but he loved Christ more! When we celebrated our birthdays, our mom always left an open chair at the table and said, “Children, let’s leave this chair open in honor of your father.”   Years of imprisonment ruined his health, most notably his feet.  He bore in his body “the marks of the Lord Jesus.“ (Gal. 6:17)  Yet when asked, “Brother Mikhail, how are your feet?”  He would usually reply with a smile, “My feet are keeping up with me.  I hope they will continue to serve me until I reach the heavenly Jerusalem.  Once there, the Lord will give me a new set of feet.”  His life-long principle was, “Better to wear out, rather than to rust up.”

Saturday, 28 July 2012 22:11

Bibles for the USSR

In the 1970’s, Rev. Mikhail I. Khorev was responsible in the persecuted church for maintaining contacts with Christians abroad: tons of Bibles and other Christian literature were secretly brought into the country.  He was responsible for organizing clandestine unloading, storage and distribution of Bibles and other literature across the country.  In 2011, Rev. Mikhail I. Khorev shared the following story:

While in prison In Omsk, I was summoned for questioning by a KGB officer from Moldova.  He was furious that I had organized to receive Christian literature from abroad and was never caught by them.  

In 1979, we organized to receive 50,000 Bibles.  A year earlier in Leningrad, I met a believer from Finland.  We spoke in his car to avoid wiretaps.  He asked me, “Brother Mikhail, will you be able to receive 50,000 Bibles?”  “If God allows you to prepare so many Bibles, then we’ll find a way to receive them.”  From that day on, I could not rest until I thought through minute details of the operation.  We arranged to meet at 1:00 a.m. near the town of Leusheny, 7 miles from the border of Romania.  The border area was heavily secured.  I left my home that evening to oversee this operation, while my wife spent the night by the phone, praying and expecting a call from police about my arrest.  At the appointed time, a 78 foot trailer carrying a mobile home from Finland pulled up to the agreed location.  We prepared five large trucks from our side to unload the Bibles.  I had agreed with the truck drivers: I’ll be sitting in a car parked nearby to keep an eye on the area.  If anyone asks you any questions, point them to me and tell them that you were hired to do it.  I’ll take full responsibility for it. 

One hour and twenty minutes later, all five trucks were fully loaded.  At approximately 3 a.m., five loaded trucks headed in the direction of Chisinau.  We had to pass by a police check point.  I was traveling ahead of the group, with five trucks following behind.  How do we divert the attention of the policeman at the check point?  I said to the driver, “Step on it!  Build some distance between you and the trucks behind us.”  He did that.  As we approached the check point, the policeman tried to stop us.  We continued traveling at high speed and the policeman jumped into the patrol car to chase us.  This was the answer to our prayer.  We continued for a while and then pulled over to the side of the road.  A police lieutenant approached us, “Why didn’t you stop?”  While we were talking, the five trucks safely passed the police check point.  We paid a fine and continued on our way, while the lieutenant returned to the police check point. 

We unloaded the Bibles in the town of Krikovo at the home of a Christian family.  At 6 a.m. I returned home and opened the door to find my wife sitting by the phone.  She had endured so much during that night, but she never tried to talk me out of participating in the ministry, even though it was accompanied by much risk.  Next, the load had to be distributed throughout the country.  There was a group of Christian apple farmers in the village of Kitskany, Moldova.  I agreed with them to load 10 tons of Bibles into a truck and to cover the boxes with 2 tons of apples.  Whenever a truck approached a police check point, policemen were overwhelmed by the smell of fresh apples.  The driver generously treated policemen to some apples, and the truck would be released without a thorough inspection.  

I flew to Samara to welcome the truck at the home of a fellow minister Nikolai Kreker.  It was New Years.  He prepared a home on the outskirts of the city.  The ground was covered with fresh snow during a moonlit night.  A truck pulled up and the men worked quickly to unload 10 tons of Bibles on the ground.  The truck was quickly dispatched on the way back.  Six men who were unloading the truck bypassed carrying the load inside the house to kneel down on the snow and thank God!  I encouraged them, “Brothers, let’s hide the Bibles first and then, after the work is done, we’ll pray together.”  But out of sheer joy and gratitude, not a single one of them could get off their knees!  All the Bibles were later transported in smaller portions throughout Siberia, Urals, and Northern Kazakhstan.  

I returned to Chisinau, as we had to arrange for transportation of a second truck.  By then, we received an alert that police check points were inspecting all trucks carrying apples!  But the Bible says, “Behold, I make all things new.”  (Rev. 21:5)  The Lord does not repeat Himself in His wisdom, and we also had to find new ways to distribute the Bibles.  Not a single country in the world was supplied with Bibles clandestinely like the USSR.  The Lord blessed us in amazing ways to meet the spiritual needs of His people!  This example is not an isolated event, but a ministry that was carried out over the course of many years.   When I was asked by Western Christians, “Brother Mikhail, how many Bibles would you need for the USSR?”  I would respond, “How much rain would a dry land require after years of drought?  Over 215 million people in our country have never held a Bible in their hands!  How many Bibles do you think would be enough to satisfy the spiritual thirst!?”  The Lord has opened the windows of heaven and poured out His abundant blessings upon our people.  His deeds are marvelous!”