Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Russian Road Trip!

Gregory Greve, the Foreign Mission board member who is in charge of our work in Russia, has recently returned from a trip to that great country. Here is his reflections on his time there:

Greetings to you all from this great land of Russia! Dennis Hilman and I have been traveling here on a mission trip for the last month visiting and sharing the gospel. Dennis has been faithful to keep a facebook commentary going as we have traveled here, but I decided not to bring my (Ugh!) heavy computer along with me this time so I have not been writing as much as I have in the past. Now we are nearing the end of our trip; Dennis has already left for America and I have a couple of days left to visit Christians and other friends here in the Russian capital before I head to Germany to meet with a young Russian man who repented at a picnic I held for students two summers ago and who now lives in Germany with his wife and children, so I thought I should try to write a post for the mission blog:)...

It's was so great to travel in Russia with Dennis Hilman again. It was through Dennis that I first came to be involved in the Russian mission back in 1999 when I read a blog post he had written shortly after he had moved from his home in Finland to Ekaterinburg, a city in the Ural Mountains of Russia, to begin full time mission work there. I was so touched by the post he had written and by the sacrifice he seemed to be making that I wrote a letter in reply to encourage him in his work. That letter struck a cord in Dennis' heart also and from that day Dennis and I wrote letters to one another almost daily for close to a decade. So it follows that I have been involved with the Russia mission from that day, too, first via prayer and financially supporting projects Dennis was undertaking in Russia, and then in March of 2001 I participated in my first trip to Russia.

It's amazing to me how the years have flown by since I took that first to Russia and how from the first I fell so deeply in love with this country and with her people. Now I have been to Russia a total of twenty-one times. One might think that after so many years and so many times in Russia that I might get tired of her or think of going to other countries for a change, but the truth is that the more I come to Russia, the more I love her and the more I want to be here.

Watch Out!! Gregory and Dennis on a Russian Road Trip!

In 2006 Dennis was refused entry into Russia for reasons which were never given and was unable to apply for a visa again for 5 years. It was very traumatic for Dennis and all of us at the time, but what Satan imagined for our harm, the Lord imagined for our good, and since that time the world, literally, has been Dennis' mission field! So while Dennis has been traveling the world, I have been faithfully traveling to Russia. Of course Dennis knows many of the brothers and sisters here from past years, but it's really exciting for me to introduce him to so many new brothers and sisters and other contacts I have developed over the years.

Introducing Dennis to what I call my "English Student Ministry" Here we are with a group of English students from an Udmurtian university who met with us in restaurant. Our precious sister and fellow servant, Diana, in the back in red.

Over the last years I and the brothers who travel with me, like Brian Niemitalo and Shane Jutti, have been, with the help of Christian and non-Christian professors and teachers ministering more and more to English language students in universities and colleges in the Udmurtian, Chuvashian, and Mari El Republics. Over the last years I have shared faith with literally hundreds of students, planting the gospel seeds and nurturing budding faith through E-mail, Skype telephone and other modern connections.

This year a new law was introduced in Russia stating that any foreigners visiting universities need to have written permission. This permission involves much detailed documentation by university staff both before and after the visit, so you can imagine my dismay at hearing this news. Again, what Satan meant for harm, the Lord uses for good. The teachers and I quickly adjusted our outreach by inviting students to meet with us off campus. It actually works quite well as students feel less intimidated and the off campus atmosphere lends more freedom on both sides to speak our hearts.

Two English Language students: Artyom and Guy, who have participated with me in class settings over the years, now meet with us off campus to share friendship, faith and hearts.

Besides my English Language Student ministry, I travel across Russia visiting and speaking in many cities, villages, churches, businesses and individual homes. Last year brother Brian Niemitalo and I were asked to visit to a family in a village who, after hearing missionaries were coming to their village, asked that they not be forgotten. If you want to read about this amazing visit in which our Lord had prepared a whole family to hear and recieve the gospel, check out Brain Niemitalo's article in the Jan/Mar Issue of "Where He Leads".

It was so wonderful to meet Alexander and Ludmila and their family again! Last year, when Alexander and Ludmila heard missionaries were coming to their village, they asked that they would not be forgotten. The little girl in front of me, Alexander and Ludmila's eldest daughter, Irina, first planted the seeds of faith in her parent's hearts after participating in Sunday School lessons with local Christians. That budding interest in faith led to our visit and to their repentances and new life in Jesus!

Over a year ago, with sister Nona Rib's help, we began visiting an orphanage in Ekaterinburg. Now we make regular visits to this "family"... We have to be very careful about preaching here as the orphanage rules strictly prohibit religious visits outside the Russian Orthodox Church. One of the things I have learned in the mission field is to patiently build relationships and trust. When we preach the gospel by action, words eventually follow. 

Please continue to pray for our work in Russia! For more information on this trip, check out Dennis HIlman's facebook updates!