PROCLAIMING THE FAITH IN RUSSIA
“First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for all of you, because your faith is proclaimed in all the world.” – Romans 1:8
While we’re thankful we can continue much of our Russia ministry with InterAct from the home office in Oregon, nothing beats setting foot on Russian soil again. I had the opportunity to visit again for three weeks at the end of September through October and introduce InterAct’s Executive Director Dale Smith and his wife Carol to Russia for the first time.
St. Petersburg: Serving with the Church in Exile
“And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” – Matthew 16:18
The Sunday we were in St. Petersburg I had the privilege of preaching at the Central Asian church that primarily serves immigrants from Uzbekistan. I preached on Luke 9:50 “for whoever is not against you is for you” and spoke about the core essentials of the Christian faith. Most believers in this church are young Muslim converts and when I have the opportunity to preach I always try to cover some basic Christian doctrines.
After worship we had a time of fellowship. I translated for Dale as we talked with some of the believers as they told us stories of the persecution of Christians in Uzbekistan. In Russia, though, the door is open to reach these Muslim immigrants, and this church is very active in evangelizing the Uzbek community of about 1 million people in St. Petersburg. Every time I’m around these amazing believers I cannot help but think of Matthew 16:18. Satan would like nothing more than to destroy the church in Uzbekistan, but he cannot prevail. The gospel is reaching the Uzbek people despite efforts to destroy the church in Uzbekistan!
Krasnoyarsk: God’s Grace is Hurting Lives
“He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.” – Psalm 147:3
After our time in St. Petersburg we flew 5 hours East to the Siberian city of Krasnoyarsk to meet up with the rest of our team for our annual conference. Our time together was a bit more constrained than usual, but a blessing nonetheless. Together we covered how our ministries have progressed, brainstormed, and made plans for the coming year.
We also had the opportunity to meet the pastor of a local church with whom we hope to partner. Their church already has an active ministry to disabled children and we are hoping to work with them, in partnership with another organization here in Oregon (see below) to send missionaries to Russia to work through the church and minister to the disabled community. Such a work would involve reaching out to families with special needs to minister to them in word and deed. So often people in Russia are resistant to the gospel, but when it comes to them through suffering and difficulty, so much hardness is melted away.
Tuva: God’s Word Bearing Fruit
“For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.” – 1 Corinthians 1:18
After our time in Krasnoyarsk we traveled about 12 hours south over the Sayan Mountains to Tuva where we spent a week. Tuva is a much different environment than the rest of Russia. The infrastructure is less developed, and it’s one of the poorest regions of the country. Most people do not speak Russian well, but rather Tuvan. InterAct continues to work among Christians to develop small business ventures that help support the work of Christian ministry so that the church can be self-supporting.
Some of the highlights of the trip include connecting with Vitaly Ondar, the director of our partner organization Vzaimodestvie (pronounced vza-ee-mo-DAYST-vee-yeh, which translation “interaction” or “cooperation” in Russian). Last year in partnership with Vzaimodestvie we saw the first ever printing of the entire Bible in Tuvan. About 7000 copies were delivered to Tuva and over half of them have been given out to the churches for Christians to use, and in other areas evangelistically. It was a blessing to sit in a worship service and see Tuvans holding their Tuvan Bibles and reading them! A number of people wanted us to thank all of those who contributed to and prayed for this project.
During our time in Tuva several times we heard the phrase “God brought you here just at the right time.” In several visits with different believers around the region we had the opportunity to minister to their marriages. Much like in the day of Paul, there are many mixed marriages where either a believer is married to an unbeliever or one or both spouses is a very young and immature Christian. Many of these people were married during the days of the Soviet Union and then one spouse was saved later. I will respect privacy by not using names, but the Lord opened up many opportunities to talk with these brothers and sisters and help see them strengthened in their relationships with their spouses and learn to bear with them in a loving way.
“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.” – 2 Corinthians 1:3,4
I was greatly encouraged by our time in Russia. God is continuing to work and open doors there and further his kingdom. We were able to put some plans into place and hope to see those carried out soon.
The night before our flight left Moscow to return to America I came down sick with a bad head cold and bronchitis, leaving me feeling pretty miserable. I spent my first few days home in bed and going to the doctor, unable to kiss on my family!
About a week after I got back, just as I was starting to get well, I went with Cristy for her second ultrasound. As most of you know already, we were deeply saddened to learn that we were miscarrying. This is now the fourth time, and it has been hard, but God has sustained us.
THE MISSION FIELD IN PORTLAND
“and there they continued to preach the gospel.” – Acts 14:7
We are excited about two doors that are beginning to open for us here in Portland.
Russian Youth Crisis
As you may remember from past updates, there are over 200,000 Russian-speakers in the Portland area, many of which are professing Christians who came here shortly after the Soviet Union collapsed. While there are many Russian churches around , there is a major crisis that has unfolded among the youth that have grown up here. Many of them are children of two cultures and two languages, not fully belonging to either one. Many of them have left the church, abandoned any interest in the faith, and sadly have gotten involved in crime and drugs. Our heart goes out to these Russian youth and we have grown in our desire to reach out to them. Providentially we’ve met several other faithful Russian young people who have this same desire. They believe, like we do, that English-speaking “American” churches can best reach these youth, since all of them basically speak English fluently and prefer this as their primary language now. Our family hopes to serve as a “bridge” to these youth as it were. I will be meeting with another young Russian Christian in Tacoma, Washington in December to talk about how we might go about moving forward with this type of ministry.
The Elisha Foundation (TEF)
I’ve mentioned The Elisha Foundation in a previous update, and my excitement about what they’re doing only continues to grow. We are currently building a relationship with them and our Russia field in hopes to see ministry developed in Russia to work with local churches and minister to the disabled community. I’ve met several times with the director of TEF to discuss this partnership and put several ideas on the table. Some of the ideas include placing a full-time missionary couples in Russia, and having several Biblical books on disability translated into some of the other languages of Russia, such as Tuvan and Sakha. God’s providence in bringing us here has been amazing to see.
“for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.” – Matthew 6:8b
Unfortunately I must report that our monthly support level has dropped significantly. As it stands right now we are at about 80% of our support level. We are going to need to increase our regular monthly support if we are to continue this work. Would you consider partnering with us in this ministry in 2013? Here’s how:
Donate by Mail:
if you prefer to give via mail, contributions can be sent to…
31000 SE Kelso Rd.
Boring, OR 97009
Please make the check out to “InterAct Ministries” and indicate on a separate sheet of paper that the contribution is for “Thomas & Cristy Slawson”