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Russian Report

By Duane Birkey

What do you think of when you hear the word Russia? Perhaps words like Moscow, the Kremlin, Red Square, Stalin, Lenin, the Cold War, Siberia and communism come to mind.

For me, Russia will now bring to my memory the many people I met and the faces I saw and photographed during my time there.

Members of the Wheaton Bible Church team with the church at Lapsary.

Wheaton Bible Church team members. L to R: Justice Carmon, Tom Dalgleish, Duane, Mike Tompkins, Pete Dunton and Anthony Gandy.
I had a fantastic opportunity to join a team from the Wheaton Bible Church as we went to help build a new church and radio studio in Lapsary, Russia.
It was great to work alongside our Russian brothers as we poured the floors of the church, mixing all of the cement by hand in a big round metal tub.

Mixing cement was a real team effort. While some people mixed the concrete, others carried in sand, gravel, water and bags of cement.

Tom and Sergei carrying in sand on a stretcher-like carrier.

It seemed like every woman we met was named Anastasia or Nadia. This Anastasia was a long-time listener to HCJB’s Russian radio programs.

But what made the trip even more special for me was the chance to meet some long-time listeners to HCJB’s Russian broadcasts.

It was really great to see those listeners as they met team member, Elizabeth Lewshenia. She and her husband, Constantine, with the Slavic Gospel Association, produced gospel Russian radio programs at HCJB in Quito for many years.

But the most amazing thing happened our first night at the church in Lapsary. The current church meets in a small, humble, perhaps Stalin-era, rusty old railroad car next to the new church building under construction.

The service started with the singing of hymns and special music by various people in the church who love to sing. Then our team was introduced and several members shared with the congregation. At the end, the pastor began preaching the sermon he had prepared, and right in the middle of it, a woman stood up and said, "I want to become a Christian." The pastor said, "It is easy to do, just pray and ask Jesus." The woman shouted back, "I don’t know how to pray."

The church at Lapsary, pastored by Pavel Alexandrov, meets in an old railroad car.

Front row L to R: Anastasia (in red) and Elizabeth sit between Anastasia’s two daughters. Far right: Janat Nurbayeva, translator and English-as-a-second language teacher. Back row L to R: Tom Dalgleish, Pete Dunton, Mike Tompkins, Anton, Justice Carmon and Nadia.
At that moment, Elizabeth Lewshenia held Anastasia’s hands and helped her pray to receive Christ. Only after the service did we realize what a God event this truly was.

This was the first time that Anastasia had ever set foot in an evangelical church. She wasn’t invited to attend the service. She didn’t know that a group from the U.S.A. was going to be there that night. In fact, I don’t think she had ever talked with any of the Russians who attend the church at Lapsary.

But incredibly, there was one person there who Anastasia did know. You see, many years ago, Anastasia often visited the home of a woman who listened to Elizabeth and Constantine Lewshenia’s radio programs aired to Russia from Quito, Ecuador. At that time Anastasia wanted nothing to do with God and she tried to ignore what she heard. But God planted seeds in her heart and in a way that only God can do, brought her and Elizabeth back together in a wonderful and truly amazing way.

This is an elderly man from Lapsary. Alcoholism and a hard life lead to shortened life expectancy.

I was struck by how most children in Lapsary wear brightly colored clothes. This girl is wearing a traditional Chuvash knitted hat.

Sasha is an outgoing young man who attends the church in Lapsary with his mom, but he has still not made a profession of faith.

Judy Andersen shared her testimony with the church at Ryndino. Many Russian women relate well to how the Lord has worked in her life.

Time Traveler

Have you ever wondered what it would be like to travel back in time? One lasting impression of visiting rural Russia was the sense that I had somehow traveled back to the 1930s or 1940s. While there is a lot of wealth in Moscow, about 40% of all Russians live below the Russian poverty line.

We traveled to another church located in the rural farming community of Ryndino, several hours away from Lapsary. For me, it felt much like I had traveled back in time to my grandfather’s farm.

The home we stayed in had no internal plumbing, the outhouse was behind the house next to the wood shack and barn. The stove inside the house was an immense large brick oven roughly 6 x 6 x 6 feet. They had an ingenious wash basin inside the kitchen. You started by pouring water into a small reservoir at the top. To wash your hands, you nudged a small lever underneath the reservoir, the water then fell over your hands, into the funnel basin and then down into a bucket on the floor below.

One of the ladies from the church at Ryndino.
These people have very little material possessions in their homes and don’t have a lot of food to eat either. Every inch of land around their house and even their front yard serves as a garden to feed them.

When we woke up the next morning, our hosts asked us if we were hungry for breakfast or if we just wanted some tea. Truth was we had eaten way too much at 11:00 p.m. the night before, and we really weren’t all that hungry.... so we said just a cup of tea.

So, we were somewhat stunned as they kept coming in with more and more food. While we wanted to be polite, we really felt bad eating their food as we knew just how little these ladies had. They brought us tea, bread, vegetable salad, dried chocolate meringue, sausage, and a bowl of crackers, cookies and candy, etc.

We were overwhelmed by how these two widows generously shared what little they really had.

Praise Items: Praise God for the opportunity to meet long-time listeners to HCJB’s Russian language shortwave radio broadcasts.

Praise God for the great team from the Wheaton Bible Church. Praise for the physical work that was done on the new church building.

Praise for the spiritual encouragement and challenges team members gave to these Russian believers as they shared their testimonies.

Praise for how God worked in Anastasia’s life in an amazing way. Praise that her daughters are going to church now too.

Prayer Items: Pray for good health for our entire family as we enter a very busy time of year.

Pray for the HCJB Annual Members’ Meeting to be held September 14-19, 2003.

· Pray for Cheri as she coordinates all the events.
· Pray for good business meetings.
· Pray for Pastor Matthew Heard, the spiritual emphasis speaker.
· Pray for Duane as he puts together PowerPoint presentations for the meetings.

Pray for Duane as he teaches photography at the Christian Center of Communications this fall.

Pray for us as we move into our new condominium at the beginning of October.

Please pray for the sale of our current condominium.

ON LOCATION
the prayer letter of Duane and Cheri Birkey who support the ministries of HCJB World Radio in photography and finance.

Current Address:
Duane and Cheri Birkey
HCJB World Radio
Casilla 17-17-691
Quito, Ecuador

Home Phone Number:
(593-2) 225-6269

Email addresses:
duanebirkey@yahoo.com
dbirkey@hcjb.org.ec

World Wide Web Sites:
http://www.hcjb.org

Losha is the little brother I never had. He is incredibly strong and a hard worker. More importantly though, he has a heart for reaching those around him. He has a very important part in the future of the Russian church.
Duane’s Photographs of Ecuador
http://ecuadorphotos.tripod.com

Contributions may be sent to:
HCJB World Radio
P.O. Box 39800
Colorado Springs, CO
80949-9800
Account # 110375

On Location Fall 2001
On Location Winter 2001
On Location Spring 2002
On Location Fall 2002
On Location Winter 2002
On Location Spring 2003