I have been thinking of you often during the last few weeks, as I heard from the team in Khabarovsk, God continues to lead his servants in their ministry and it is always a pleasure to pass the good news on to you. There have been some exciting changes concerning Yura's visit to America. God continues to lead as decisions are made.
The first change is that Andrey will not be coming with Yura as an interpreter. This news makes me sad because I was looking forward to seeing him again and introducing him to you all. Yura will be bringing Losha, a young man who plays keyboard during church services. Losha was only about fifteen years old when I first met him. He is now eighteen and is attending a Music College where he studies piano. Losha is a true servant of God and I know you will be blessed by his musical talent and his quiet spirit. Another exciting change is that Yura's family has been invited to come to America with him. Yura has been praying about being separated from his family as he tours America and the thought of being away from them has caused him great pain. He feels the invitation given is an answer to prayer. The Mission Society has written a new Letter of Invitation including the whole family and has also sent a new invitation for Losha. Now, we wait again for the letters to arrive.
It is interesting to watch God work out His plans. Much thought was given to inviting Yura's whole family from the beginning of our plan, but it seemed that it would be wise to leave the family behind so the American Consulate would be more likely to approve Yura's VISA. The children are small and there was also concern for the comfort of the family as Yura traveled. These are still concerns, but we feel the decision is in God's hands. The American Consulate may be the agency that makes the decision, but whatever that decision, God will be in control.
It is exciting to be in a position to see God working out His plan. God has made interesting connections between America and Russia through his servant Yura. One of those connections is between his church and a church in Sacramento, California. This relationship began more than a year ago when a man named Joe visited Khabarovsk, Russia and was led to Yura's church. He was struck by the similar spirit within the two churches. When he learned of the outreach of Yura's church to the orphans and the homeless, Joe thought the two churches might establish a relationship were people and resources could be provided to help the Russian church.
Recently, a work team returned to the Sacramento church from Khabarovsk where they worked with Yura's church in orphanages and other ministries. It was during this visit that the invitation was made to Yura's family. The Sacramento church is working with Yura and the Mission Society to coordinate the beginning of Yura's tour. At this time, the plan is for Yura and his family to arrive in San Francisco and spend some time with Joe's church. From there, Yura will travel east stopping wherever he is invited. The schedule will be finalized when the Visas are approved and we know the length of Yura's stay. Please pray about where God is leading you or your church concerning Yura's witness. Then, please e-mail me to be included on the schedule. I will keep you up-to-date as this all unfolds.
In my last newsletter I began to focus on Yura and his ministry in Khabarovsk. As I prayed about what to share this month, I remembered the time Yura shared his testimony with us. I pray you will be inspired as you discover how God reached out to touch his servant, Yura.
Here's the testimony:
One evening during our Bible Study in Tatyana's apartment, Pastor Yura shared his testimony. He told us that he had a "colorful past" prior to coming to Christ. He was born in the Ukraine and he left home when he was sixteen to join the Soviet Navy. While he was at sea, he received a telegram from his sisters telling him that his mother was very sick and they feared she was dying. The telegram asked him to come as soon as possible to help make all the decisions and arrangements for her death.
Yura was shocked and overwhelmed with grief and fear. He was far away from his home and he knew there was no way to go home quickly. He wasn't even sure he would be given permission to go home at all. He didn't know where to turn. He took the telegram and went to his berth, closed the doors and he began to seek God. He knew the Lord's Prayer, but he had never really prayed before. Neither he nor any of his immediate family were believers. As he began to speak to God, he suddenly felt a warm peace in his heart, and somehow he knew that God had heard his prayer. He was overwhelmed by a sense of peace he had never known before.
His leave was approved and he was transferred to another ship, which would take him to shore, but everything was moving so slowly. He didn't think he would be able to get home in time to see his mother or help with the funeral arrangements.
Before his ship reached the shore, he received another telegram telling him that his mother was better and that there was no need for him to come home. The telegram mentioned that his father's sisters, who had been faithful Christians for a long time, had been praying for his mother. They were sure that his mother's recovery was an answer to their prayers.
Yura wanted to tell his mother about his experience with God and so he sent her a telegram. Before the telegram had time to reach his mother, he received a telegram from her. She told him that she had prayed, asking God to heal her and that God had placed a strange peace in her heart.
The telegrams had crossed paths and as they read each other's words, they realized that their prayers and God's answer to each of them had happened at the same time. Yura cried as he re-lived this remarkable event. He told us that God has been very real to him since that time.
Yura was now near shore and he learned of a school that taught about God. There was a Seminary in Khabarovsk, which was under the direction of a South Korean ministry. Yura knew he wouldn't be able to leave the navy to study at the Seminary and so, he abandoned ship and traveled to Khabarovsk where he was accepted to live and study at the Seminary there. Eventually, he was discovered and had to return to the navy for a while. He said that things were pretty bad for him as he served time for desertion. He didn't go into detail, but said that eventually he was released from the navy and he returned to Khabarovsk to finish his studies. There were prayers and sermons every day as part of his education and one day after hearing a sermon about Christ's desire to have a personal relationship with man, he accepted Christ as his personal Savior. He told us that his life changed at that time and he has never doubted God's presence since that day.
We asked how long ago this had happened and he told us that he has been a Christian for about three years. It was hard to believe that Yura had been a Christian for so short a time. His life is a powerful witness to Christ's love and his wisdom is that of a long-time Bible scholar.
As we talked, I shared the excitement I felt to be able to experience the movement of God among the Russian people. It seemed that God had chosen this time to reveal His presence and His love to all who would hear. Yura said that God had also revealed the same truth to him and that he knew that the CoMission, of which we were a part, was part of God's plan to tell Russia about His love.
Needless to say, I was overwhelmed by the peace of God and experienced a oneness with this young Russian servant. I knew then that God was working great wonders in the life of Yura and those he was sent to reach. I remember knowing that I was in the presence of God in a more true sense than I had ever been before.
It was these kinds of experiences that God used to convince me that His plans for Yura's ministry would also include America. I had a very deep desire that all those I love and hold dear would be blessed by the ministry God was doing through this man. And so, again I make an appeal for your prayers as this vision God has given me becomes closer to reality. Please pray that I continually seek His guidance, as decisions need to be made. May I continue to be obedient to His will rather than to my own desires.
As stated in my previous letter, please remember to keep this vision in your prayers. There are many obstacles to overcome. Visas are often denied, airlines are unpredictable, and our best plans may not become reality. Nothing can be accomplished apart from prayer.
Perhaps you are led to be a part of a special prayer group seeking God's guidance for all that is done as we move forward. Please let me know if you are willing to be an active prayer partner for this mission. Most of all, please pray for God's will concerning your participation and for all who are called to prepare for Yura's ministry in America. May God reveal His plan for your involvement as He connects Russian and American Christians to fulfill His will.
As always, I am happy to continue to tell the story of Khabarovsk, Russia. Although I am led to concentrate on Yura's life and ministry as we prepare for his visit, the needs of the orphans and the homeless remain critical. You have been faithful in sending your gifts for these ministries. If God places the orphans or homeless on your heart and you want to send a gift to help, please make your check payable to Fishburn UMC and tell us how God is directing the gift to be used.
In addition, some may be led to help provide transportation and other costs of travel for Yura's ministry here. These checks should also be made payable to Fishburn UMC and designated for "Yura's tour".
Please continue to pray for our Russian brothers and sisters in Christ as they seek the will of God concerning the many needs in their country.
In His Love,
Fishburn United Methodist Church
1215 Fishburn Road
Hershey, PA 17033
Telephone (717) 534-1087
web site: http://get.to/faith
(The web site is my Russian friend Andrey's site.)